Story by Alyssa Bullock, photos provided by Adrienne Blakey
Distinguished Young Women is a scholarship program that prepares young women to be a part of the world after high school, with programs in all 50 states, and even locally. Young women from Stillwater High School compete in the Payne County program, and then go on to compete in the program for the entire state of Oklahoma. The program focuses on scholastic merit, fitness, self-expression, talent, and includes an interview portion. The Life Skills program, put on by Distinguished Young Women, helps teach young women interview and public speaking skills, building self-confidence in areas that will benefit them after high school and beyond. The program, which started in 1958 as America’s Junior Miss pageant, continues to promote excellence, while supporting young women and their college and career goals by awarding scholarships; each year, $820 million dollars are available in scholarships through the program. Through the skills learned and opportunities given, countless young women across the country are able to take steps toward accomplishing their goals and dreams, and are more prepared for the life ahead of them.
Adrienne Blakey is a senior at Stillwater High School, and this year’s Distinguished Young Woman of Oklahoma. Blakely will be representing our great state in the national Distinguished Young Woman competition next week June 23-25, 2016.
The following are some questions that Adrienne has answered to give us more information about her experiences with the Distinguished Young Women program, and her upcoming trip to Mobile, Alabama for the national competition:
SLM: How would you describe DYW to someone who has never heard of it?
Adrienne: DYW is an awesome opportunity for girls to showcase and be rewarded for their scholastic achievements, leadership involvement, talents, and dedication to their communities. It is similar in structure to a pageant, but it is so much more than that! The relationships developed among participants are fantastic, and the skills honed through interview and public speaking training are invaluable.
SLM: How did you hear about DYW, and what inspired you to enter the program?
Adrienne: I didn’t know much about the program at first, and I wasn’t really sure it was something I wanted to do, but several of my friends talked me into applying for the Payne County program. It seemed like something fun I could do with my friends, and a way I could participate in more community service, so I went ahead and applied.
SLM: Who can compete in the program?
Adrienne: The Payne County program is for girls who are in their junior year of high school who live inside Payne County; there are two other county programs: Kingfisher and Pawnee. Other girls who are juniors in high school in the state of Oklahoma can join at the state program level as an “at large” contestant.
SLM: How did you prepare for the competition?
Adrienne: I prepared for DYW by keeping fit, honing interview and public speaking skills, developing my talent, and building the confidence to get on stage. Since the program evaluates contestants on multiple levels, I tried to address all of the areas in my preparations.
SLM: What lessons have you learned through the process of participating in this program?
Adrienne: One of the best lessons I’ve learned through my time with DYW has been from the Be Your Best Self platform, which has an amazing message to share with young people. I’ve done several programs with youth and in civic organizations spreading the message of the five pillars of the BYBS platform: Be Studious, Be Healthy, Be Involved, Be Responsible, and Be Ambitious. These are such important things to teach young students, and can set the tone for a successful academic career, helping them to meet future goals.
SLM: What are your goals for the future?
Adrienne: In the near future, my goal is to attend Oklahoma State University and double major in Plant Biotechnology and Improvement, and Agricultural Communications. After that, I will likely pursue a graduate degree. Ultimately, I hope to work on the issue of food insecurity and nutrient deficiencies in populations all around the world.
SLM: How do you think DYW will help you meet those future goals?
Adrienne: The DYW program experiences I’ve had have helped me to grow my confidence in a lot of ways. It has also given me so many opportunities to exercise my public speaking and communication skills, as well as mentoring young women—my goal to have a career promoting plant biotechnologies will definitely be influenced by this experience. Learning to communicate, think on my feet, answer questions to a crowd, and represent myself and an organization are all in line with that goal.
SLM: Summarize the process that brought you where you are today—headed to the national competition:
Adrienne: First, I participated in the Payne County program. After being honored there, I moved on to the state program, where I represented Payne County; I was named the Distinguished Young Woman of Oklahoma, and I will go on to represent Oklahoma at Nationals.
SLM: What are you most excited about? Most nervous about?
Adrienne: I’m really excited about meeting the other 50 contestants from all over the nation. Also, I’m looking forward to visiting the South and experiencing a different regional culture. I’m worried about the talent portion: I do speed painting, and I’m anxious about being perceived as an artist in 85 seconds!!
SLM: How are you preparing for the national competition?
Adrienne: Preparations are similar to the other programs, but with much more anticipation. I’m working on staying fit, getting my wardrobe together, and staying current on national and world news and events, so I can be well-informed about the world around me. I’m getting really excited!
SLM: How does it feel to represent Oklahoma at this stage?
Adrienne: I love my state. It’s an awesome feeling to know that I get to represent all of the Distinguished Young Women of Payne County and of Oklahoma; there are so many wonderful, deserving young women in Oklahoma, and I am simply a representative of them. It is a huge honor!
SLM: What would you say to younger girls who are interested in participating but need a little push?
Adrienne: Just do it! It is worth every second of your time, and you will come out of the experience more confident, with new friendships, and with a new perspective of yourself and your community.
SLM: Are there any final thoughts you want to share with readers?
Adrienne: Please keep me in your prayers during June 12th through the 25th. Preliminary competitions will be on the 23rd and the 24th, and finals on the 25th. If anyone feels led to help my family with expenses, they can contact Richard Hawkins, Payne County director, to make a contribution. Any support is greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!
Good luck to Adrienne as she makes our community proud by representing Stillwater, Payne County, and the state of Oklahoma at the Distinguished Young Women National Program!