- Cullman, Alabama

January 5, 2014

Local teen in running for statewide recognition

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Savannah Smith couldn’t have been more surprised.

“When they called my name out, I just stood there for a few seconds before I even realized that I was being announced as Cullman County’s Distinguished Young Woman,” she recalled.

“There I was, standing up on the stage with so many intelligent, lovely women, and it just took a few seconds to hit, sink in,” Savannah said. “I guess I was just in shock.”

The Cullman High School student says that she had never done anything remotely like this program before. “Up to that point, my life had been consumed by track and cross country, the Student Government Association, the Leo Club, and the annual staff. This was something new for me.”

Savannah has also been active in her church, especially the choirs, where she had roles in the adult and youth choirs, and was a volunteer with the children’s choirs.

“Now, I’m really glad that someone recommended the Distinguished Young Woman program to me because its been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done,” she said.

The rounds of preparation for the big event have been fun, Savannah says.

To prepare for this event, Savannah has worked with a voice coach, Brian Witcher, on her selection for the talent portion of the show. She will sing “Memory” from the Broadway musical, “Cats”.

She’s also been working out, running with her track team and on her own, as well as working with interview coach Mona Hopper, who helps students on enunciation, manners and everything required for the self-expression portion of the show.   “I feel as though I’m in ‘Pygmalion’,” Savannah laughed. “I’ve learned so much from her, some which I know will last me all through my life.”

Savannah says that working with Hopper has also shown her that when she is on that big stage in Montgomery, she will be representing 80,000 Cullman citizens. For some of the viewers, this will be the only reference to Cullman County that they will ever see. So, she is determined to make the most of the honor of being there, and to make her home county proud of her!

Last month Savannah traveled to Montgomery to meet the representatives of the other counties. She didn’t get to meet her host family because they were on vacation, but has talked to them several times via the internet and on the phone.

To say that this young lady is excited is an understatement! She is elated…

“I’ve never had so much fun!” she laughed. “And I’ve done a lot of shopping!”

Savannah and her mom found a beautiful tea-length dress for the interview portion. Samantha will wear either green or purple for the opening number. She found just what she was looking for to engage in the self-expression portion of the show, at Just For Looks, in Cullman.

And of course, she has been practicing and breaking in her new shoes!

She says that the excitement is building, that the closer it comes, the more excited she gets, but it isn’t nervousness. “I can’t wait!” she smiled. This will be the longest amount of time she has spent without any communication with her parents. They will be able to email her, but she cannot respond for the entire week.

She will depart from Cullman on Jan. 10, with her parents, Susan and Michael Smith, and return home, hopefully, as Alabama’s 2014 Distinguished Young Woman, after the closing of the program on the 18th. You can send Savannah flowers, words of encouragement and praise at the home of her host family: Mr. and Mrs. David Gallahar, 8125 Nunn Trace, Montgomery, AL 36117.

The 2015 Distinguished Young Women of Cullman County's local program is planned for Saturday, June 7, 2014. Fliers will be sent to the schools’ counselors in February for junior girls.

For more information about the Distinguished Young Women's Program of Cullman County, contact local chairperson, Patty Grier at 256-708-1071; or visit  


What: The 2014 Distinguished Young Woman Program of Alabama Scholarship Program

When: Preliminaries are 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 17, and at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, and finals are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, after when the winner will be announced

Where: Frazer Methodist Church in Montgomery

For more information on the program, contact Patty Grier.