By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
Last spring, Cullman High School junior, Savannah Smith, heard her school counselor talking about the Distinguished Young Women program at school. Curious, she decided to learn more about it because she had never done anything remotely like this before.
After talking it over with her counselor, and meeting with the other girls, she thought it sounded like fun. “Actually, I also had a close family friend, Dr. Lisa Franklin, who had mentioned this program as something I needed to look into,” said Savannah.
She and her mom, Susan, chose Savannah’s wardrobe for the program. “My mom was pretty persistent, helping me and giving me advice throughout the whole thing,” laughed Savannah. They also picked out dresses for the other segments of the competition, talent, self-expression, and the all-important interview, along with a fitness outfit.
Shoes were a bit of a concern. Walking onstage in new heels can be a bit daunting. Savannah practiced walking in each pair. “I attempted to look graceful while breaking them in,” she laughed.
Ashley Lamar of Just For Looks, in Cullman, helped Savannah prepare for the interview, giving her advice about stage presence. Brian Witcher worked with her on the talent segment, “For Good” from the Broadway theatrical production of Wicked, and former DYW contestant, Makenzie Carden helped to pick out Savannah’s opening number outfit. Together, they decided on a hot pink, black and white (required colors) outfit. Later, Savannah would look back on the overall experience and say that this was her favorite part of the program. “We weren’t being judged at this point, we were just on-stage having fun,” she said.
“To be honest, I was a little bit intimidated at first, because all of the girls were so talented, but I’m so glad I decided to do it. I had the time of my life!” said Savannah.
All of that preparation paid off. On Saturday, June 1, Savannah Smith was chosen as Cullman County’s 2014 Distinguished Young Woman.
As overall winner, Savannah was awarded $3,000. As winner for the self-expression portion, she won $600 and for the fitness portion-$600. She was also awarded one of two Dual Enrollment Tuition Scholarships given by the Future Foundation at Wallace State Community College, and a six-month membership to the Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center by Cullman Parks and Recreation. Savannah’s total scholarship awards amounted to $4,200.
“The state competition is in January,” said local DYW chairperson, Patty Grier. “Savannah will compete then against all the other county winners — some 51-55 depending on how many are represented.”
For further information on the Distinguished Young Women Program, contact Patty Grier at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next year's program is set for June 7, 2014.
Other awards were as follows;
First runner-up: Payton Palmer, $1,600
Payton also won the talent portion of the competition, $800
Total Awards: $4,200
Second runner-up: Hollie Bennett, $1,100
Awarded $250 for being named the "Be Your Best Self" essay winner
Total awards: $1,350
Scholastic Achievement winner: Mackenzie Bockhold, $1,000
Mackenzie also received a Dual Enrollment Tuition Scholarship from the Future Foundation at Wallace State Community College
Interview winner: Anna Caroline Keefe, $800
Also awarded the Spirit Award, $250
Total awards: $1050.00
Total awards for the DYW: $10,000 in tuition scholarships awarded to the college of the participant's choice.
Proud parents of the contestants in this years DYW competition are:
Savannah Smith: Michael and Susan Smith
Payton Palmer: Shane and Christy Palmer
Hollie Bennett: Wendell and Rita Bennett
Mackenzie Bockhold: Don and Sandi Bockhold
Anna Caroline Keefe: Dr. Lisa Weeks and Jon Duke, Patrick T. Keefe, Jr.