By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
When Dr. Genaro Varquez, father of Cullman’s 2013 Distinguished Young Woman Caitlin Varquez, looks at his daughter onstage under those bright lights, it takes him back in time. He once sat in an audience and watched her mother, Dr. Mir Varquez, as she competed and won the title of Miss Mandaue City, Philippines, in 1962.
These days the Varquez family is busy getting ready for Caitlin’s upcoming trip to Montgomery for the Alabama Distinguished Young Women competition. The program, which provides major scholarships for young women who have maintained a certain grade point average and are active in their communities, is in it’s 55th year and is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school senior girls.
During the past summer, Caitlin has fulfilled part of her duties as Cullman County’s Distinguished Young Woman by participating in the Summer Reading Program at the Cullman County Library.
“I had a great time talking with the children about how they can make their dreams come true,” said Caitlin. “We also did finger painting. The kids were really sweet.”
Recently she had a wonderful surprise. Her ACT test scores arrived one morning and she ran up to her parent’s bedroom, envelope in hand, to share the news with them. “I didn’t open it until we were all together,” she explained. She scored a 30 on the test, which has given her an extra boost of confidence about the upcoming event.
For Caitlin the pressure is on. She leaves Jan. 11 for Montgomery. The state program is held Jan. 18-19. She will vie for the title with girls from all over Alabama. The contestants will be judged in five categories: Scholastic achievement, talent, self-expression, personal interview and fitness.
She relieves some of the stress by working out at the gym and by running. Having been a member of the St. Bernard Cross Country Team for several years, she finds that it gives her strength and stamina for her fitness workout on stage.
The St. Bernard senior has also been busy filling out college applications. She has her eye on Brown University in Rhode Island, but has kept her options open by also applying to Emory, Vanderbilt, the University of Southern California and Princeton (her dad’s alma mater).
The youngest of three children, she gets a lot of support from her parents and siblings. Another family, her host family for the upcoming competition, also lends her their support.
“I’ve already met the Joneses,” said Caitlin. “They are great people. I’ve also met my roommate who lives in Baldwin County, and I like her a lot.” The program tries to match the host family and the contestants so that their stay will be a pleasant one. “They had us fill out a questionnaire about our likes and dislikes,” explained Caitlin. “It asks if we were morning people, what kinds of food we like, if we have any allergies and things like that.”
Caitlin says that she is looking forward to making new friends and forming bonds that will, hopefully, last a lifetime. “I’m really anxious to meet these girls who have the same interests and goals as I do,” she said.
Caitlin will perform “If They Could See Me Now” from the Broadway musical, “Sweet Charity.”
“I love musicals and have seen several. This is one of my favorites,” she smiled.
Her fitness routine consists of pushups, strength, flexibility and confidence in her abilities.
The personal interview and self-expression portion of the competition gives the judges an idea of how well the young ladies communicate. “They also want to see how poised we are and how well we vocalize our thoughts,”Caitlin added.
For the self-expression segment Caitlin has chosen a knee-length dress of saffron yellow which highlights her dark hair and eyes. She will be changing four times throughout the program.
The girls do their own hair and makeup, and are prohibited from seeing any friends or family members or having any form of communication with them from the time they are dropped off at the host family home until after the competition.
They can, however, receive notes of encouragement, flowers and small gifts from well-wishers. People wishing to send notes or gifts can mail them to the following address:
Caitlin Varquez c/o Mr. and Mrs. Michael Jones, 1962 Duckpond Road, Montgomery, AL 36117.
The next local competition is planned for June 1, 2013. Fliers will be sent to the school counselors in February.
For more information about the Distinguished Young Women’s Program of Cullman County, contact local chairperson, Patty Grier at 256-734-8184 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.