PRC Distinguished Young Woman program

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Abby Marie Unbehagen is one of nine contestants who will be competing in the Pearl River County Distinguished Young Woman Program  on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 6:30 p.m., in the Picayune High School Auditorium.

Abby Marie Unbehagen is one of nine contestants who will be competing in the Pearl River County Distinguished Young Woman Program on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 6:30 p.m., in the Picayune High School Auditorium.



The Picayune Auditorium on Goodyear Boulevard is again the site of this year’s Pearl River County’s Distinguished Young Woman Program which will be held on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 6:30 p.m.

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“This year nine contestants will vie for the title of Pearl River County’s Distinguished Young Woman of 2015. These ladies have spent the last several months preparing for the program including events such as a Scavenger Hunt, Be Your Best Self Boot Camp, Christmas Party and Mother/Daughter Tea,” program director Lindsey Lewis said. The program, formerly known as the Junior Miss Program, is a national scholarship program that inspires high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in an award program that showcases their accomplishments. Lewis and her board took over the program three years ago and have not looked back as they pursued goals of increased scholarship money and making a marked impact on the participants’ lives.

“The mission of Distinguished Young Women is to positively impact the lives of young women by providing experiences that promote and reward scholarship, leadership, and talent,” said Lewis. “The program’s emphasis on being your best self supports a platform of young women that are healthy, involved in their communities, studious, ambitious and responsible.

“We have all worked hard to keep the program relevant and engaging for the participants. We have really tried to focus our girls on not just looking at it as a competition, but guiding them to view it as a whole experience.

“Only one girl can move forward to state but all of them can walk away with new friendships, a strong love of their community and positive sense of self because of the personal growth they experience.”

Lewis, who was the Mississippi State Junior Miss for 2001, said that everyone on the board has been impacted by the program in some way. Whether it was as mothers of contestants, contestants, or people who have worked with it throughout the year.

Nancy Hall is a board member and the mother of program winner Julie Hall.

“This program helps the girls change for the better,” Hall said. “They grow beyond their comfort zone and it is so exciting to see them bloom over the course of the year they work with us.

“They make friendships and create bonds with girls just like themselves from all across the state. It is very validating. Yes, they can win scholarships, and yes, they can learn interview skills, but there is so much more to this experience.”

When asked what she most wanted people to know about the program, Lewis said, “It is probably a cliché at this point, but so many people think it is a pageant. There is so much more. The part that people see on stage is talent, fitness, and self-expression, which makes up about 55 percent of the score.

“The other 45 percent is the interview, which is 25 percent and scholastic which is 20 percent.

“Scholastic is not something that a girl can prepare for in a year, It is a whole academic career that she is bringing into the competition.”

This year’s program will include performances by Lorrie Warren of Poplarville, Pearl River County’s Distinguished Young Woman of 2014.  “Lorrie competed at the state program in July and since then has been sharing the ‘Be Your Best Self’ message in Pearl River County schools,” said Hall. “It has been such a pleasure to see her go from being extremely talented but introverted to the confident, poised young woman who goes and speaks at the schools.”

Admission for the program will be $10 and the doors will open at 6 p.m. with a show time of 6:30 p.m.

“We are asking the community to please come and support these exceptional young women of Pearl River County as they compete for scholarships in a showcase of their poise, talent, fitness, scholastic and interview skills,” Lewis said.