Distinguished young woman: Picayune native heads to state program

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015

SOLO: Abby Montogomery's interpretive dance illustrates her acceptance of Retinitis Pigmentosa, an incurable optical disease she was diagnosed with when she was 12.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

SOLO: Abby Montogomery’s interpretive dance illustrates her acceptance of Retinitis Pigmentosa, an incurable optical disease she was diagnosed with when she was 12.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

This week, Picayune native and Picayune Memorial High School senior Abby Montgomery will represent Pearl River County at the state’s Distinguished Young Women program in Meridian.
According to www.distinguishedyw.org, the program was founded in 1958 and is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls. The program’s mission is “to positively impact the lives of young women by providing a transformative experience that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent.”
The program also encourages continued education, the development of self-confidence, the abilities to interview effectively, speak in public, perform on stage and build interpersonal relationships, the website states. DYW also encourages showcasing excellence in academic achievement, physical fitness, on-stage performance skills and the ability to think and communicate clearly.
Abby is the daughter of Robyn and Mike. Her paternal grandparents are H.C. and Gelika Montgomery and her maternal grandparents are Helen and the late Richard Buckley.
She is student council president and a member of the BETA Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
When she was a little girl, Abby used to watch her mom help girls get ready for their interviews and used to tag along to DYW programs.
“Some of my older friends participated and I found out how much it changed their lives,” Abby said.
Abby joined the program during her junior year and spent time becoming acquainted with other participants. The young ladies participated in a variety of activities to prepare for the DYW’s Pearl River County program in March. The girls attended a Christmas party, sleepovers, fitness practices and attended other events that allowed them to get to know one another, Abby said.
In March, Abby was named Miss DYW Pearl River County 2016.
“I was really surprised,” Abby said of her win. “It was super exciting. There were other girls I thought would win. It will be an honor to represent Pearl River County. Being involved in my community is something I like doing.”
Sunday, Abby headed to Meridian to stay with a host family for the week. She will spend that time practicing and attending DWY sponsored events. The program begins Thursday night and lasts through Saturday, when the top 10 are announced. Participants will be judged in four categories including interview, talent, self-expression and fitness. There are 34 girls competing this week and the winner will compete in the national program in Mobile, Alabama.
Abby said she has learned many things from her involvement in DYP including the importance of being updated on current events.
“I have formed my own opinion by watching the news and learning about what’s going on in our nation,” she said. “It’s important and good to have your own opinion and stick to what you believe in.”
After high school, Abby plans to attend Pearl River Community College and then the University of Southern Mississippi where she plans to major in special education with a minor in music.
Abby said she was inspired to teach special education when she was in the ninth grade.
“There was a student in my speech class who was both blind and autistic,” she said. “A few of us got close to him and he stole my heart. Seeing and being around anyone with special needs touches my heart. It’s something I want to invest my time in.”
Abby has learned to accept her own medical condition and portrays the process during her interpretive self-expression dance solo she will perform during the program.
When she was 12, Abby was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary, degenerative retinol disease, Robyn said. The first symptom Abby experienced was a loss of her night and peripheral vision. Although there is no cure, there is a lot of research being done and Robyn said they are hopeful.
At the beginning of dance, Abby gets up to see what is going on. During the middle, she becomes frantic while trying to figure out what she can’t see and in the end, Abby portrays the acceptance and contentment with her disease.
Robyn said she is proud of her daughter’s dedication and hard work.
“She’s invested a lot of time and energy,” Robyn said. “It’s a once in a lifetime occurrence. She’s always been a studious and dependable girl. It’s fun to see her challenge herself in other areas. It’s been nice to have daily conversations about things going on in our world.”
Abby said she is excited about the program and spent her summer break preparing.
“Preparing helps a lot and I don’t get as stressed and nervous,” Abby said. “I’m excited and living in the moment.”
Anyone who wishes to contact Abby with words of encouragement may send an email to #18abbymontogmery@msjrmiss.com. All emails will be screened.
Learn more about DYW at www.distinguishedyw.org.
DWY: Abby Montgomery was named Pearl River County’s 2016 Distinguished Young Woman.  Photo submitted

DWY: Abby Montgomery was named Pearl River County’s 2016 Distinguished Young Woman.
Photo submitted

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