‘Distinguished Young Women’ of Pike County take center stage

Published 9:28 am Thursday, August 10, 2023

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On July 29, a total of 12 rising high school seniors in Pike County took the stage at the Crosby Theater on the campus of Troy University to compete for scholarships in the Distinguished Young Women of Pike County Program.

Distinguished Young Women (DYW), formerly America’s Junior Miss, was founded in 1958 and today is the largest and oldest scholarship program of its kind for high school girls. In 2022, DYW gave out more than $1 billion in college scholarship opportunities all over the country. This year, the DYW of Pike County was able to give out more than $6,700 in scholarships.

The 12 total participants that competed this year was also the largest amount of competitors the DYW of Pike County has had in years. The participants competed in a 90-second talent contest, a fitness routine and a self-expression portion of the contest. A panel of five judges, that have no affiliation with any of the participants or their families, decide the winners. A total of 25 percent of their scores come from their scholastic prowess and 25 percent comes from an interview with the judges.

This year’s overall Distinguished Young Woman winner in Pike County is Elsie Clare Coppage. (Submitted photo)

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“I was ecstatic about the 12 girls we had this year,” DYW of Pike County Chairman Michelle Armstrong said. “I and Tate Gardner went out to the schools and recruited and a lot of the girls had already known about the program. Sometimes you find those girls that don’t know anything about it. Either way, I tell them when I recruit them that they have the ability – they have all they need – we just give them the stage and let them show it.

“I was beyond proud of the girls and the amount of money we were able to give out blows you away. We go out and ask businesses and people to donate but this year we had a lot of businesses that reached out to us, as well. All of that goes back to the kids, so it means a lot and that’s what it’s about.”

The list of competitors this year included Harleigh Bozeman, Ja’Kayla Carr, Elsie Clare Coppage, Mary Sampson Dunn, Sarah Franklin, Tailor Hobdy, Emily Hussey, Hudson Jones, Lillian Marsh, Emily Price, Paitin Riley, Charlee Sanders and Emma Sanders. All of the girls competing are rising high school seniors in Pike County.

The 2024 Pike County Distinguished Young Woman, the overall winner, was Elsie Clare Coppage. Charlee Sanders won overall first runner up and was the talent winner, while Emily Price was second runner-up and Mary Sampson Dunn was third runner-up. Dunn also won the Spirit of DYW. Emily Hussey won both the self-expression portion and won the essay contest. Tailor Hobdy was the fitness winner and Spirit of DYW winner. Sarah Ashlyn Franklin was the interview winner. The overall winner, plus the first, second and third runners up all were awarded scholarships. Coppage will go on to compete at the state level in January.