OTTUMWA — Senior girls from around the state have converged on Bridge View Center for the Distinguished Young Women of Iowa scholarship competition.
The finals will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Bridge View theater. Achievement scholarships will be awarded to the winner, first- and second-runners up, as well as the winners of each category. The cash scholarships can be used at any school of their choice, not just in Iowa.
The competition began in 1958 in northern Iowa, and it found its permanent home in Ottumwa in 1973. It has had many name changes over the years — Iowa Junior Miss, Young Women of Iowa, back to Iowa Junior Miss and now Distinguished Young Women of Iowa — but organizers say that the core values have not changed.
"They're not judged on beauty," State Chairman Joyce Sanchez said. "There's no crown or sash. They're here for the scholarship."
What the judges will be looking for includes fitness, presence, composure and talent. These are the three components the audience will see. On Friday, they will be interviewed by judges
The young woman chosen as Distinguished Young Woman of Iowa will represent the state in Mobile, Ala., in June for the national program.
"You hear so much negative about kids at this age, so it's nice to see those who are achieving something and give them some recognition, too," Sanchez said.
The 10 candidates have been in Ottumwa all week rehearsing and preparing for Saturday night's event. All of them, even those who live here in town, are staying with host families during the week, getting a taste of what it's like to be away from home. While this may not be the first time they've traveled, most likely they weren't staying with another family.