By LAURA CARRELL
Courier staff writer
---- — 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.
"They don't realize it, their parents don't realize it, their host parents don't realize it, but by the end of this week they're hooked. They'll never be far from our hearts and they'll never be forgotten. It becomes family," Sanchez said.
In addition, the program's organizers have speakers from the community come to talk about their jobs, families and lives. Sanchez explains that most of the speakers are businesswomen, each with a story about where they started in life, where they are now and all the bumps and turns along the way.
Tickets for the event will be available at the door and are $12 for adults and $7 for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Any girl who is a junior in high school will be admitted free to see what she could be involved in next year.
— Follow reporter Laura Carrell on Twitter @CourierLauraC
Candidates for Distinguished Young Women of Iowa 2014: • Callie Alvarez, of Johnston, attends Johnston High School. Her parents are Carlos and Carol Alvarez. • Kathryn Bailey, of Gilbertville, attends Don Bosco Catholic High School. Her parents are James and Christine Bailey. • Charlette Flanders, of Ottumwa, attends Ottumwa High School. Her mother is Lolita Flanders. • Elena Foster, of Iowa City, attends Iowa City High School. Her parents are Darcy Lipsius and Charles Foster Jr. • Alexandra Grady, of Iowa City, attends Iowa City West High School. Her parents are David and Marsha Grady. • Nicole Kraft, of Walcott, attends Davenport West High School. Her parents are Scott and Gale Kraft. • Jennifer Klodt, of Ottumwa, attends Ottumwa High School. Her parents are Richard and Nancy Klodt. • Taiylor Morgan, of Fremont, attends Pekin Community High School. Her parents are Adam and Theresa Morgan. • Madilin Neibert, of Cedar Falls, attends Cedar Falls High School. Her parents are Peter and Camille Neibert. • Samantha Wright, of Ottumwa, attends Pekin Community High School. Her parents are Jesse and Sarah Wright.