The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

March 18, 2013

Swanson wins top honors at Distinguished Young Women of Iowa competition

OTTUMWA — Erica Swanson’s jaw dropped when her name was called as this year’s Distinguished Young Woman of Iowa.

Joyce Sanchez, chair of Distinguished Young Women of Iowa since 1995, said the statewide program, which has been held in Ottumwa since 1973, benefits Iowa high school seniors “who want to further their education and exemplify that all-around high school girl.”

The program provides scholarships for the candidates to use toward their post-secondary education.

“This is a huge honor,” Swanson said after winning Saturday. “I’m absolutely surprised. All the other girls here are absolutely amazing and I could see any one of them getting it. I’m really happy.”

The program, formerly known as Iowa Junior Miss, changed its name to get away from being known as a “pageant” or the Miss America or Miss USA theme, Sanchez said.

At-large programs were held in Norwalk and Ottumwa last fall, which narrowed down the list of girls to nine: Allisyn Brandenburg of Kellogg, Taylor Hoskins of Walford, Ashlyn Nordyke of Ottumwa, Bridget Anderson of Ottumwa, Mandalyn Martin of Moulton, Tori Caddell of Council Bluffs, Erica Swanson of Ottumwa, Sarah Keith of Ottumwa and Bailey Whitsitt of Urbandale.

Swanson will receive a $1,500 scholarship, raised through funds from Ottumwa’s Oktoberfest parade, to go toward her college education. She plans to attend Iowa State University, studying kinesiology and health.

This summer, Swanson will represent Iowa at the national Distinguished Young Woman program in Mobile, Ala., where she will compete against 49 other girls for the top designation.

Each candidate is judged in five categories: self expression, scholastics, talent, fitness and an interview.

Before the event began Saturday night, 45 percent of the candidates’ scores had already been decided from their scholastics and their interview on Friday.

The girls put in long hours last week, rehearsing at Bridge View Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, as well as extra rehearsals from 6:30-10 p.m. every night.

They also heard from businesswomen throughout the community, who spoke about being a leader and motivating others.

“It gives the girls self-esteem and interview skills they can take with them forever,” Sanchez said.

In 1992, Sanchez’s family became a host family for one of the candidates.

“My daughter is an only child, and she thought it would be neat to have a sister for a week,” Sanchez said. “It’s addictive. Once you get involved, you’re hooked.”

After an opening number and a song from last year’s winner, Rachael Ostrem, the girls completed the self expression portion of the program, where they are asked a question at random and must answer on the spot. Questions ranged from sexting to bullying to obesity.

The Adopt-A-School program is always the candidates’ favorite part of the week, Sanchez said. The nine girls were spread throughout the Ottumwa school district at Douma, Eisenhower, Wilson, Wildwood and Horace Mann Elementary Schools. A child from each classroom the girls visited was chosen to go on stage with their “new best friend” Saturday.

Whitsitt was awarded this year’s “Be Your Best Self” award after writing an essay about a father figure in her life. While her father was never present in her life growing up, she had two strong male figures to help guide her: her grandfather and her stepfather.

“I was blessed to spend every morning, afternoon and summers with my grandparents,” Whitsitt wrote. “I live the way he would have wanted me to.”

Her stepfather has also been an important man in her life.

“I’m so incredibly grateful that Mark came into my life and completed our family,” she wrote.

The Spirit Award, which is voted on by all nine candidates and goes to the girl who best exemplifies “Be Your Best Self” was awarded to Caddell.

1
Text Only
Ottumwa
  • 0418 OTT Tree City U.S.A. logo Ottumwa awarded as Tree City U.S.A. again OTTUMWA — Having big, beautiful trees throughout a community can help spruce up a city and make it more attractive to visitors. Ottumwa has shown a dedication to making the community more green and inviting, and the efforts have been recognized by th

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT OEDC director -T Guiding our growth

    OTTUMWA — An organization designed to help Ottumwa grow has found a new employee in Indiana. The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) board has chosen Sharon Stroh as the group's new executive director. “We are confident she will hit the g

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Camp Wapello fence photo -T -M -L Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • City Council approves sale of properties OTTUMWA — On Tuesday the Ottumwa City Council met for the last regularly scheduled meeting of April. Included in the agenda for the evening were several dispositions of city owned property. Structures and land located at 519 W. Fourth St., 723 E. Mar

    April 15, 2014

  • Where to play OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Community School District wants to discuss moving to another athletic conference. Superintendent Davis Eidahl revealed that the district has been contacted by a smaller sports league, which has extended an invitation to join the

    April 15, 2014

  • 0415 Right side up monster truck pic Nice driver --- mean machine OTTUMWA --- Drivers sat at one end of their vehicles during the "pit party," meeting fans and signing autographs before the motorsport and monster truck exhibition at Bridge View Center this weekend. Monster truck driver Orville Hill let kids --- and

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0415 OTT Composting ethical pic Recycling in a garden OTTUMWA --- Parents will tell you: They hate to see kids waste food. A gardner named Scott Koepke feels the same way. “First, let’s get our food to people who are going to eat it,” he said. “It hurts me to see kids in the schools throw away an entire

    April 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0412 OTT Pothole color photo -T -M [Duplicate] A bumper crop of potholes OTTUMWA — The nice weather has been putting the bad roads on display. Officials say good: It gives us a chance to fix them. “Every city is going through the same thing,” said Larry Seals, Ottumwa Public Works director. “It has been an unusual winter

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Home in a tent OTTUMWA -- As people live without shelter, they become desperate finding a place to sleep. The situation impacts more than just the community's homeless. "There is nowhere to put people who are homeless," said Mary Margaret Butler. "Nowhere." Ottumwa

    April 11, 2014

  • 0412 OTT Martha Speaks color photo -T -M Ottumwa children visited by cartoon star OTTUMWA — Iowa Public Television is celebrating its 45-year anniversary this year by helping communities like Ottumwa educate young children before they get into a school setting. One of the programs they are using to help reach out to children is by

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National