Distinguished Young Women program presents showcase and announces 2023 winner

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Distinguished Young Woman Ashton Henderson (Sara Gladney for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Former Junior Miss Program, now Distinguished Young Women held a showcase at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre on Saturday, June 18 to present the class of 2023 and select the new Distinguished Young Woman to represent Cullman County in the Alabama DYW Program in Montgomery next year.

Distinguished Young Women is a national scholarship program that inspires high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments. The program has provided life-changing experiences for more than 780,000 young women and more than $116 million in cash scholarships has been awarded at the local, state and national levels combined.

The Cullman County Class of 2023 consisted of Heidi Armstrong from West Point, Olivia Britton from Cullman, Berkley Gable from Vinemont, Ashton Henderson from Cullman, Maddie McKenney from Good Hope, Anna Page from Cullman and Gabriella Palacio from Cold Springs. The judging criteria is based on the characteristics the DYW Program believes every young woman should strive to possess.

 The categories judged include:

Judges Interview – 25% in which judges look for perception, a sense of values, clarity of expression, concern for others and ability in human relations

Scholastic Achievement – 25%, transcripts of grades in core classes and college entrance examinations are reviewed

Talent – 20% where judging is based on originality, technical ability and stage presence

Self-Expression – 15%, the judges consider the elements of grace, poise under pressure, ability to communicate effectively and naturalness in posture and

Fitness -15% in which coordination, stamina, agility and posture are evaluated without regard to physique.

Taylor Simmons, the 2022 DYW of Cullman County, recently graduated from Holly Pond High School while participating in the fast-track program at Wallace State. Taylor will be competing in the Miss Alabama competition later this June with her social impact initiative of implementing human trafficking education in all Alabama school systems.

The emcee for the evening was Miss Elizabeth Miller, 2022 Miss UAB and 2020 Cullman County DYW 1st alternate. Miller asked Simmons about the highlights of the program and what it has meant to her. Simmons spoke about the many different people and personalities that she got to interact with. She said, “You don’t know what connections you will need in life, and these are where you make those connections.”

Before the 2023 Distinguished Young Woman was announced, Simmons gave her final walk and thanks to the program, “I hope that these young ladies and myself have inspired upcoming girls to compete in this program. DYW has taught me that if I want something, I must work hard to get it.”

The first award given was the Spirit Award to the participant who has shown the true meaning of being a Distinguished Young Woman. The Spirit Award winner was Olivia Britton who received a $150 scholarship.

The Community Service Award of $200 was awarded to Berkley Gable. The “Be Your Best Self” essay winner was Anna Page who received $200. The Fitness Award of $300 was granted to Ashton Henderson. The highest scorer of the Self-Expression competition was Ashton Henderson who received a $400 scholarship. The Talent Competition Winner was also Ashton Henderson who received $450.

Ashton Henderson was the winner of the Interview portion which took place before the day of the program and she received a $600 scholarship. The Scholastic Achievement Winner who received $800 as well as a dual enrollment tuition scholarship from Wallace State was awarded to Maddie McKenny, who also finished First Runner-Up and received a $1500 scholarship to a college of her choice.

Ashton Henderson won Distinguished Young Woman of 2023 and received a $3,000 tuition scholarship, a six-month family membership to Cullman Wellness and Aquatic Center and a $250 photo session.

Miss Elizabeth Miller concluded, “We want to say how thankful we are to the Cullman County Distinguished Young Women Class of 2023 for participating in the program. You all are truly distinguished and will do amazing things.”

View the photo gallery here.

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