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Idaho Enterprise

DYW begins in earnest

This year's Distinguished Young Women contestants pictured with reigning DYW Alexus Tarbet: (Back) Makiya Shulz, Aubree Palmer, Natalie Webster, Alexus Tarbet, Baylee Owens, Paige Wilson. (Front) Tatum Hess, Maren Sperry, Katie Coatney, Madelyn Shaw, Aubrey Corbett. (not pictured: Anistyn Tovey)

On Monday, the DYW (Distinguished Young Women) met for the first time with the eleven girls who have signed up to be a part of this year’s program.  As the girls gathered in the high school commons with a mixture of nervousness and enthusiasm, the reality of the situation was brought to bear by this year’s chairperson Nikki Schwartz, who noted at slightly after seven, “I am a very on-time person.  When I say we’re starting, we are.”  Following that tone, the DYW committee explained to the participants what was in store for them with their own mixture of supportive encouragement and clear expectations.

DYW is a familiar program to most people in Malad.  While its name has changed somewhat over the decades, the idea of highlighting the impressive talents and achievements of high school students is time-honored.  There is also a strong local tradition of excellent performance in DYW.  Alexus Tarbet, Malad’s reigning Distinguished Young Woman, also finished as a finalist at the state level competition last year, and won the Overall Talent award.  She was preceded by Malad DYW Raegan Smith, who was also named the first runner-up at the state level the year prior.  

Malad’s dedication to the DYW program was recognized last year, when it was named “Program of the Year” by the state body.  While a small program relative to the size of some of Idaho’s other communities, its excellence is second to none.  The interest in and support of the program on the part of the volunteers and the community makes it clear why the award was deserved.

In fact, many of the volunteers and hostesses for the program are themselves former contestants, the parents of former contestants, or both.  All of them are true volunteers, devoting countless hours to make the girls, and the program, as successful as possible.  This year’s committee is composed of Chair Nikki Schwartz, Production Chair Callie Werk, Judges Chairs Pam Mills and Christine Smith, Treasurer Paula Davis, Interview Committee Chair Shawna Daniels, Scholastic Chair Nacona Smith, Fundraising Chair Alaina Schrenk.  Tickets and programs will be done by Candis Schow; Crystal Kimberling will serve as the photographer; Ashlee Jensen will run social media; Laura DeJong is in charge of the Fun Run; Jeff and Laurie Richins will run lights and sound; and Andrea Jones and Regene Jones will provide catering. 

The DYW volunteers shared some of their thoughts about why the program was so helpful as an experience for the girls, regardless of the ultimate outcome.  Christine Smith asked the girls to imagine a time in their lives when they had had to say a sincere goodbye to someone.  She then asked them to look at themselves in the mirror and say goodbye to who their former selves.  “Each of you will never be the same after this experience,” she told them.  “Your purpose here is to become your best self.”  Smith recounted some of the experiences she had while working with her girls on the program.  “One of the biggest skills came out of the interviewing process.  It will help you so much in your future with public speaking and being able to express yourself to your best.”  She asked the girls to stay humble and teachable, as there would be many things to learn, and they needed to be receptive to the advice and counsel of their hostesses, parents, and DYW leaders.  “Seek out our help as much as you can.  Don’t wait until the last weeks to reach out.” 

Smith also asked the parents and hostesses to engage with their girls as much as possible with program preparation—using spare time in the car or at home for mock interview questions, talent preparation, and comfort with speaking confidently.  “Be the biggest cheerleader for your girl,” she said.

Shawna Daniels emphasized the importance of the interview portion as well.  “It’s an important real-life skill,” she said.  She also emphasized that the interviews, talent, and self-expression components of the program were very strictly timed.  Making sure to exercise self-control and awareness would be critical to their success.  She explained that even one second over the time limits for each event would result in a loss of all points.  The components of the program will be rigorously rehearsed over the course of the next months, with a number of practice sessions held almost every week leading up to the competition.  While the committee will provide as much help and assistance as possible, it was made clear that it was up to the girls to put in as much effort as they can.

The program involves a series of competitions: Scholastic, which accounts for 25% of the final score; Interview, which accounts for 25%; Talent, which accounts for 20%, Fitness, which accounts for 15% of the score, and the remaining 15% for Personal Expression.  The Scholastic category includes the students’ performance in school and other academic areas.  GPA, course difficulty, test scores, and other evidence of academic prowess will be taken into consideration by the judges before the final program begins.  The Interview component of the score is based on an interview conducted before the final program in which the girls are interviewed by a panel of judges, who might ask them about a range of topics.  Talent is the category most often associated with DYW and similar competitions, and involves a student’s chosen skill demonstrated in a narrow window of time.  Musicianship, singing, art, drama, painting, athletics, dance, gymnastics, and many other impressive skills have been displayed in the past.  Fitness is based on a routine in which the girls participate as a group, and is based on tone, stamina, skill, and coordination.  Personal Expression is another segment that might come to mind when thinking about DYW—it’s the round in which the girls answer randomly assigned short answer questions from the judges in front of the audience.   

The program, in other words, is designed to bring out the best in many important aspects of the contestants’ lives and experiences.  In order to be as successful as possible, the girls must have a strong balance between their artistic, academic, physical, and personality sides all at once.  

As a consequence of the varied demands of the program, the committee will focus on different areas of preparation.  Nikki Schwartz, Christine Smith, and Shawna Daniels shared some of the areas they believe are important to focus on, and ways that the hostesses and parents of the girls could help to that end.  

This year’s participants and their hosts are as follows:

Madeline Shaw will be hosted by Kami Willie; Aubrey Corbett will be hosted by Janelle Thorpe; Paige Wilson will be hosted by Lacey Clark; Bailey Owens will be hosted by Lyndsey Thomas; Aubree Palmer will be hosted by Debbie Bean; Makiya Shulz will be hosted by Alicia Seamons; Tatum Hess will be hosted by Hallie Degn; Natalie Webster will be hosted by Wendy Stucki; Anistyn Tovey will be hosted by Shelbie Hess; Maren Sperry will be hosted by Ashley Price; and Katie Coatney will be hosted by Shannon Davis.  

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