Walleser Competes at DYW State


The participants of the Distinguished Young Women competition of the state level come together from all over Wisconsin to participate in various activities.

Distinguished Young Women (DYW) is the nation’s oldest and largest scholarship program for girls. Founded in 1958, the Distinguished Young Women program set out to provide deserving young girls with scholarships. Their mission is “To positively impact the lives of young women by providing a transformative experience that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent.” Today, 730,000 teenage girls have participated from around the country and have received over 100 million dollars in scholarships. DYW is also in partnership with over 200 colleges and universities which have provided over 365 million dollars in scholarship opportunities.
Distinguished Young Women operates on local, state, and national levels. To begin the process, a girl must compete at a local program, like the one held here in Brookfield, led by Mrs. Ellen Linnihan. If a girl wishes to participate but does not have a local program, they may compete at large, meaning that while they do not compete against other girls, they must reach a minimum number of points. After qualifying through at large or a local program, the girls compete at a week-long state competition in which one girl is chosen to represent Wisconsin in Mobile, Alabama for the national competition where an award of over $50,000 is often granted to the winner.
The competition is judged on the three pillars of Distinguished Young Woman: scholarship, leadership, and talent. Each contestant participates in an interview, talent, fitness routine, on stage question, and scholastics evaluation. The interview and talent components are each worth 25% of the total score, whereas the scholastics evaluation is 20%, and fitness and self expression are 15% each. Scholastics are judged on GPA and ACT scores, and the rigor of classes in the contestant’s schedule. In addition to the overall winner, runner-up, and second runner-up awards, preliminary scholarships are given in each of the categories.
DYW is not just a scholarship program. Participants in the program give speeches all around the state as advocates for the DYW Be Your Best Self program, which encourages young kids not to be the best, but their best. The BYBS program teaches kids to be healthy, ambitious, involved, responsible, and studious.
This year, as Brookfield’s Distinguished Young Woman, I competed at the state level alongside fourteen other girls from all around the state. For a week at the end of July, I stayed with a host family and two roommates in the city of Franklin, Wisconsin, where I partook in rehearsals, special appearances, Be Your Best Self presentations, and a myriad of other fun bonding activities with the other contestants. For me, it really was not about the awards. I was privileged enough to meet fourteen amazing girls that I know will be lifelong friends. I was truly blessed to be part of this program and I know that it has changed me as a person. Sure, the scholarship money for college is a great benefit, but it is the memories that I will cherish forever.
At the competition, I received an interview and scholastics award. The Wisconsin state representative who will go onto the national competition is Jamie Nicole Morlean, the Distinguished Young Woman of Racine. When asked to comment on the program, last year’s Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin, Astha Berry, said, “We always have to explain to people that Distinguished Young Women is not a beauty pageant. But although it is not a beauty pageant, I have met some of the most beautiful people—inside and out—who truly care about us as people and want to see us succeed.”
Registration for new contestants is now open online. The Brookfield local program will be held in January.