Distinguished Young Women 2023


Ellen Linnihan

All of the girls from this year’s competition, Joshitha Senthil, Kathy Sun, Lilly Martin, Emma Fellows, Irene Li, Natalia Davis, Sarah Elghannam, Suraksha Kodgi, Eiman Mir, Maggie Feng, Selina Wang, Colleen Durham, Kalli Kotsonis, Lucy Irwin, and Melissa Keane lined up outside of the auditorium at WHMS the night before the competition.

On January 14th, the annual Distinguished Young Women competition for Brookfield and Waukesha County took place in the Wisconsin Hills Middle School auditorium. There were 15 junior girls competing in total, two of which were there to represent Waukesha and Elm Grove.

The Distinguished Young Women competition started in 1958 in Mobile, Alabama where it was originally called America’s Junior Miss competition. In 2010, the name was officially changed to Distinguished Young Women. Since its creation, the program has provided scholarship opportunities for 740,000 young women across the country and has awarded 104 million dollars at the local, state, and national levels. Participants are also eligible for college scholarships from 100 colleges and universities, some for just taking part in the competition whether they won, or not. Although there is a good chance of earning money for college, many of the girls join for other reasons.

Every year, the girls are split into three groups; the red group, the silver group, and the blue group. Each of them competed in a live showcase of physical fitness, personal talent, and self-expression. In this last section, they need to answer a question, usually about current events. The question for this year was if you had the opportunity to address the newly elected Congress, what would you choose to say?” “My favorite categories to compete in were fitness and talent,” says Lilly Martin. “I loved fitness because it reminded me of performing in musicals, it was fun to learn it. (and I can finally do push-ups!) I also enjoyed talent because it was one of the first debuts I had with my ukulele, it was incredible and I hope to perform with it more in the future!” Before the live showcases, the girls are evaluated for their academic achievements, a requirement that accounts for 25% of their total score. They also took part in a ten-minute personal interview with the judges where they were evaluated on their sense of values, clarity of expression, and concern and ability in human relations. “I think that one of the benefits I have taken out of DYW has been the interviewing aspect. Mrs. Linnihan has done an incredible job at teaching me the fundamentals of a good interview and I’m so grateful that she was willing to help me so much these past couple of months,” said Melissa Keane.

Once all of these scores are added together, a winner is announced that will move on to the state competition in Franklin on August 12th this year. Maggie Feng will represent Brookfield and Melissa Keane will represent Waukesha. “Yes! I am so excited to participate in the state competition,” Feng said. “I’m super excited to meet other girls from all around Wisconsin, and I hope to make some new connections and hopefully long-lasting friendships. I’m ready to step even further out of my comfort zone through this competition, and put a lot of hard work into preparing for state!!”