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Franklin County girls compete in Distinguished Young Women program

By Ashley Cummins for the FCT

The annual Northwest Alabama Distinguished Young Women Scholarship Program was held Aug. 6, at Norton Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Alabama, and several Franklin County girls were recognized for their beauty, intellect and talent.

Nineteen high school seniors from Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale counties competed in scholastics, interview, fitness, talent and self-expression categories.

Ana Castillo of Belgreen High School was selected as Franklin County’s 2017 Distinguished Young Woman and will represent Franklin County in the state program in January 2017. Ana was also selected as the winner of the self-expression and talent categories.

Abby Swinney of Phil Campbell High School was selected as the winner of the fitness category and was awarded first alternate. Layne Boyd of Russellville High School was selected as the winner of the scholastics category and was awarded second alternate.

“Being one of the judges’ chairs, I can definitely attest to the difficulty the judges had this year in determining the three county representatives,” said Beth Hammock “All five judges were immensely impressed at the contestants’ depth of content they expressed during their interviews. And after they saw all the levels of competition, it was even more of a challenge not to rank each girl near the top. Scores were extremely close, and it’s really just a matter of selecting one winner among several winners.”


The Distinguished Young Women Scholarship Program helps to develop character, confidence and career readiness skills for girls who participate during their senior year, supported by tenth and eleventh “little sisters” who help cheer them on, said DYW Chairperson Susan Hargett. “In addition the program helps build a social network impacting their college and career opportunities,” Hargett said. “Everyone involved, from contestants and little sisters to volunteers, truly benefits through being involved with a program positively changing the lives of young women.”


Sponsor coordinator and Chairperson Katernia Cole Coffey said the wonderful thing about the Distinguished Young Women program is, of course, the scholarships. “DYW cash scholarships can be used at any accredited institution of higher learning for  tuition, room and board, books or other educational expenses,” she said.


She said many people don’t know that many colleges and universities offer scholarships to DYW program participants, and there are several scholarships available just for taking part in a local or state program.


“I received an email from Cassie Medley at the Chamber of Commerce and Elizabeth Harris from Upward Bound about a scholarship opportunity through the Northwest Alabama Distinguished Young Women Program, and that’s what piqued my interest initially,” Castillo said.

“Every contestant was paired up with ‘little sisters’ who supported us and helped us throughout the week’s activities. It was truly an amazing experience. I learned so much.”

Girls spent the week leading up to the DYW program in a range of activities, from working the 5K and color splash fun run to preparing their dance, to brunching with UNA President Ken Kitts and his wife.

“Distinguished Young Women is not only a scholarship opportunity, it’s a great learning experience,” Castillo added. “They teach you things to help you in the future with job interviews and college.

“I met a lot of great people and learned a lot. I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent the Northwest Alabama Distinguished Young Women and Franklin County. I was so nervous and excited that I didn’t really process what was happening. It’s an honor to win.”

For more information on scholarship opportunities for young ladies in this area, contact Hargett at 256-710-9239 or Hammock at 256-356-9286.