Distinguished Young Women program offers scholarship opportunities
A program founded in 1958, Distinguished Young Women of Morgan County, allows area high school seniors the opportunity to earn scholarship money and prepare for life after high school.
A former Shelby County participant of the program, Rachel Poovey, now oversees the Morgan County program and says it’s a life changing experience for the girls. High school girls are invited to take part in the program that includes life skills workshops and competitions in the areas of scholastics, interview, talent, self expression and fitness.
“It gives senior girls the chance to earn scholarship money based on various talents. So before they ever get on stage they send in their academic information and they have an interview that covers everything from their interests to politics. So it’s a challenging interview, but it prepares them for scholarship and job interviews,” Poovey said.
The list of 2024 participants in the Distinguished Young Women of Morgan County program includes three young women from Hartselle: Anna Blankenship, Analeigh Fansler and Sofia Hutson. This year, Isabelle “Izzy Kate” Priest of Austin High will be going on to represent the county at the state level.
Poovey said that the program allows for multiple scholarships to be awarded for the different categories, and that many colleges even offer scholarships just for participating.
“The amount of scholarship money that we give out over the years has grown. Whoever wins competes on the stage, but we do give scholarship money for every category they compete in as well, so just because they don’t win they can still get something,” Poovey said.
In addition to competing for scholarships and gaining life skills, Poovey says the program offers an opportunity to expand the girls’ social circle and meet people they may not have otherwise met. It’s also the chance to step outside their comfort zone and expand their horizons.
“Recent Distinguished Young Women are rooming together at Troy and Alabama. It’s just a support system for each other. Every year with our program I say these are some of the bravest young women. You know it is brave to step out here and put yourself on stage at 17 or 18 and interview with people. It really takes initiative to pursue this. I think it prepares them for life, gives them a good picture of the entire young lady. They get to present their best self,” Poovey said.
This year’s county winner, Priest, will go on to compete for state in January. The Distinguished Young Women of Morgan County will hold her a farewell fundraiser celebration party and fundraiser at the Brick Deli in Decatur on Jan. 1.
“All the funds we raise we have to raise through donation. So all the funds that we raise we give to our girls,” Poovey said.
While awaiting the upcoming state competition, applications for next year’s program are open. Poovey said that the earlier girls apply the better prepared they can be, and encouraged young women to take the plunge.
“We’d love to get the word out. We do have lots of girls that don’t compete because they don’t have a talent or their academics aren’t great. But academics aren’t everything and we can help you come up with a talent. We’ve had people do speeches, we have had girls throw softball and if you think about it ahead of time there are plenty of opportunities,” Poovey said.
According to Poovey, the national program has a proven history of turning out some of the most successful and influential women. Gov. Kay Ivey and US Senator Katie Britt are both former participants of the program, and the current National Distinguished Young Woman, Carrington Hodge is from Alabama.
“It has a history of building young ladies and helping them make connections and prepare for their future,” Poovey said.
Interested parties can find the application for next year’s program by visiting www.distinguishedyw.org/alabama/morgan-county-al. Community members can also opt to support the program through donations and in-kind donations. Donations can be made by contacting Poovey at email@example.com or by calling 1(256)-227-0976.