Holding a bouquet of red and white carnations in her hands and with tears welling in the corners of her eyes, senior Cariana Jones was a bundle of emotions after she was named Whitehall’s Distinguished Young Woman Saturday night at Whitehall High School.
“Oh my goodness, it’s amazing,” said Jones. “I’m on top of the world.”
Jones was one of 12 senior girls who competed in Whitehall’s Distinguished Young Women program, a scholarship competition—formerly known as Jr. Miss—that promotes and recognizes scholastics, leadership and talent.
The selection of Jones as Whitehall’s 51st Distinguished Young Woman was the culmination of a nearly three-hour program that showcased the participants’ excellence in scholastics, fitness, self-expression, talent and an interview.
Each girl was judged by a panel of five judges and the highest overall score was used to determine Saturday’s winner.
The scholastic and interview components were determined prior to the program while the other three categories played out on stage.
The participants spent two nights a week for nearly two months memorizing the choreography to the fitness routine, which consisted of several minutes of calisthenics, and refining their talents.
Although most of the talents consisted of singing and dancing, there were others. Kelsey Farley performed a basketball skills routine with an assist from her younger brother and Bryanna Millard recited a Robert Frost poem. However, it was Rachel Aubin who tap-danced her way to rousing ovation and a $150 prize during the talent portion of the show.
Malia DeLorme won a $150 award for the self-expression component of the program. Asked about her favorite high school memory, DeLorme reflected on her participation in the New Visions program, an honors-level course that introduces high school seniors to careers in their desired field of study. DeLorme, who hopes to one day become a nurse, said the experience of working in the medical field was an opportunity traditional high school does not afford. DeLorme also took home an additional $500 award for being selected as second runner up.
Mackenzie Fiorini won a $1,000 scholarship as the first runner-up and received $300 for winning the fitness and scholastic components of the show. She was also one of three girls who received the Spirit Award, a $100 prize chosen by fellow participants. Oshen-Keli Beayon and Taryn Tracy were also recipients of the award.
Besides the $2,500 award for winning the title of Whitehall’s Distinguished Young Woman, Jones also received $150 for winning the interview component.
Jones, who hopes one day be a lawyer and will compete in the state program next year, was grateful to have won.
“There were so much blood, sweat and tears, but it was so worthwhile,” Jones said.