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B y Dan King

Haley Wiskoski has become the first junior to win the Distinguished Young Women Program at Whitehall High School.

In front of a packed auditorium – which included DYW winners from 1971, 1975, 1982, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2010 and 2015 – Wiskoski competed against nine other junior girls for scholarship money and the honor of being Whitehall’s 2016 Distinguished Young Woman.

The program opened with the girls entering the stage to the song “Welcome to New York” by Taylor Swift. The stage was decorated with the New York City skyline and street signs bearing each girl’s name, to keep with the theme of “Welcome to New York.”

Wiskoski won the scholastic and interview portions, both of which are conducted prior to tAllison Truttling sings Take Me To Church by Hozierhe start of the program. The scholastic portion has judges evaluate high school transcripts, with the names blacked out, and the interview portion tested the girls on abilities such as perception and clarity of thought during an interview.

Sam Kasuba won both the talent and fitness portions.

The fitness portion, which is worth 15 percent, was a dance routine choreographed by Taryn Tracy, to the songs “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson Ft. Bruno Mars, “Temperature” by Sean Paul, and “Calabria” by Enur Ft. Natasha.

Kasuba won the talent portion for her singing and guitar playing of the song “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley.

The girls showcased their talents in this portion of the program, with great dance routines from Courtney Rozell, Miranda Bascue, Sophia Barber and Betsy Molgano; a piano and vocal performance of Colby Kalet’s “Try” by Abby Dickinson; a flute performance from Wiskoski; and singing performances from Payton Cole, Katana Sanchez and Allison Truttling, the latter of which performed a chilling rendition of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church.”

As Peggy Sparano, the mistress of ceremonies put it “We are not picking a winner from a group of representatives; we are picking a representative from a group of winners.”Courtney Rozell dances to Shell Shock by Wiz Khalifa

The final portion of the program was the self-expression section, in which the girls had to answer randomized questions on the spot, in front of the audience.

Cole won that portion with her answer to the question, “Do you think the Internet will replace our education system as we know it?” She gave an elaborate answer detailing the reasons she felt the Internet would not replace the current education system.

The 53rd annual program included a basket raffle; the witty humor of Sparano; a performance from Rachel Lavin, the 2015 DYW winner; and of course, the 2016 participants with their “little sisters,” local third graders who wrote an essay to gain inclusion in the program.

The program is in a transition phase from featuring high school seniors to featuring high school juniors, so Saturday’s program was the second of the school year, the first was won by Lavin.

Ultimately, Wiskoski took home $3,050 between scholarships and cash prizes for winning the interview, scholastic and overall awards. Kasuba took home $1,300 as first runner-up and winner of talent and fitness. Dickinson won $500 for second runner-up, Sanchez took $150 for the spirit award, and Cole was awarded $150 for self-expression.

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