Contestants in the Mississippi Distinguished Young Woman Program build friendships, serve others, and gain confidence.
"Oh it's awesome. I got to meet a lot of wonderful young ladies and love my host family. It's been really fun," are the words Ashley Luethje uses to describe the entire Distinguished Young Woman program experience that is underway with this year's contestants. Luethje is looking forward to the competition and building friendships while the hometown contestant also gets some bragging rights.
"Definitely just getting to spend more time with the girls and being on stage. I think it's going to be really fun," says Luethje.
Rachel Varela, who is from Meridian, describes her bragging. "I've been bragging a little bit. I said as we drove up, 'there's where my dad works', 'there's the Temple, it's my favorite place', and as we pass I'll be saying 'that place has good burgers' and stuff like that."
While the girls from Meridian and Lauderdale County have the hometown advantage, they actually have the same experience as everyone else. They also have a host family they stay with during the week.
Mackenzie Ross, who is from Lauderdale County tells us about her experience. "Well, ironically my host family lives right up the street from me, so it's kind of home away from home for me. But it's great because it does give me the same experience as all the other girls. You know, my host family's so sweet; they cater to my needs, and they're great. They're cooking for us, and it's a lot of fun. I feel so blessed to have such a sweet host family."
All the girls have the same experience and the same goal, to do their best.
"I guess I've heard a lot of really great stories about Distinguished Young Woman, not Junior Miss, and a lot of girls have said they come back with great friends and more confidence, but mostly I'm here because I really, really want to do my best and not mess up on all of it; but we've been training so hard, and we just want to have that moment completely perfect," says Varela.
Preliminary competitions begin Thursday with the top ten and winner announced Saturday at the Temple Theater.