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For the Daily News
Call them smart, talented, and physically fit - but don't call them beauty pageant girls.
Eleven of Starkvilleâ€™s high school juniors will take to the stage, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. at Lee Hall Auditorium to vie for the opportunity to represent Starkville in the State Distinguished Young Women program to be held in July in Meridian.
Contestants will be Nicole Ball, Bailey Brocato, Morgan Buntin, Morgan Corder, Hannah Fischer, Megan Gammill, Lauren Hughes, Peyton Jackson, Emily Jeffries, Mallory Pitts and Kelly Olivieri.
The girl chosen will become Starkvilleâ€™s first Distinguished Young Woman of 2012, formerly known as Starkvilleâ€™s Junior Miss. The winner receives a $1,500 cash scholarship. The total scholarship awards total: $4,250.
The program is billed strictly as a scholarship program that doesn't judge girls on outer beauty or compare them to the other girls in the competition.
Instead, judges award the girls points for how well they do in the areas of academics, interview, talent, fitness, and self expression.
Distinguished Young Women programs inspire high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments.
According the Distinguished Young Women website (formerly referred to as Americaâ€™s Junior Miss, and still transitioning to the new name during this period) the program, founded in 1958, is headquartered in Mobile, Ala. and is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls.
More than 700,000 young women from across the nation have participated in Junior Miss programs at the local, state, and national levels.
In addition to cash scholarships, participants are eligible for college-granted scholarships from nearly 200 colleges and universities.
The program encourages continued education by providing these scholarships, developing self-confidence and the ability to interview effectively, to speak in public, and to perform on stage, in addition to building interpersonal relationships.
It focuses on encouraging and showcasing excellence in academic achievement, physical fitness, on-stage performance skills and the ability to think and communicate clearly.
By creating these opportunities, the program strives to benefit and inspire the lives of others.