By GWEN SISSON
As Starkville‚Äôs 2011 Distinguished Young Woman, formerly Junior Miss, Mallory Pitts prepares to leave for state competition this week, she said she encourages others to participate in the program.
‚ÄúIt is such a time to grow and find out who you really are and what you stand for,‚ÄĚ Pitts said. ‚ÄúIt will only change your life positively and your complete out look! I would encourage everyone that can to get involved, stay true to yourself no matter what, and to ultimately ‚ÄėBe Your Best Self.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Pitts was honored with a send-off party Wednesday at the Starkville Sportsplex, as friends and family gathered to wish her well at the state program, set for July 21-23. She will leave for DYW Week on July 17. The Starkville Optimist Club sponsors the DYW program locally. Distinguished Young Women national sponsors include Mobile County and the city of Mobile. National category sponsors include Alabama Power, Encore Rehabilitation, Mobile Gas, Regions Bank, Eastern Shore Toyota and Master Boat Builders.
During the week long program in Meridian, program contestants are evaluated on scholastic achievement, fitness, self expression, talent and interview.
Pitts said she is looking forward to the overall experience of DYW Week.
‚Äú(I am looking forward to) meeting absolutely fabulous girls,‚ÄĚ Pitts said, ‚Äúalong with just the general aspects of competing for something we have all worked so hard for. It is going to interesting to see all of our amazing talents and work finally pay off in a fun-filled amazing week.‚ÄĚ
Rhonda Shotts, regional director for DYW of Mississippi, said Pitts comes across as very wholesome and confident.
‚ÄúThis is something she really wants,‚ÄĚ Shotts said. ‚ÄúAnd she is going to have a blast in Meridian as part of DYW Week.‚ÄĚ
Pitts said serving as Starkville‚Äôs DYW has been full of so many different perks, that have been very fulling personally.
‚ÄúI have gotten the opportunity to speak and get involved with the boys and girls club along with summer enrichment programs,‚ÄĚ Pitts said. ‚ÄúSeeing the look and smiles on the children‚Äôs faces has made this experience so rewarding.‚ÄĚ
Susan Keith, local coordinator for the Starkville DYW program, said Pitts has visited several summer enrichment programs to teach children about the Distinguished Young Women Be Your Best Self outreach effort.
‚ÄúMallory is one of the most focused, genuine, caring and hard-working young women I have ever known,‚ÄĚ said Keith.¬†‚ÄúShe has worked tirelessly preparing for the state program, practicing her gymnastic routine for talent, participating in mock interviews and staying fit.‚ÄĚ¬†
Keith said the Be Your Best Self program allows Distinguished Young Women participants to reach out and encourage young people nationwide to make a commitment to being their best selves in areas¬†such as:¬†academics, physical fitness, morality, character, and ¬†social and civic participation.¬†¬†
‚ÄúEmbracing the¬†BYBS (Be Your Best Self) message empowers young people with valuable¬†tools to face the challenges of negative peer pressure,‚ÄĚ Keith said. ‚ÄúDrawing on their own personal experiences, Distinguished Young Women program participants deliver helpful messages emphasizing the importance of setting goals and striving to reach them.‚ÄĚ¬†
According to the program, the five elements of the Be Your Best Self Program include:
u Be Healthy - Be physically fit and drug free.
u Be Involved - Serve your community.
u Be Studious - Stay in school.
u Be Ambitious - Set and achieve goals.
u Be Responsible - Live by moral and ethical principles.
‚ÄúMallory is looking forward over the next year to promoting the BYBS program,‚ÄĚ Keith said. ‚ÄúShe is a very positive role model for the young people in Starkville.‚ÄĚ
Pitts said she absolutely loves the BYBS motto and how it can make a positive difference in the lives of young women.
‚ÄúThe goal is to work on the inner you and ultimately becoming your best self every day through these characteristics,‚ÄĚ Pitts said. ‚ÄúIt is so easy in today‚Äôs world to focus on other peoples problems and flaws this program really directs the attention on yourself and the person you are in this world. When exemplifying these characteristics in your life and setting and example you will truly be a light in the world today.‚ÄĚ
Her enthusiasm for the program earned Pitts the Spirit of Junior Miss Award at the local program. She said earning the award has been one of her biggest accomplishments.
‚ÄúIt is an award voted on by your peers to the girl that they feel carries all the BYBS characteristics,‚ÄĚ Pitts said. ‚ÄúIt was such an honor and blessing to receive this award! I was very shocked to receive it but also knew I would try to represent the program the best I could with the qualities all the young ladies thought I possessed.‚ÄĚ
One of the perks to serving as Starkville‚Äôs DYW has been having the opportunity to meet amazing people through several mock interviews, alterations, talent, and fitness rehearsals. Helping to prepare Pitts for the state competition have been various Jr. Miss Alumni in addition to various professional people throughout the community.
Pitts has participated in at least two to three mock interviews each week, as well as watching the news for an hour each day, in addition to reading up on current events.
‚ÄúLooking up different topics going on in the world today has been very vital (in preparing for state competition) along with answering tons of interview questions every day,‚ÄĚ Pitts said.
Her talent is a gymnastics tumbling/dance program that she has practiced at least an hour and a half each day. Pitts said she has also been running every day to get in the physical shaped she feels she needs to endure the competition.
But she is accustomed to the fitness conditioning in preparation for a competition. She was one of three cheerleaders on the Starkville Academy Varsity team to be named All-American winners. She currently serves as captain of the team, and she works as a cheerleading coach at Game Time Cheer in Columbus.
Pitts is the daughter of Michael and Stephanie Pitts of Starkville. She has a 19-year-old brother, Garrett; a 15-year-old sister, Meredith; and a 5-year-old brother, Gatlin.
‚ÄúMy family is absolutely amazing,‚ÄĚ Pitts said. ‚ÄúThey have proved to be my biggest cheerleaders through this program. My mom and my dad have been phenomenal. They are my rocks and I would have been able to get through this without them.‚ÄĚ
Pitts said her parents have been the most influential people in her life.
‚ÄúThey have taught me the moral values and standards I try to live my life by each day, Pitts said. ‚ÄúThey have taught me to be true to myself no matter how great the adversity! They have not only taught me values but lived them out each day and been true examples for me, and for that I can not thank them enough.‚ÄĚ
After graduation from Starkville Academy, Pitts plans to attend attending Mississippi State University to pursue a degree in physical therapy, then continue her education at physical therapy school in South Alabama.
During DYW Week, contestants are not allowed the use of their cell phones, or can not be contacted by phone. Organizers encourage friends and family to e-mail her at email@example.com; send cards, letters or gifts to Mallory Pitts, P.O. Box 582, Meridian, MS 39302. Flowers can be sent through World of Flowers by calling 800-678-1767.
The competition will be held at the Temple Theatre in Meridian. The Fitness and Self Expression portion of the competition will be July 21. The Interview and Talent portion of the competition will be July 22.
Reserved tickets for the 2012 Distinguished Young Women Program are available for $60 for a three-night package. General admission tickets are available for $45 for a three-night package, or they may be purchased for individual evenings: $15, Thursday; $15, Friday; and $20, Saturday. Tickets are on sale now and may be obtained by calling 601-693-5353.