After winning first place at the local level Distinguished Young Women competition in Starkville, Jasmine Baker spent all of last week in Meridian getting to know her host family and the other 34 competitors as they prepared for the on stage portion of the competition.
While at the state competition, Baker won first runner-up, as well as Fitness Preliminary and Overall Self Expression.
As a competitive individual, Baker said she was surprised at the loving relationship that formed between all of the contestants. She said on Tuesday there was a red carpet party where the girls got to dress up in prom dresses and bond.
“We all just came together,” Baker said. “It wasn’t about where we were. We weren’t competition or anything like that. We were just friends hanging out on the dance floor. That was one of the most special parts.”
Baker said their camaraderie continued throughout the week as they attended more events together, including a trip and lunch at the Meridian Arts and Entertainment Experience.
“I am a very competitive person, and I have never been involved in something that is a competition where I am not aware of that,” Baker said. “But, by the end of it all, we felt like best friends, and I know I have developed friendships that will last a lifetime because of DYW.”
Starkville DYW Director Susan Keith said the connections the girls develop at the state level is just another one of the many wonderful factors that make DYW different from other programs.
“It is hard to have this kind of experience at the local level since most of the girls know each other, and you don’t have the intense time to spend together,” Keith said. “That is what is really neat at the state competition.”
When rehearsal ended on Saturday morning, Baker said the girls said their final farewells since they knew the competition that night would keep them all busy.
“They played sad music, and it was really sweet,” Baker said. “Everyone was crying. We were surrounded for 15 hours everyday. We were surrounded by each other, and we didn’t have phones. We had each other. Whether or not I had made top 10, whether I placed or not, I will always be grateful with the relationships I made.”
Outside of the relationships made at the state level, Baker said she was happy to have developed the support and love in her own community while preparing for the competition.
With the help of mock interviews from Keith, as well as local businesses including the Greater Starkville Development Partnership, GLOW and Renasant Bank, Baker believes she has become a stronger public speaker and developed her interview skills.
“I cannot begin to thank everyone who poured their time into me and helped me prepare for this competition,” Baker said. “I could not be where I am today without their support.”
While interviewing is 25% of the score, the remaining 75% of scoring is taken from a combination of academic work and onstage actives, including a talent performance, fitness routine and on-stage question.
For her talent, Baker performed a tumbling routine on stage. Despite having suffered a head injury in the past, Baker said she wanted to express her love for the sport since her spirit, talent and personality shined in the activity.
“I was flipping on stage. I really really love tumbling,” Baker said. “It is something have been doing forever, and it was really cool to see the reactions of everyone.”
Now that she is back in Starkville, Baker said she realizes the competition was more than just a time to develop her own physical and communication abilities, but a time to grow as a person alongside other equally driven young women.
“There is really not many things you where you can say it doesn't matter if you do well or not,” Baker said. “This is one of those things because you get to bring home friendship, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.”