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Distinguished Young Women win scholarships

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SCHOLARS: From left, Haleigh Skeens, Ireland Dodson, Aubrianna Payge Mitchell, Marley Crouch and Janaya Washington present certificates for the scholarships they earned.
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TALENT: Marley Crouch strikes the final pose to her tap dance during the 2020 Distinguished Young Women of Grant County competition.
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FITNESS: Aubrianna Payge Mitchell and Janaya Washington focus on their form during the fitness routine.

BY Samantha Oyler - soyler@chronicle-tribune.com

A panel of judges announced the 2020 Distinguished Young Woman of Grant County on Saturday at the James Dean Memorial Theater in Marion.

Five high school seniors, representing three schools in the county, competed in the program that allowed them to develop life skills and have the chance to earn scholarships to pursue a higher education.

Josie Rhodes, master of ceremonies for the night and the 2017 Distinguished Young Woman of Grant County, said she’s carried the skills she’s learned through the program on with her and she’s confident these five young ladies will as well.

“Every young woman through this program I think takes away lots of skills she’ll use in college and throughout the rest of her life,” she said.

Helen Rhodes, Josie’s mother and the co-chair of the Grant County chapter of Distinguished Young Women, said that this is the seventh year of this local program.

According to the Distinguished Young Women website, the program is considered one of the oldest and largest scholarship programs for high school seniors, originating in Mobile, Alabama in the 1950s.

The five young women participated in five different categories, including scholastics, interview, fitness, talent and self-expression, with each accounting for a percentage of their overall score.

The girls had already participated in the scholastics and interview categories, worth 50 percent of their score, prior to Saturday’s program.

For the talent portion, Mississinewa High School senior Haleigh Skeens performed a cheer routine.

Ireland Dodson gave a speech about her love for running on Oak Hill’s cross country team.

“We stride until our legs wobble, we breathe until our lungs give out. The beauty of running is the pain and endurance you receive,” Dodson said.

Fellow Oak Hill student Aubrianna Payge Mitchell performed a dance routine.

Marion High School student Janaya Washington gave a demonstration on her passion for interior design, presenting a hand-crafted cardboard dollhouse to the audience.

Fellow Marion High School student Marley Crouch performed a tap dance routine.

The girls also performed a fitness routine together, which was 15 percent of their overall score.

For the self-expression category, the girls were asked to give their younger selves advice and consider how they would implement that advice as they move on to college.

“As I finish up my final years of high school, a piece of advice I would tell myself is to don’t procrastinate and don’t change …” Haleigh Skeens said.

She said she plans to follow this advice by finishing her work in a timely manner and using college as a way to meet new people and have new experiences.

“... Some advice I would give myself would be to be driven, be bold and know my identity,” Ireland Dodson said.

She said she will put her best interests before the opinions of others and act as a role model.

“Freshman year I worried too much about what other people thought of me when I should have thought of what I brought to the world,” Aubrianna Payge Mitchell said.

She said she hopes she can encourage others to have the same mindset.

“... I would tell myself not to change a thing. I was very kind, loving and had an open heart,” Janaya Washington said.

She said she plans to continue on with her life with confidence and passion.

“The piece of advice I would give to my freshman year self is to take opportunities and not reject them out of fear,” Marley Crouch said.

She stated that she plans to join a number of activities in college and meet as many people as she can in order to learn from new opportunities.

After judges took some time to deliberate, awards were announced, with each girl winning a scholarship.

Janaya won the $500 spirit award.

Haleigh won both the $500 “be your best self” award and the $500 fitness award.

Ireland won second runner up, with a prize of $1,000.

Marley won first runner up with a prize of $1,500, as well as the $500 talent award.

Aubrianna Payge was named the 2020 Distinguished Young Woman of Grant County, with a prize of $2,500. She also won the scholastics, interview and self expression awards, each $500.

In all, a total of $8,500 in scholarship money was awarded.