Ketchikan High School graduate Emma Scott returned recently from the Distinguished Young Women scholarship competition. KRBD’s Marco Torres talked with her about the experience, and has this report.
Scott won the Alaska Distinguished Young Women competition in March, when she competed against seven other Alaska high school girls. As the state winner, she advanced to the national competition, which took place the last two weeks of June in steamy Mobile, Alabama.
Scott stopped by KRBD soon after her trip, clearly relieved to be back in cool, rainy Southeast Alaska.
“The heat was definitely something I wasn’t used to,” Scott said.
While in Mobile, Scott spent the first week not actually competing. Instead, she told us she bonded with the other girls from across the country during that time. One way to connect was through community service.
“We did a lot of things in the Mobile community,” Scott explained. “We did community service. I ended up picking the community service. We worked with an organization called United Cerebral Palsy, and we worked with kids with special needs. Other people decided to go to help with community gardens and help schools.”
Most of the competition portion took place the second week, with days of rehearsals preceding the three-day, on-stage event. One portion of the competition was decided before Scott even arrived in Mobile, though. Three judges had scored each contestant in the Scholastics category.
“Scholastics is different from the rest of the judging because the Scholastics judges are totally seperate,” Scott added. “They’re three judges from different schools. They judge scholastics based on course rigor, test scores, GPA — things like that.”
The Interview category took place before the onstage portion. For that, each girl speaks with a panel of judges, basically having a conversation. Scott said that topics varied from silly questions like, “If you could be a kitchen utensil, which would you be and why?” to broader political questions, such as “What should we do about the conflict in Syria?” But in the end, she said, the judges score contestants on poise, vocal control, and decorum more than content.
There was a panel of five judges, all with varied backgrounds. For this year’s competition, they included a dance professor from Tennessee, a national theater actor, and a former program winner, who is classically trained in piano and violin.
“They get people with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Usually they pick people who have experience in the talents so they can accurately judge talent,” said Scott.
For the Talent category, Scott performed a tap dance, set to the song, “All I Do is Dream of You” from the movie, Singing in the Rain. She also performed that piece for the state competition.
Scott noted that a lot of performers were in this competition, resulting in dancers, singers and “singer-dancers” — as she called them.
“Distinguished Young Women always had a strong background in the performing arts so a lot of the kids who do this competition usually have performing arts to present as their talent. And just because it’s a stage setting, it’s much easier to present a talent such as [performing arts] on stage,” Scott pointed out.
Along with Talent, the onstage competition featured a “Fitness” segment, where contestants danced a choreographed 10-minute routine. For that, each girl was judged on stamina, execution, and even body tone.
For the Self-Expression category, Scott’s topic was women’s struggle for recognition in mainstream media, and their rising voice on the Internet. She was asked what subject she would focus on if she could start her own Internet blog.
“I decided to talk about history, because I am very interested in history — I’m majoring in history,” Scott said. “But I also wanted to relate it to the fact that women were underrepresented in mainstream media, because I also felt that some women are underrepresented in traditional high school history courses. So I talked about how I would write a blog about women throughout history, and their accomplishments, to help empower girls of all ages. ”
The three on-stage events occurred over two days. All fifty girls alternated these events, and were ranked by the judges. Ultimately, only 10 girls made the cut for the final competition, which was webcast live on June 29th.
Scott did not make the cut. But she said she felt a bit of relief upon discovering the bittersweet news. She explained that once she was out of a competitive mindset, she could relax with her new friends.
“And I was not called as part of the Final Ten but I cannot tell you what a relief came over me because all the stress just went away. And for the other forty girls — which we like to call ourselves ‘The Elite Forty’ — it made us so much more strong in our bond because we weren’t competing against each other anymore. We had all become great friends, but the fact that the competition wasn’t there anymore meant we could just relax and get along. In those final hours, we had a blast.”
Reflecting on the experience, Scott looked back on the camaraderie she developed with the other girls, and described her most memorable moment.
“For a night, we went to a place called Camp Grace. It’s a camp that normally hosts people with special needs or disabilities — they had recently hosted a camp for people with cerebral palsy, they were hosting a camp for kids with cancer — but they always welcome us every summer,” she said.
“We do a high ropes course. It helps us to connect as a team and do team building because it’s a course that you can’t do by yourself. You have to use other people to get through it,” she added. “But we also did just fun activities like camping stuff. We had a bonfire, we roasted marshmallows, we went swimming, and it was just a really great time to bond with everyone. [We] did it right at the beginning of the week so right away we all felt like we were really close. So that was one of the most memorable moments for me.
Scott has some advice for other college-bound high-schoolers: “Apply for every scholarship you can and don’t stress. I think one of the biggest problems that not just girls, but high school seniors have is that they stress out so much about finding the right school, being able to pay for it, getting scholarships, finding a place where you feel like you can succeed… It will all work out. If you just try and apply for as much as you can, and work hard, everything will fall into place.”
She also hopes to return next March to help host the 2014 Alaska Distinguished Young Women competition.
Scott is headed to Seattle University, where she plans to major in History and Economics, with a minor in French.
For more information about the Distinguished Young Women competition, visit their website at distinguishedyw.org.