Brownstown teenager vying for title


Winning the Jackson County Distinguished Young Women competition late last summer exceeded Maggie Rohlfing’s expectations.

Next week, the bar is set even higher as she competes in the Distinguished Young Women of Indiana state program at Indiana University Kokomo.

The 18-year-old Brownstown Central High School senior will be among 23 girls from around the state vying for the title and $27,500 in scholarships.

The winner will advance to the national competition in June in Mobile, Alabama.

At the county competition in August, Rohlfing won $1,700 for the title, $200 for the self-expression category and $200 for interview.

Since then, she has had interviews with different people to gain feedback on how she can improve, performed her talent and answered questions in front of different panels of judges and worked to perfect her dance routine.

“Just making it as close to that kind of environment as I could and then just trying to put in as much preparation as possible,” she said.

During a tea event in January at Crossroads Community Church in Kokomo, Rohlfing met the other contestants, program leaders and host family she and another girl will be staying with next week.

Rohlfing will return to Kokomo on Sunday and stay there until Feb. 18.

One day, she and the contestant she is staying with will visit an elementary school to talk about the Distinguished Young Women program and participate in games and crafts with kindergartners.

Contestants also will practice different aspects of the competition a couple of hours each day and take in sites around Kokomo. It will be a homecoming for Rohlfing because she lived in the northern Indiana city until eighth grade.

Just like the county competition, state will consist of five categories: Scholastics (25 percent), interview (25 percent), talent (20 percent), fitness (15 percent) and self-expression (15 percent).

One group of girls will perform a fitness routine, do their individual talents and answer onstage questions Feb. 15, and the other group will take to the stage Feb. 16.

Then Feb. 17, all of the contestants will perform an opening number, and the top 10 will move on to the finals.

Scholastics involves qualified educators reviewing and rating each contestant’s transcript of grades and scores of scholastic tests and exams, while interviews are done during the daytime Feb. 15.

Rohlfing’s talent will still be dancing at the state competition, but she will do her 1-minute, 30-second routine to a different song, “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

She said she decided to change it up to get different critiques from the judges and to showcase a different aspect of herself.

“It lets you show the judges who you are behind the scenes, so it’s a way to express yourself without talking,” said Rohlfing, who has danced since she was 3. “I’m not really a ‘me, me, me’ person, so being able to show judges that part of myself without having to necessarily sit down and talk and explain, it’s just a way, for me at least, to show them something that I enjoy and hopefully bring a little bit of enjoyment to them.”

Rohlfing said winning the county competition was great, and she’s now ready for state.

“I will definitely say I did not think at all that I was winning county, so county came as a really big surprise to me just the fact that, ‘Wow! All of this preparing really did help,’” she said. “So in my mind, getting as far as I did, I’m way happier with myself than I thought I would be.”

State is exciting for Rohlfing because she has read journal entries from previous Jackson County winners sharing their experiences.

“Just those experiences to be able to spend that time with (her fellow contestants) and just explore parts of Kokomo I never saw and getting the interview experience and the question experience, all of that will help me later on definitely,” she said.

Rohlfing plans to share her experience with her “little sister,” a high school junior who will be competing later this year as a senior.

“Just trying to be more of an influence to them, getting them ready and excited I think is what I hope to take back,” she said. “I hope to gain some experiences to be able to get them excited and get more girls involved because it’s definitely an amazing opportunity to be able to say you’re a part of this program.”

Rohlfing said she likes how Distinguished Young Women is emphasized as a scholarship program, not a beauty pageant.

“It’s not about who you are or where you come from,” she said. “It’s about who you are on the inside, those qualities in which you exhibit, so I feel like that’s something that definitely sets it apart from other competitions is that you don’t have to be who you think should win a beauty pageant. You can just be you and be who you are, so I think that’s definitely an awesome aspect of the program.”

After she graduates from Brownstown, Rohlfing said she plans to attend the University of Indianapolis to study nursing in hopes of becoming a neonatal intensive care unit nurse.

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Founded in 1958 in Mobile, Alabama, Distinguished Young Women is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls.

The program combines the chance to win college scholarships with a program that offers life skills training to prepare young women for the world after high school. Each year, it makes more than $1.5 billion in scholarships available, and it costs nothing to enter.

The program takes place in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., with some states also having local programs. Young women participate in either their junior or senior year of high school. In Indiana, it’s open to high school seniors.

Each program evaluates participants in the following categories: scholastics (25 percent), interview (25 percent), talent (20 percent), fitness (15 percent) and self-expression (15 percent). Local program winners advance to the state level. All state winners participate in the national finals in Mobile, Alabama, in June.

The life skills program includes workshops and online resources that allow participants to learn skills like interviewing, public speaking, self-confidence building and more.

Previously known as America’s Junior Miss, the program announced its new name in June 2010.

The program has been offered in Jackson County for 23 years.

For information, visit or

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What: Distinguished Young Women of Indiana state program

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 15 and 16 and 6 p.m. Feb. 17

Where: Indiana University Kokomo’s Havens Auditorium, 2300 S. Washington St., Kokomo

Contestants: Emily Keith of Avon, Maria Thornton of Bremen, Crystal Xue of Carmel, Nina Harshman of Clinton County, Shay Petree of Danville, Elise Boessler of Elkhart, Anika Rozeboom of Fishers, Gabrielle Stephenson of Grant County, Hannah Wilcoxson of Greater Tippecanoe County, Geneva Mazhandu of Herron, Aaryan Morrison of Howard County, Maggie Rohlfing of Jackson County, McKenna Garrison of Lawrence County, Payton Leoni of Lowell, Marjon Rafie of Miami County, Anna Staltari of Middlebury, Macy Zachary of Montgomery County, Abigail Moyers of Plainfield, Andrea Faith Vance of Portage, Janet Roll of Roncalli, Makayla Schirmer of Tri-West, Emily Chickering of Triton and Alexia Aung of Whitley County


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