Twenty-four high school seniors from around the state will vie for the chance to be named the 2020 Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana.
Brownstown Central High School senior Zoe Fountain is among them.
On Aug. 3, 2019, she won the Jackson County Distinguished Young Woman competition. She also received the People’s Choice Award, a talent award, a fitness award, a $3,000 scholarship and other gifts.
She will spend this week in Kokomo preparing for the Distinguished Young Women of Indiana state competition. Preliminary nights will be Thursday and Friday, and the finals is set for Saturday at Indiana University Kokomo’s Havens Auditorium.
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There will be $27,500 in scholarship money up for grabs, and the winner will advance to the national competition in June in Mobile, Alabama.
Distinguished Young Women is a national scholarship program that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent in young women.
Fountain was among 12 contestants in the county competition, which is in its 25th year.
"To be able to represent my county means a lot to me because this county is so supportive of its members," she said. "I am excited to be given the opportunity to show a little piece of our county through myself."
On Jan. 5, the 24 contestants met for the first time for the state informational meeting. Each also met program leaders and the host family they will be staying with this week.
The past couple of weeks, Fountain said she has been working on the fitness routine, and she has read a lot of notes and stories shared by past winners.
On Sunday, the contestants attended a mayor’s reception. The beginning of this week, they will practice the fitness routine and other aspects of the competition.
"When we aren’t practicing, we are going to a glass blowing factory, an elementary school to speak with their students and touring the city of Kokomo," Fountain said.
Just like the county competition, state will consist of five categories: Scholastics (25%), interview (25%), talent (20%), fitness (15%) and self-expression (15%).
Scholastics involves qualified educators reviewing and rating each contestant’s transcript of grades and scores of scholastic tests and exams, while interviews will be done during the daytime Thursday.
One group of girls will perform a fitness routine, do their individual talents and answer onstage questions Thursday, and the other group will take to the stage Friday. Fountain’s talent is a tap dance routine.
Then Saturday, all of the contestants will perform an opening number, and the top 10 will move on to the finals.
"Things I need to do to make it to the finals are calming my nerves and taking in the moment," Fountain said. "If I am just myself and don’t worry about everything, I think that will help me succeed."
All while preparing for the state competition, Fountain has participated in sports and school activities and focused on her academics. At BCHS, she participates in cross country, basketball and softball and is a part of National Honor Society, Booster Club, student council, Letterman’s Club and Academic Super Bowl science team.
"To balance out all these activities, I just try to do what is in front of me first. Then I move on to other things if I have the extra time," Fountain said. "If I know I have a game or a lot of homework, I will try to get it done ahead of time or during a study hall."
Regardless of the outcome this week, Fountain said she hopes to come out of the experience with a newfound respect for herself and new friends.
"A competition like this is out of my comfort zone, so my hope is that this experience will help me become more willing to try things I am uncomfortable with," she said. "I am looking forward to meeting new people and finding things I have in common with others. I think at the state competition, everyone will be nervous, and once we know each other, we can help each other through our problems and calm each other down."
After high school, Fountain plans to attend Indiana Wesleyan University to major in nursing and play softball. Ultimately, she wants to become a radiologist.
"Moving forward, I think my DYW experience will help me through so many aspects of my life because it has taught me leadership, self-respect and respect for others," she said. "Coming out of this program will definitely boost my confidence levels and help me try new things."
Fountain encourages incoming seniors around the county to participate in this year’s competition.
"I think it’s important to note that this competition is so much more than just a beauty pageant," she said. "There is so much that happens behind the scenes that the audience doesn’t even know during the onstage performances. There are academics and interview portions of the competition that many people don’t know about. It is really an amazing program that has taught me so much about myself."
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What: Distinguished Young Women of Indiana state competition
When: 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Indiana University Kokomo’s Havens Auditorium, 2300 S. Washington St., Kokomo
Who: Brownstown Central High School senior Zoe Fountain will be among the 24 contestants
Cost: Tickets will be available at the door each night. The cost per person on the final night is $15.
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For information about the national program, visit distinguishedyw.org.
For information about the Jackson County program, search for Distinguished Young Women of Jackson County Indiana on Facebook.