Brownstown senior places in top 10 in state Distinguished Young Women contest


When Distinguished Young Women of Indiana posted pictures of the top 10 finalists on its Facebook page, Abby Stuckwisch was among them.

The Brownstown Central High School senior went on to finish as runner-up in the Be Your Best Self essay contest and was a preliminary winner for self-expression and scholastics.

That resulted in her earning more scholarship money to put toward her future education.

Normally, the winners from DYW county competitions from around the state would go to Kokomo for the state contest. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the competition was conducted virtually Feb. 25 through 27. There were 20 senior girls competing.

“I was very blessed to have made top 10 but am so proud of all the girls who competed in general,” Stuckwisch said. “I think everyone did an amazing job, especially for having to compete virtually.”

During the in-person county competition Aug. 1, 2020, at BCHS, Stuckwisch won Be Your Best Self, self-expression, scholastics and interview, receiving a $250 scholarship for each, and was the overall winner, earning a $3,000 scholarship. In all, she received $4,000 of the $8,000 in scholarship money up for grabs on the night.

Stuckwisch and the other seven contestants were evaluated by a panel of judges on scholastics (25%), interview (25%), talent (20%), fitness (15%) and self-expression (15%). Scholarship money from local donors was earned by winning one of those categories, the Warren/Silver Spirit Award, second runner-up, first runner-up and overall winner.

Over the past few months, Stuckwisch said she worked really hard to practice and improve her dance from the county level.

“My dance was self-choreographed, and I changed a lot of 8-counts to make it overall more impressive and fun,” she said. “Additionally, I practiced interview questions and trained for my fitness routine.”

At state, two preliminary winners and an overall winner were chosen in each of the five categories. The senior with the best overall score won the state title.

This year, that was Kelsey Lawmaster of Bremen. She also won Be Your Best Self and was an interview preliminary winner.

Stuckwisch wrote a different essay for the state level.

“They ask that each girl hold a different presentation or campaign promoting the qualities of Be Your Best Self,” she said. “I personally chose to do a social media campaign, Be Your Best Self Week, on the Jackson County DYW Instagram and Facebook. Each day for five days, I made a video about a different aspect of Be Your Best Self and used what I learned to help write my essay.”

She said she was extremely surprised with how much interaction she received with her posts.

“Because of that, I had a great time writing my paper and reflecting on the impact I made,” she said. “Placing high was just an added bonus.”

Stuckwisch was a scholastics preliminary winner along with Evelyn Detamore of Grant County, and Sriya Koganti of Avon was the overall winner. Koganti also won interview and was third runner-up.

Scholastics is based on each senior’s transcript (grades, test scores, etc.) and scholastic-based activities. For Stuckwisch, those include FFA, agriculture classes and 4-H.

Koganti was the other self-expression preliminary winner. Anissa Washington of Howard County won self-expression and also was a preliminary winner for talent and interview and was named first runner-up.

“For self-expression, the contestant is asked a question and gives anywhere from a 25- to 40-second response, answering the question and elaborating,” Stuckwisch said. “It is a good chance for the judges to get to know the contestants’ personalities and the way in which they handle themselves.”

Stuckwisch said she was truly honored to receive these awards.

“I have worked diligently over the past few years to gain good grades and to better my public speaking skills, so earning these awards was a great reminder of the progress I have made,” she said.

Even though the state contest was very different from the county level, Stuckwisch said she was still able to make some great connections with girls from across the state.

“It even turns out that one of the other girls will be going to Purdue, as well, and will be living in the same cooperative house as me,” she said. “So although it was very different from normal years, it was a great experience.”

Stuckwisch plans to major in agriculture education at Purdue University and ultimately wants to become a high school agriculture teacher and FFA adviser.

“All in all, this experience has taught me that when representing something, whether it be yourself, county or state, you are responsible for working hard and doing your best,” she said of DYW. “Those people, whoever you may be, respected you enough to allow you to represent them. For that reason, you should always fulfill your role and exceed their expectations.”

She said she is honored to have been chosen to represent Jackson County, where she was born and has been raised.

“This county is home to me, and I couldn’t be more proud to represent it,” Stuckwisch said.

She encourages other girls to sign up for DYW.

“Distinguished Young Women is an experience you will never regret,” she said. “There is a place for everyone within the program, and we would love to see you participate (later this year).”

Lawmaster moves on to the 64th Distinguished Young Women National Finals in June in Mobile, Alabama, joining 50 other representatives from across the country in competing for cash scholarships and the opportunity to represent the program as the Distinguished Young Woman of America.

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For information, visit or search for Distinguished Young Women of Indiana or Distinguished Young Women of Jackson County Indiana on Facebook.


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