Seymour senior named 2023 Jackson County Distinguished Young Woman

BROWNSTOWN — At the local level, the Distinguished Young Women program awards two scholarships apiece in five categories.

During Jackson County’s competition Saturday night in the Brownstown Central High School auditorium, Seymour High School senior Marlo Cornn was one of the winners in four categories.

That boosted her overall score and made her the winner for 2023.

“I felt really honored, for sure,” the 17-year-old said of hearing emcee Blake Hackman announce her name at the end. “I’ve watched this competition for a lot of years. I’ve had friends do it, so to win, it is a good honor.”

She won for self-expression, talent, scholastics and fitness, earning $400 for each. Then for taking the overall title, she received a $4,200 scholarship, a DYW charm, a flower bouquet from Anytime Florals and Gifts, a personalized tumbler and a Marshall Memories Photography photo session.

Overall, her scholarship winnings totaled $5,800, which she plans to put toward attending Miami University in Ohio and pursuing a career in the medical field.

“It means a lot,” she said. “I’ve always used my talents for fun, but now, I can utilize my talents to help me save for college and stuff like that, so that’s such a blessing.”

Distinguished Young Women is a national scholarship program that inspires high school senior girls to develop their full individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments, according to It strives to give every young woman the opportunity to further her education and prepare for a successful future.

Cornn was among nine girls competing Saturday, as $15,000 in scholarship money was up for grabs — the most in the 28 years of the program in Jackson County.

The contestants were evaluated by a panel of three judges in the following categories: Scholastics (25%), interview (25%), talent (20%), fitness (15%) and self-expression (15%).

The $400 scholarship winners were:

Fitness: Cornn and Grace Lewis

Scholastics: Cornn and Carly Kaiser

Self-expression: Cornn and Madaline Schepman

Interview: Kaiser and Schepman

Talent: Cornn and Kaiser

Scholastics and interview took place before Saturday night.

For scholastics, a panel of educators reviewed and rated each contestant’s high school transcript, SAT and ACT scores and difficulty of classes.

“Growing up going to St. Ambrose (Catholic School), I went to a private school through sixth grade, and we were taught that grades should be very important,” Cornn said. “Then I transferred to Seymour Middle School after that. I still made sure that I took my schoolwork seriously there.”

Kaiser, 17, a senior at SHS, said she has always been on the honors trail through her school years.

“You get more opportunities via scholarships or even dual credits while you’re still in high school,” she said. “You can get those opportunities by taking harder classes, and it only saves you money and looks very good on your college résumés for upcoming college.”

On Saturday afternoon, each contestant had a 10-minute interview with the three judges.

“I felt amazing,” Kaiser said. “I just was telling them my experiences, and I really made my answers personable to them, and it just felt like I was talking to a friend. I tried not to make it as serious and just tried and made it me. The judges were very nice, they kept conversation really well and I enjoyed the questions that they asked me, and I was very passionate about them, and I was able to talk about them for a while.”

Schepman, 17, a senior at BCHS, said she felt her interview went really well.

“I just talked to them like they were just friends or friends of my mom,” she said.

Talents were done individually Saturday night, while the contestants learned a group fitness routine during practices last week. They were split into two groups to display their skills during the competition.

For her talent, Cornn played “Nursery Rhyme from Another Summer in the Afternoon” on piano. She said she has played piano for 10 years.

“I really love doing it. I love playing piano,” she said. “I play it in my free time all of the time.”

Kaiser’s talent was singing, which she also has done for a long time.

“I was shocked because there’s so much talent within this group of girls, and just to be honored with that, I was grateful,” she said.

Cornn said she was happy to win for fitness, too.

“I’m in gymnastics, so it’s a lot like dancing, coordinating and stuff like that, but this was definitely more cardio, so it took a lot of strength to do what we did,” she said. “We learned it on Monday. We spent about two and a half hours on it on Monday, and then every day, we got better at it, so it kept getting easier, but it definitely was still hard.”

For self-expression, each contestant walked up to a microphone and answered the same question: What is your definition of a distinguished young woman?

“I said that a distinguished young woman is a female that carries herself with both confidence and grace,” Cornn said. “I said that the way she carries herself is one of the most important elements in how she makes her first impression.”

Schepman said being distinguished is more than just what you wear and what you say.

“I believe a true distinguished young woman shows respect, love and kindness to everyone,” she said.

One of the awards presented was people’s choice, which gave attendees a chance to vote for their favorite contestant by placing a donation in a jar in the auditorium lobby. Proceeds will go into the local DYW program’s operations fund. Lewis won that award and received a DYW tumbler and a Circle K gift card.

Another award was for the contestant selling the most tickets to Saturday night’s event. There was a tie between Schepman and Kaiser, so both received a $50 Circle K gift card.

The Be Your Best Self essay contest winner was SHS senior Kate Connell, earning a $400 scholarship. The 500-word essays on being your best self were judged by a separate panel of judges.

The Warren/Silver Spirit Award was given to BCHS senior Madison Stuckwisch. Named after the families who started the program 28 years ago in Jackson County, then known as Junior Miss, the award is voted on by the contestants and given to the girl who shows the most spirit and represents the DYW program the best.

Stuckwisch’s prize was a $1,000 scholarship.

“To me, I just feel like I’m the one in the group that can make everybody laugh. It’s a stressful week, and I feel like they can rely on me to lift it up, lift that stressfulness off their back, so it’s a really big honor for them to vote me for that,” the 17-year-old said.

“The girls are just wonderful. They have been nothing but nice. We all just helped each other,” she said. “It has been really good just dressing up, and being able to express myself in everything has just been an overall good experience. I do think girls should be able to do it and they should try it. It’s hard work, but I think they should really try it.”

Second runner-up was next to be announced, and that went to Schepman. She received a $2,200 scholarship.

“I was honestly shocked,” she said. “I did not go into this thinking I was going to win anything, so I’m just very thankful. I would just say it was a good learning experience.”

First runner-up and a $3,200 scholarship went to Kaiser.

“I couldn’t believe it, to be honest,” she said. “I heard it, and I was like, ‘What?’ I was dumbfounded, and I was so grateful that I could do this and that I had learned about it and I have experienced it. The girls have helped so much. They were all really nice. We all collaborated really well, and it was just amazing, and I wouldn’t change it. I would recommend any girl doing it her senior year.”

Finally, the overall winner was revealed.

Cornn moves on to the state competition in February in Kokomo, where she will vie for the opportunity to represent the state as the Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana for 2023.

That winner will move on to the 66th Distinguished Young Women National Finals in June in Mobile, Alabama. There, she will join 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.

In Jackson County’s 28-year run, there have been six state scholastics winners, one state fitness winner, two state interview winners, three state self-expression winners, eight state finalists, two state winners and two national runners-up.

The judging and scoring process is the same at the local, state and national levels, all emphasizing excellence in scholarship, fitness, creativity and interpersonal relationships.