College scholarship competition aims to empower high school girls

A group of Bay Area high school girls will get a chance to win money for college this Saturday by simply being their best selves.

The Distinguished Young Women scholarship program will hold its annual “Be Your Best Self” event, where local high school junior girls will compete to win a spot to represent the Bay Area at the state finals.

The event will take place inside the Oakland California Latter Day Saints Temple, located at 4770 Lincoln Ave. in Oakland.

With girls from diverse backgrounds participating, a group of judges will score them on scholastics, interviews, talent, fitness and self-expression, according to the program's organizers.

Finalists will then be selected to represent regions of the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California at the Distinguished Young Women of California state finals in Bakersfield this June, DYW officials said.

The winner of that competition will then go on to represent the state at the national finals, also scheduled for June, in Mobile, Alabama.

The national scholarship program aims to inspire high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments, according to the program's organizers.

“Distinguished Young Women is a unique experience,” Bay Area chairwoman Hillary Lupo said. “Girls who excel in some area and struggle in others are given the opportunity to improve their weakness, develop their strengths and be recognized for the hard work they have put in to being the best they can be in all areas of their lives.”

According to Jackie Wibow, who won the title of Distinguished Young Woman of California for the class of 2013, the program has the ability to help change girls for the better.

“As someone with stage fright who doesn't exactly enjoy the spotlight, choosing to participate in Distinguished Young Women took me out of my comfort zone,” Wibow said.

“However, now I see that the skills I learned through the program have helped me in many fields of life outside of the stage, whether it be success in job interviews or just maintaining a healthy lifestyle by going to the gym everyday,” Wibow said.

Through the program, Wibow won $24,750 in scholarship money. She is currently a freshman at Stanford University.

Distinguished Young Women was first founded in 1958 in Mobile, Alabama, and is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls, according to the program's organizers.

Since its inception, the program has helped more than 730,000 young women across the country by providing more than $100 million in cash scholarships at the local, state and national levels, organizers said.

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