Saint Bernard Preparatory School’s, Caitlin Varquez is headed to Montgomery, Alabama to represent Cullman County in the 2013 Distinguished Young Women’s (DYW) Competition. Founded in Mobile in 1958, as America’s Junior Miss, it formally changed its name to Distinguished Young Women to reflect the changes in the lives of today’s young women. It is the largest and the oldest national scholarship program for high school girls.For months, Caitlin has prepared for this extreme week long project where young women from each county in the State of Alabama are judged in areas of fitness, public speaking, self-expression, on-stage talent, academics, and a personal interview.
“This has been a very remarkable experience for me,” Caitlin said. “I have had an opportunity to meet so many talented young ladies who I must say are incredibly smart and know what direction they want to take in life.”Caitlin begins her journey on January 11 when she will be moving into her host family’s home in Montgomery with another contestant in the competition. For the entire week of preparation for the competition, she will have no outside communication with anyone other than the host family and DYW directors. While Caitlin admits she hasn’t been away from her parents much, she is looking forward to spending time with her new friends.
Flashing her contagious smile, Caitlin admits the help received from her parents has been phenomenal. “My Dad has been a huge help with which outfits, shoes, and accessories I will be wearing. Together we have made a check list of everything I need.”
Caitlin’s platform to the judges and audience members is: to educate women about the risk associated with heart disease, and to promote wellness and fitness among women. Being an avid runner and as the daughter of a cardiologist, she understands the importance of women taking time to exercise and eat properly to stay heart healthy.
Talent wise, Caitlin is no stranger to being in front of a crowd. However she admits the competition is very diverse. To her knowledge she is the only contestant performing a vocal and dance number. Her rendition of “If My Friends Could See Me Now” from Sweet Charity is sure to dazzle the audience. Caitlin will portray Charity the young lady who has inspirations of bigger dreams.
Caitlin says the fitness portion is very demanding and creates a big challenge. “We have been given routines to learn on our own. It’s very do-able but if you have to do this whole routine and then do this, I can see how hard it would be.”
The interview portion of the competition is not about facts and figures. While those are important, Caitlin says it’s about each individual girl and how confident they are in their beliefs and values.
Contestants are encouraged to bring books to read in down time. Caitlin plans to take her SAT Test Preparation Book to prepare for the upcoming exam later in the month.
Academically Caitlin is an exceptional young lady with her eyes set on attending Brown University or perhaps the University of Southern California. She is very involved in school activities, and is open to new ideas. Caitlin is a member of the National Honor Society, Rotary Interact Club, and is the only senior on the Saintly Visitor Team which conducts weekly visits to area nursing homes. She recently competed in the regional poetry out loud competition where she placed second; and is a member of the 1A – Runner-Up State Girls Cross Country Team. Caitlin spent her summer volunteering at the public library reading to children and talking about the DYW program, as well as participating in a National Archery Championship held in conjunction with the Cullman Parks and Recreation Department.
To date, she has been awarded $4,400 in scholarship funds for winning the competition, talent, and spirit award locally.
Competition gets underway on Friday, January 18, when all contestants compete with the physical fitness and self-expression portion of the competition. At 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 19 she will compete in the talent portion, and then at 7 p.m. the eight finalists will be named.
While communication is non-existent for a week, contestants are allowed receive care packages and letters of encouragement! Send all correspondence to Caitlin Varquez, c/o Michael and Lisa Jones, 1962 Duck Pond Road, Montgomery, AL 36117.
Caitlin is the daughter of Dr.’s Genero and Mir Varquez of Cullman.