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Distinguished Young Women of Alabama

This past weekend was the Distinguished Young Women of Alabama “pageant”. This scholarship program is one of the oldest in the nation and has been offering educational opportunities to young high school ladies through competition since 1958. Beginning in Mobile, AL, this program (formerly the Junior Miss pageant) has given away more than $108 million in scholarships and this weekend was no exception.

My niece, Lindsey Spruiell, represented her county with grace, dignity, talent and intelligence in Montgomery for the past week. She made us all so very proud.

If you have a young lady in your family that would make your county proud, then read on. The Distinguished Young Women program is in full swing, but your niece/daughter/sister could start checking it out now for next year.

The competition categories are talent, fitness, self expression, scholastics and interview.

Distinguished Young Woman: Self Expression
Distinguished Young Woman: Self Expression Category

Self expression includes public speaking. Her answer to the question, “How can bullying be thwarted if bystanders are intimidated by the bullies themselves?” was one the judges seem to like very much. Lindsey answered with confidence, “that it only takes one to start a domino effect, and if just one person stands up for the victims, the problem of bullying wouldn’t be what it is today.” (I’m paraphrasing of course, she said it much better than I.)

Distinguished Young Women
Poise Personified
Distinguished Young Women: Fitness Category
Distinguished Young Women: Fitness Category


She was glistening like a lady when she finished, but never once stopped smiling. This category is judged according to their “stamina and coordination during a choreographed fitness routine” that they perform as a group, as well as individually. Sit ups, pushups, jumping jacks and aerobic exercises are put to music. It was intense and these girls had to be in great shape to perform.

Distinguished Young Women: Talent
Distinguished Young Women: Talent

The talent competition is 25% of the overall score and there were so many talented ladies on that stage. The judges are looking for “technical abilities, stage presence as well as execution.” Lindsey has won many awards across the nation for her dancing and this weekend she tapped her way into many hearts.

There were 48 young ladies who competed in this scholarship program and we are so proud of Lindsey, who came home with $900 from DYW for Self Expression as well as an essay that was submitted for the scholastic portion of the competition. She will also be receiving $24,000 from Auburn University for her participation in the contest. One of the judges was overheard saying if there had been an award for manners, Lindsey would have taken that home, too. I know without a doubt that every yes and no would have been followed by a ma’am.

Speaking of home, each girl is hosted by local families who are also involved with the DYW Program and Lindsey was home away from home with the Elrod family. Their home was both warm and beautiful and Lindsey has made lifetime friends with this precious family.

Lindsey with her host mom.
Lindsey with her host mom, Tracy.
Daily gifts arrived to encourage the girls.
Daily gifts arrived to encourage the girls.

Lindsey’s roommate was Madison Fendley from Houston County. She was one of the top 8 and we were all so happy for her.

Floral Gifts
Floral Gifts

One of the gifts I personally received was watching girls from some of my own “home counties” take home the top awards. The Distinguished Young Woman of Alabama 2014 is Madeline Powell from Shelby County, Marissa Horstman from Mobile County is 2nd runner up and Baldwin County’s Rebecca Schneider, was in the top 8. I was very proud of how well my home counties performed. If my niece didn’t take home the highest honors, these girls were great substitutes, not to mention very talented, smart and fit girls.

Past national winners that you might recognize are Diane Sawyer, Debra Messing and Deborah Norville.

It was a fun weekend and one that our family will cherish forever. I learned a lot about this organization this weekend, and wish I’d known more when my daughter was growing up. I strongly encourage young mothers to begin early focusing on their daughters’ natural talents, fitness and scholastics (of course). The scholarship monies available through this organization is motivation enough, but the experience is one you nor your daughter will ever forget.

Congratulations to my sister’s daughter, my niece and my parents granddaughter, Lindsey Spruiell. You continue to make us all very proud. You are a very distinguished young woman.

Mom and Host Mom
Mom (left) and Host Mom, Tracy Elrod

And no one is ever more proud than Mom! One of the most distinguished younger-than-me-women I know!

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