Olivia Mihulka, the Westminster candidate for the Distinguished Young Women competition, helped children at the Boys & Girls Club in Westminster on Friday with their exercise and healthy eating habits as part of the organization's commitment to volunteerism in advance of their competition Saturday afternoon.
The competition, formerly America's Junior Miss, will take place Saturday at 4 p.m. at Carroll Community College, where the young women will compete for more than $15,000 in scholarships.
Each of the participants will be judged on five categories. The students' scholastics, including their transcripts and test scores, are judged by members of the McDaniel College faculty for 25 percent of their final score. Prior to the contest, each participant undergoes an interview for another 25.
The remaining half of the final score is decided on stage Saturday, with fitness — judged by group and solo dance routines — making up 15 percent, along with self-expression for 15 and talent for 20.
During the show, participants will perform a mixture of classic pageant talents ranging from singing, dancing and harp performance to unique skills, including a pair of martial artists and a live painting performance.
Cheri Poklemba, chairwoman of Distinguished Young Women of Maryland, said the competition is not all about choosing a winner, but rather rounding out the character of the young women participating.
"We're training future leaders," Poklemba said. "It's about building life skills and having our girls train as mentors for the community."
As part of that mentor training process, the participants gathered at the Boys & Girls Club to work with the children there on the five elements of the organization's "Be Your Best Self" program: Be Healthy, Be Involved, Be Studious, Be Ambitious and Be Responsible.
They split into five groups, each handling a different topic of the program with a combination of exercises, healthy snacks, clapping games and group discussions.
While working together on Friday, the young women will compete against one another Saturday.
During the talent portion, Julia Nagle, the participant representing Carroll County, will paint a portrait of Audrey Hepburn upside-down in just 90 seconds on the stage. Nagle said she had to find a way to make her artistic talent, normally a slow, private process, into something exciting on stage. She said she picked Hepburn based on her work with UNICEF.
Nagle said she first joined the Distinguished Young Women program based on the potential for scholarships. After she graduates from Gerstell Academy, Nagle said, she plans on attending an Ivy League school and is currently looking at Cornell University or Princeton. Nagle said her life's goal is to become a human rights activist.
Nagle also highlighted the importance of the the interview process. She said it's a good experience before entering the corporate world.
"Because I told them I was interested in human rights, they told me to pick an issue in the world right now and to take a stand," Nagle said. "I just started talking about the first controversial issue in my mind. I started talking about the Confederate flag. For the other girls, they asked them about current events, but I sort of jumped into current events by myself. I made it more difficult than it needed to be."
Mihulka said the interview process consisted of questions about preferences, aspirations and morals.
"The toughest question was about Hillary Rodham Clinton, which was hard because I'm not big into politics," Mihulka said. "They asked 'How would having a woman in the White House change things?' I don't know because we haven't had one yet."
Mihulka said she was excited and nervous for the performance night.
"The academics and interviews are done, so there's nothing new I have to worry about," Mihulka said. "Everything left is just practice to get it perfect."
Mihulka, who plans on studying biochemistry, will perform a contemporary dance number to "I Lived" by OneRepublic. She said participating in the program has been one of the most exciting things in her life.
"It's been a joy to be a part of this," Mihulka said. "I loved meeting all the girls and doing all of the activities."
If You Go:
What: Distinguished Young Women Competition
When: 4 p.m. Friday, July 10, 2015
Where: Scott Center, Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster
Cost: $10 for students, $20 for adults. Half-price discount for Girl Scouts and Boys & Girls Club members.
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For more information: Visit http://www.distinguishedyw.org.