Capturing four of the competition’s five categories, Abigail “Abby” Matthews won the Distinguished Young Woman of Bartow County title Sunday. Formerly known as Bartow County Junior Miss, the national scholarship program was presented locally at The Grand Theatre in Cartersville.
“I was very surprised and delighted that all my hard work had paid off,” said Matthews, a junior at Woodland High School. “Being a representative for me means that I have to work even harder to be my best self and to ensure that I'm constantly striving for improvement.
“I had initially entered because I had remembered Brooke Rucker winning nationals when I was in middle school and was inspired by just how distinguished she was at such a young age. I've always attempted to put myself to the test in different ways and, when this opportunity came across my mother’s Facebook page, I immediately jumped to sign up.”
Vying for $4,800 in cash scholarships, the production’s seven high school juniors were evaluated in the areas of fitness, 15 percent of overall score; interview, 25 percent; talent, 20 percent; scholastics, 25 percent; and self-expression, 15 percent.
Along with being awarded a $1,000 scholarship and the opportunity to advance to the DYW of Georgia's contest in July, Matthews also received $800 — $200 apiece for the fitness, self-expression, interview and scholastics categories. For her talent segment, the Cartersville resident performed the jazz clarinet solo “Clarinet a la King” by Eddie Sauter.
“Abby is a very hard worker and always wants to be her best self, just as the Distinguished Young Women national outreach program emphasizes,” said Myra Hufstetler, DYW’s local program director. “I believe she has the tenacity needed to prepare for the state program and will represent Bartow County very well. Family support is also very important as we prepare for the state program, and Abby’s family is very excited to help her prepare.”
In addition to Matthews, participants in the local DYW program included Anna Catherine Womack — first honoree, North Cobb Christian School; Neleh McGivern — second honoree, Cass High School; Cassidy Cole, Cass High School; Julia Collins, Cass High School; Kylee McIntyre, Cass High School; and Madison Ray, Woodland High School.
“I enjoyed the camaraderie of the program,” Matthews said. “Mrs. Myra Hufstetler and the other adults helping were extremely supportive of all of us. I had multiple one-on-one conversations that showed their care for us girls and the passion for the program. I greatly enjoyed the little unknown community in Bartow County that was dedicated to the DYW program.
“I have learned a greater sense of balance in my life. Adding DYW to my regular course load and extracurriculars became a whirlwind of preparation and timing. This program has been a great learning experience in many aspects of my life, and I am ecstatic to carry this to state.”
Currently maintaining a 4.0 GPA, Matthews is a well-rounded student. She serves as the band captain of the WHS marching band and first chair clarinet of the Wind Symphony, and is a member of Tri-M Music Honor Society, Beta Club, National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Academic Team, AP Committee and State Student Advisory Council. She also was presented the Bob Hope Band Scholarship Award prior to the WHS marching band’s performance in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at New York City.
If she wins the upcoming DYW of Georgia competition, Matthews would become the eighth Bartow County representative since the offering began in the late 1950s to claim the state title. The local program has accomplished numerous feats within the DYW organization, including Brooke Rucker becoming the first local and fourth state representative to win the national medallion in June 2014.
“For the next year, as representative, I will be going on to state where I will perform the same basic categories as I did at local,” Matthews said. “I will be collaborating with Mrs. Myra Hufstetler to help build up my interview skills, talent portion and discuss the new fitness routine. I will take all my at-home planning to state for a week during [the] summer, which will end with the performance.
“… This has been a great experience and I am currently striving to help further achieve the five pillars of DYW: HAIRS, standing for Health, Ambition, Involvement, Responsibility and Studiousness. I have a lot of steps ahead of me before state, but I know it will be a wonderful experience completely worth the effort.”