Matthews eyes Distinguished Young Woman of Georgia title

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Describing the lead-up to the upcoming competition as a “whirlwind of emotion and preparations,” Abigail “Abby” Matthews is thrilled to be representing Bartow in the Distinguished Young Women of Georgia program.

On Sunday, the Cartersville 16-year-old will leave for the state offering, which will culminate in two nights of competition — July 19 and 20 — in Marietta. Along with rehearsing for the contest next week, she and other participants will visit various Atlanta sites.

“I have days where I nail interviews and feel on top of the world,” Abby said. “I also have days where I am very tired of doing my fitness routine ‘just one more time.’ Overall, though, I am beyond excited to partake in this wonderful opportunity and most look forward to simply putting the best version of myself out there both onstage and with the other participants.

“… I hope to show off my interview skills most of all. I’ve had five mock interviews since local — and about eight or more during local preparations — and have found myself tackling head-on some of the hardest questions they could throw at me. I won an interview award at local and I hope this proves to be my strength at state.”

During the state program, Abby will compete against other rising high school seniors in the areas of interview, 25% of the overall score; scholastics, 25%; talent, 20%; fitness, 15%; and self-expression/onstage question, 15%. To be held at the Performing Arts Center at Marietta High School, the program will be a preliminary for the national competition in Mobile, Alabama, next year.

Noting “Abby exhibits all the qualities of a Distinguished Young Woman,” Myra Hufstetler — DYW’s local program director — is looking forward to seeing her perform at the state level.

“Abby has strong academics with a GPA above a 4.0 and high standardized test scores, so we expect her to score high in scholastics,” she said. “Abby's intellect comes through in interview, as well; she is very well spoken and has worked hard to hone her interview skills. Our world is changing so quickly, but Abby has done a great job keeping informed about current events and hot topics that may arise during the interviews. With Abby’s confidence in interviews, I have no doubt she will do well in the onstage question, or self-expression, portion of the competition.

“For talent, she will be performing a clarinet solo that is complex musically and very entertaining. We are really excited to see her shine onstage and I think both the audience and judges will love the piece. While the fitness portion is only 15% of the score it is very challenging for most participants. She has been working on her stamina, balance, flexibility and strength in this area.”

Abby's clarinet solo will be “Immer Kleiner (Always Smaller)” by Adolf Schreiner.

“I’ve been playing clarinet for almost seven years and have fallen in love with it in high school,” Abby said. “It gets a bad reputation for being a ‘boring instrument,’ but it is integral to the band as a whole and gives me great joy when practicing.

“I’ve been to district and all-state bands for clarinet, as well as selected to play at JanFest in Athens. I’m first chair of 30 clarinets this year and this allows me the opportunity to be a role model in a musical aspect.”

The rising senior at Woodland High advanced to the state level of the DYW program after capturing the Bartow County title in March. In addition to winning the local DYW medallion, she also received $1,800 overall in cash scholarships — $1,000 for the title and $200 apiece for the fitness, self-expression, interview and scholastics categories.

If Abby were to win the DYW of Georgia competition, she would become the eighth Bartow County representative since the offering began in the late 1950s to claim the state title.

“Bartow County has a great legacy at the state level with seven state winners, including our first winner in 1958, Mary Jon Bradley Garrison; Abbey Hufstetler Tillman, 2009; Caroline Lloyd, 2011; Mary Clayton Gilbert Murphy, 2012; Avian Brown Nuckolls, 2013; Brooke Rucker, 2014 and Distinguished Young Woman of America; Sophia Inaba, 2015. Sarah Wiedetz, 2018, and Grace Weeks, 2019, were named 1st Honorees,” Hufstetler said. “In Cartersville and Bartow County, we also have wonderful schools and extracurricular programs, which allow the young women in our community to receive a great education, learn amazing talents and have many leadership opportunities.

“We also have some great volunteers who love the Distinguished Young Women program and really enjoy helping the participants to reach their potential and be their best selves. The volunteers believe in the life skills we are instilling in these young women and enjoy investing in their lives. We strive for each girl who comes through the program to have the confidence and skills that will help them pursue any career.”

As she heads to state, Abby is extending thanks to those who helped prepare her for this DYW journey.

“I would not have been able to do any of this, local or state, without the help from so many people,” she said. “My parents, Jennifer and Jeremy Matthews, have never wavered in their support of me and push me as hard as they can to be my best self, above all things. Abbey and Matt Tillman, Mary Clayton Gilbert Murphy, and Jona and Eric Johnson are individuals that are always there to … judge mock interviews, advise on fitness and give overall critique, with kindness and encouragement.

“Myra Hufstetler, local coordinator for DYW of Bartow County, has been a blessing for me this summer. She’s always a text away for any question I have, schedules all sorts of events and gives me support when she knows I need it most. Without all these people, and so many more that I just couldn’t name, I would not be in such a stable position a week away before I leave for state.”

Tickets for the state contest, which will start at 7 p.m. July 19 and 20, will cost $25 per show.

For more information about the Distinguished Young Women program, visit http://distinguishedyw.org.