BELLEFONTE - Centre County encourages the talents and excellence of its young women by offering scholarship opportunities to support their ambitions of a bright future.
It does this through the Outstanding Young Woman (OYW) program, which held its annual event last Saturday in the Bellefonte Area High School Theatre.
OYW is a scholarship and honors program where high school senior women in Centre County have the opportunity to not only win scholarships, but improve their public speaking abilities, sharpen their interview skills, and improve their self-confidence.
Anya Hoaglund won the award for Centre County's Outstanding Young Woman 2016 and will represent OYW throughout the year. She was awarded a $2,800 scholarship, along with a floral bouquet from Woodrings Floral Gardens and a necklace and earrings set from Confer's Jewelers. Hoaglund attends Bellefonte Area High School and hopes to attend the University of Chicago to major in physics.
Emma Smith was first runner-up. She won a $1,700 scholarship. Smith attends Bellefonte Area High School and hopes to attend Bucknell University to major in linguistics.
The event opened with finalists performing a choreographed dance to Jess Glynne's "Hold My Hand."
"What a wonderful group of young women!" exclaimed Stephanie Garrison, emcee for the event and 3WZ radio personality. "I swear I pulled two muscles watching them."
For the program, finalists were judged in five areas: performing arts, presence and presentation, aerobics and fitness, interview, and scholarship and achievement, according to Olivia Lusk, last year's OYW runner-up. Each area carried a 20 percent weight, with a score of 1 to 10, and was evaluated by a panel of five judges.
The first area presented at the event was performing arts, where each finalist gave a 120-second presentation using a talent of their choice. Judges looked at the originality of each piece's technical ability, costume appropriateness, and stage presence.
The first to perform was Emily Beyer from State College Area High School, who hopes to attend Wake Forest University to major in biology. Beyer performed a choreographed dance to Cold Play's "Love Transcends All."
Kara Gardiner twirled baton to a mashup of Britt Nicole songs. Gardiner attends State College Area High School and hopes to attend University of North Carolina to major in English.
Karina Bloom played a piccolo version of composer Giulio Briccialdi's "The Carnival of Venice." Bloom attends Bald Eagle Area High School and hopes to major in flute performance and music therapy in college.
The next performer was Margaret Dunkelberger, who tap danced to Sara Bareilles' "Many the Miles." Dunkelberger attends Penns Valley Area High School and plans to attend either Geneva University or Wittenburg University to major in either education or environmental engineering.
Emma Ferguson from Bellefonte Area High School, performed a choreographed dance to Rachel Platten's "Fight Song." Ferguson plans to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania to major in fashion merchandising.
Leah Englehart performed a choreographed dance to Florence and the Machine's "Falling." Englehart attends State College Area High School and hopes to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara to major in business.
Tara Besecker twirled baton to Fergie's "A Little Party Never Killed Anyone." Besecker attends Penns Valley Area High School and hopes to attend Penn State, where her goal is to become a majorette.
Kari Baughman performed a choreographed dance to Christina Perri's "Arms." Baughman attends State College Area High School and hopes to attend Penn State to major in either secondary education or business.
Next to perform was Taylor Schoch, who played a violin version of J.S. Bach's "Minuet I." Schoch attends Bellefonte Area Senior High School and hopes to attend Penn State to major in electrical engineering.
Michelle Irwin performed a choreographed dance to Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You into the Dark." Irwin attends State College Area High School and aspires to major in hospitality management in college.
The next performance was by Smith, who ballet danced to Johann Strauss's "Die Fledermaus."
Hoaglund performed next with an adaptation of "The Hunger Games," where she portrayed character Katniss Everdeen.
The last performance was by Ashleigh Stangel, who played an excerpt from Chopin's waltzes on piano. Stangel attends State College Area High School and plans to attend Penn State to major in graphic design.
The next area to be judged was presence and presentation, where each finalist was judged based on their posture and poise, carriage, and confidence, as they moved about the stage during a choreographed routine. Finalists were also judged on their communication ability as each answered a question, of which she had no prior knowledge.
During this portion, questions asked of the finalists varied from how they would help instill a positive image for their peers to what changes they would make to education reform. Afterward, finalists were judged in the area of aerobics and fitness, which looked at each's coordination, stamina, agility, posture, and carriage as they moved about the stage during a choreographed routine to La Roux's "Bulletproof." Finalists were split up into two groups for this routine.
Outside of the show, finalists were also judged based on scholarship and achievement, where the High School Counselors Association evaluated their transcripts and scholastic test scores. In this area, each finalist's school and community activities were also considered. The fifth category to be judged was a 10-minute interview with each finalist, where judges looked at perception, a sense of values, clarity of expression, concern for others, and ability in human relations.
After the aerobics portion, judges went to deliberate. Before awards were given, Lusk sang Spark of Creation" from the "Children of Eden" musical. A slideshow of contestants' current and childhood pictures were shown before finalists came back on stage wearing professional outfits, ready for the awards to be announced.
OYW board members presented each finalist with a certificate. The $1,000 Income Development Award was presented to Dunkelberger. The $200 Individual Development Award, which was a new award this year, was presented to Bloom. This award is given to a finalist who has blossomed into a more confident young woman.
The Keystone Award, awarded to a finalist who shows great support of others, was awarded to Smith. This award was a $300 scholarship, accompanied by a gift basket made by BJ Gates.
In addition, there were two $250 scholarships granted to the top two finalists in each of the five areas that were judged. For performing arts, the winners were Besecker and Bloom. In the area of presence and presentation, the winners were Stangel and Beyer.
The next area that awarded two $250 scholarships was physical fitness, where the winners were Englehart and Beyer. Taking home scholarship awards from the interview category and scholarship and achievement category were Smith and Holand.
Since 1965, over 1,000 young women have participated in the Outstanding Young Women Program, once known as the Junior Miss program. Over the years, more than $200,000 in scholarships have been awarded, and more than 200 volunteers, businesses, and local industries have assisted with the program each year.
If you or someone you know may be interested in volunteering to help with OYW's upcoming programs or becoming a finalist for next year's program, contact OYW at firstname.lastname@example.org.