Tomlin named 2024 Distinguished Young Woman

By Haley Mitchell Godwin

The Distinguished Young Women of Crenshaw County program, formerly known as America’s Junior Miss, held its highly anticipated annual event Saturday at the Luverne United Methodist Church Dei Center. Five young women from various corners of the county competed for the coveted title and scholarships during the event. 

The participants included Emma Berry, Ansley Brunson, Katie Moates, Kendal Nichols, and Ella-Kate Tomlin. After an intense and impressive display of talent, intellect, fitness and self-expression, Luverne School rising senior Ella-Kate Tomlin emerged victorious, earning the title of 2024 Distinguished Young Woman of Crenshaw County. 

The daughter of Rusty Tomlin and Kelly Downing, Tomlin’s accomplishments were recognized with a $1,500.00 scholarship for her college education and an additional $3,000 scholarship to Lurleen B. Wallace Community College. Her win also means she will represent Crenshaw County at the state program in January, where she will compete for the statewide title and additional scholarship money. 

Tomlin, who plans on obtaining a cosmetology degree from Lurleen B. Wallace Community College, said she is very thankful for the DYW program. 

“I appreciate all of the local businesses and individuals that give their time, money, and services to the Distinguished Young Women program,” Tomlin said. “Without the funding, the program wouldn’t be possible. I am extremely thankful for the scholarships I have received from the program. They will help me to hopefully attend college debt free and be able to give back to my community in the future as a local business owner.”

The contestants were evaluated in five distinct categories: interview for 25% of total score, scholastics for 25% of total score, talent for 20%, fitness for 15%, and self-expression for the remaining 15% of total score. Scholarships were awarded in each category as well as overall, making the program a significant source of financial aid for young women pursuing higher education.

In a heartwarming reflection, 2023 Distinguished Young Woman, Emily Anne Morgan, spoke about her transformative experience during her reign. Morgan said that participating in various activities including being involved in the governor’s inaugural parade, luncheons with esteemed figures, and contributing to Farm City week events, helped her significantly with personal growth, particularly in public speaking and community engagement. 

“The Distinguished Young Women program truly lives up to its motto, empowering young women to reach their goals through scholarships and personal development opportunities,” Morgan said. “Thanks to DYW, I was able to experience so many things and meet so many amazing girls that I otherwise would not have met. I definitely would not be in the position I am in with school without the DYW program. However, I would have to say that my favorite part was this past week when I was able to really help the class of 2024 with their journey. I am thankful I was put in a position to be a role model and help and encourage the girls to keep pushing and never give up. I was truly honored to be part of it.”

In the 2023 state competition, Morgan was named as a top 8 finalist and made the top five in fitness, self-expression, and talent and also received the Bruce Tritthouser Community Service Award.

Morgan, who is majoring in speech-language-hearing sciences, shared her aspiration to pursue a master’s degree in speech pathology. Her dream is to return to Crenshaw County and establish a pediatric clinic in collaboration with her sister, who plans to become a physical therapist. 

The Distinguished Young Women organization, founded in 1958, stands as the oldest and largest national nonprofit that offers scholarship opportunities to upcoming high school senior girls. Its core mission is to empower young women to realize their full potential by providing scholarships, personal development opportunities and a positive peer network. 

The program accomplishes this through the Distinguished Young Women life skills program, which includes workshops and online resources focused on areas like interviewing, public speaking, self-confidence building and more. Additionally, DYW’s “Be Your Best Self” platform encourages participants to connect with and inspire young people nationwide, fostering a commitment to personal growth in academics, physical fitness, character, and social and civic participation.