Three Westerville students will discuss current events and show their talents as Delaware County representatives in the Feb. 25 Distinguished Young Women of Ohio Scholarship Program in Mount Vernon.
Westerville Central High School seniors Hannah Sabedra and Olivia Frissora and St. Francis DeSales High School senior McKenna Schwartz are among 17 contestants who will compete for cash scholarships totaling $16,000, with nearly $2 million in college scholarships also available.
The girls are competing at the state level for the Distinguished Young Women Scholarship Award, advancing from the regional level.
The contest requires participants to be able to actively discuss current events, express personal opinions and respond to a series of open-ended questions from a panel of judges.
They are asked to stand on stage during a self-expression event and talk for 90 seconds about a given topic and how it relates to their life shortly after the topic is provided.
They are asked to perform a fitness routine that stresses each muscle group and demonstrates balance and cardiovascular endurance.
Finally, they are asked to share a talent they have developed over the years.
Frissora, 17, said she's excited to participate in the program because she looks forward to improving leadership skills.
"I think leadership is a quality that is very crucial to have as a woman in today's world," she said.
Frissora will perform a tap dance as her talent.
"I have been dancing since I was 2 years old," she said. "So, it is something that is very special to me. I am excited to get to share my love for dance with everyone else."
Sabedra, 17, said she's honored to be participating in the scholarship program and representing central Delaware County.
"To be among (16) other girls from around Ohio with different backgrounds and activities but all sharing the common goal to 'Be Our Best Self' is awesome," she said.
"I'm excited to be spending four days with these girls to learn and grow with them. Each one of us is bringing something different to the table."
Sabedra said she's happy to be a role model to young girls and boys she teaches and volunteers with regularly.
"To show them having a good balance in life makes us the best we can be," she said. "Getting good grades, being active, getting involved, setting goals and being respectful to yourself and others are good rules to live by."
Sabedra will be performing a tap-dance routine as well.
Schwartz, 17, has been dancing at Straub Dance Center since she was 18 months old, but she has chosen to compete with an a cappella performance for her talent.
Schwartz will be singing Franz Schubert's "Ave Maria" in Latin.
"I am honored to have the opportunity to represent northern Delaware County for so many reasons," she said. "I think the competition lends itself to personal growth while acknowledging individuality."
Schwartz said she has never been completely comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, and she knows the experience will help her overcome that fear.
"Choosing to sing for the talent portion is also a little out of my comfort zone," she said. "A couple years ago at the Ohio Music Education Association conference I blanked while singing a song I had practiced for weeks.
"Ever since, I have wanted to get back onstage to prove to myself that I could deliver a performance to be proud of," she said.
More importantly, Schwartz said, the program has encouraged her to think about what she stands for and her opinions on controversial issues.
"Essentially, the program is teaching me how to be a better communicator and it is providing me with skills I can use in any career," Schwartz said. "And, of course, receiving one of the many scholarships that will be awarded would be a tremendous honor as I pursue my dream of becoming a NASA engineer or Disney Imagineer."
Although she has yet to spend more than a day with the other contestants, she said she could already tell they are all enthusiastic and hard working like her.
"At the end of the competition an overall winner will be named, and even if that person isn't me, I will have gained 16 amazing friends," Schwartz said.
Seventeen Ohio high school senior girls will arrive in Mount Vernon on Feb. 21.
A welcome dinner with their host family is the beginning of a weekend filled with rehearsals, luncheons and time to make connections.
This year's program celebrates Ohio's 60th anniversary, with Mount Vernon serving as host city for 45 years.
Serving as program hosts will be Dana Ullom-Vucelich and her daughter, Jenna Vucelich, who are both past participants of the program.
The 60th annual Distinguished Young Women of Ohio program will begin at 2 p.m. Feb. 25.
Tickets are available online at MTVarts.com and at the door.
Founded in 1958 in Mobile, Alabama, Distinguished Young Women is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls.
The mission of Distinguished Young Women is to positively impact the lives of young women by providing a transformative experience that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent.
For more information visit www.Distin-guishedYW.org.