By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — The Western New York Distinguished Young Women At-Large program was a far different experience from past Orleans County Jr. Miss events and last year’s Orleans County Distinguished Young Women event. But the event still offered something important for four high school seniors.
The program, formerly known as Jr. Miss, offers scholarships and personal growth for young women across the country.
The local competition is a tradition stretching back four decades, but organizational changes from above forced this year’s program to be an abbreviated one. Instead of crowning a local winner, the local program offered a dry run for what the girls will face at the state competition.
The one-day event was held Saturday at the Faith Covenant Fellowship Church in Medina. The group of participants was led by Maria Ostafew, a senior at Albion; two girls from the Buffalo area and another from central New York.
While the program normally stretched for weeks as girls perfected their fitness routine, talent showcase and interviews, a change in how the event is insured forced the quicker occasion. The openness of the event was a godsend for Ostafew, who said she’d otherwise be unable to participate due to her active role in Albion’s theatrical performances.
“It’s a good experience,” said Ostafew, who intends to study broadcast journalism at Asbury University in Kentucky next year after graduating a year early. “This will be good for college and benefit my speaking skills at school.”
Ostafew wrote her application Saturday morning. She came ready to perform, working with the other girls in a dance routine, showing off her dance routine to “Seize the Day” (from the musical “Newsies”), and sharing a personal story about her life goals.
”I want to do successful things, but make myself known in a positive way,” she explained during the self-expression phase.
For Gabrielle Marquis, the at-large event allowed to achieve a long-held goal.
“My older sister had done the local competition, I was her little sister (as part of the event, younger girls shadow the competitors),” said Brown, who intends to study forensic science next year. “She’s my role model, I had to do this.”
Brown, who lives in Orchard Park and attends Sacred Heart Academy in Amherst, would not have been able to participate in the Orleans County version of the event. Neither would have Angelyn Brown, who lives in Alden; nor Mackenzie Gannon, who lives near Binghamton.
“This was our Plan B, but I’m glad we could do this,” Amy Miller, the leader of the local program, said. “It’s a good group of girls. This way, they can get familiar with the program so they know what to expect at states.”
They appeared ready. In addition to learning an intricate fitness display in an hour Saturday, all four girls showed the self-motivation that is a hallmark of the event. And if they choose to go on to the state competition they’ll be well-served by what they experienced Saturday.