Nov. 21—Logansport High School senior Emily Sanchez was named the winner of the Cass County Distinguished Young Women competition Saturday afternoon at Caston High School.
Sanchez will move on to compete in the state competition in Kokomo on Feb. 16-17.
She follows in the footsteps of her friend, Luna Tafolla, who won the Cass County competition in 2022 and was a top 10 finisher in the state competition last February.
"I really didn't expect this at all," Sanchez said. "My adrenaline is up and I would totally do this again."
Sanchez won a total of $1,500 in scholarship money. Winning the competition includes a $1,000 scholarship, a $200 allowance to help during her stay in Kokomo for the state competition and a necklace. She also won $250 scholarships for the interview and fitness portions of the program.
The five young women from three different area schools also competed in categories such as an interview, self-expression and talent.
Sanchez plans to attend IUK after she graduates next spring. She is currently considering studying nursing or business and marketing.
Sanchez said that a year ago she thought she was too shy to compete in an event like Distinguished Young Women. She credited joining the LHS debate team and working with teacher and debate coach Jessica Kranz as helping her be prepared for the competition.
She also said Tafolla was an inspiration behind her competition.
"I look up to Luna so much and I really wanted to join this program because of her, Sanchez said. "Following in her footsteps, I feel so proud and honored."
"I just really wanted to be a part of a program that supported women all around," she added.
Second runner-up Aimee Martinez, a Logansport High School student, also credited Tafolla as an inspiration.
"(Luna) is a role model for me and she talked to me about this program and she encouraged me to do this," Martinez said.
Tafolla is freshman at Notre Dame. She was unable to be at the program Saturday. Second runner-up, Grace Alpha, a Pioneer graduate and a freshman at Purdue, was on hand to represent last year's class of competitors.
"I am beyond proud of Emily representing Cass County," Tafolla said via email Saturday evening. "Her diligence, hard work and bubbly personality will allow her to do amazing at state and anything she puts her mind to. My advice would be for her to stay true to herself and her values and use those to her advantage as she moves on with her academic career."
Tafolla was also moved that she had inspired her former classmates to compete.
"Knowing that I have inspired other young women, especially those from the Latino community to try new things and push themselves out of their comfort zone is incredible," she said. "I feel honored to have taken a small part in their journeys and hope that they see that no matter the outcome, they did the best they could and that's what matters."
Representation was a major theme throughout the program. While the program was titled "We Got the Power," many of the young women took things a step further.
First runner-up Jullina Sherrick, a senior at Caston High School, performed a monologue from the summer blockbuster "Barbie" in which the character Gloria, played by America Ferrera, reflected on the exhausting double standard women face in the world.
"I watched the movie back in the summer with my mom and family and I was like 'wow, this means a lot and it's about womanhood and building yourself up,'" she said. "I thought this would just be perfect."
Sherrick won the self-expression scholarship.
Her fellow Caston senior Haley Logan also did a speech about the history or women's rights.
Martinez sang an a capella version of the song "Cielito Lindo," a Mexican love song, during her performance in the talent competition. Martinez was awarded the talent scholarship.
"I wanted to sing it because it is part of me and part of who I am and part of culture as a Mexican," she said. "It's part of where I grew up. I wanted to show where I came from. I showed a part of my heart."
Other scholarship winners included:
Logan won the Be Your Best Self essay scholarship. Martinez won the Spirit scholarship, an award voted on by the competitors, and also the Talent scholarship. All the scholarships carried a $250 award.
Alejandra Zamora-Arias, a Logansport High School senior, was awarded a $100 scholarship for competing in the program.
"This group of girls this year, they each had their strengths and it made for a very difficult decision for the judges," said Michaela Slisher, the program chair.
On Sunday, Nov. 19, the Fulton and Pulaski County Distinguished Young Women competitions were held. Breana Amezquita, a senior at Caston, won the Fulton County competition and Allie Sanders, a senior at West Central High School, won the Pulaski County competition.