Maconaquah senior named Distinguished Young Woman of Miami County

·3 min read

Dec. 27—Maconaquah High School, the Peru Amateur Circus and Miami County will all be represented when Molly Nord takes the stage at the Distinguished Young Women of Indiana scholarship program in February.

Nord was named the Distinguished Young Woman of Miami County earlier this month. She emerged from a pool of six high school senior girls to earn the honor and a $1,000 scholarship.

"I was overwhelmed with it happening," Nord said. "I didn't know what to think. I just couldn't believe what they were saying."

The annual competition evaluates participants in five categories: scholastics, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression. Girls also write a "Be Your Best Self" essay that encourages young people to be the best they can be in academics, morality, physical fitness and social and civic participation.

Participants learn life skills, such as public speaking and self-confidence, through Distinguished Young Women while also making new friends.

"It was a great opportunity to engage with the people and meet a bunch of new girls my age," Nord said.

The program is organized by volunteers. Jennifer Lorona, a high school teacher at Maconaquah, helped the girls prepare for the competition.

Lorona said Nord stood out in the categories of self-expression, scholastics and fitness.

"I could tell that she was really dedicated from the get-go," Lorona said. "She put forth 110% at all times."

Nord said the interview category was the most challenging, requiring her to not only know herself but also the world around her.

For the talent portion of the competition, Nord performed a self-choreographed dance to the song "Like My Father" by Jax. Nord has danced for years.

"It's showing how strong of a father figure I've had in my life," she said of her song choice.

Lorona hopes the venue at the state competition — to be held at Indiana University Kokomo — will allow Nord to perform one of her circus acts as her talent.

Nord is a member of the Peru Amateur Circus, specializing in the flying trapeze — a time commitment that she has stuck with since she was 7.

The Maconaquah senior also plays basketball and soccer. Nord is involved in multiple clubs at school, including Student Government Association, and is president of the National Honor Society.

Lorona said the competition was highly competitive, despite having only six participants.

"It was anyone's game, to be honest," she said.

Organizers are working to restore the Miami County DYW program. More than 50 years old, it is one of the oldest local programs in the state. Distinguished Young Women used to be Junior Miss.

Michaela Slisher, chair for DYW of Cass, Fulton and Winamac counties, said this year was a good start to bringing back community support and recognition of the Miami County program.

Slisher handled fundraising for scholarship prizes and was also the judges chairman for Miami County.

"I didn't know what I was going to get into, but you quickly realized the community was behind it," she said. "They were more than willing to help."

Scholarship awards are determined by community donations. Community organizations and businesses pitched in for a total of $3,800.

Allison Burns, of North Miami High School, was named first runner-up and received $500. Peru High School's Elizabeth Rogers was second runner-up, and Hannah Yoo, of Yoo Academy, was third runner-up.

All six participants were awarded scholarship money.

Stevee Judy was the 2021 Distinguished Young Woman of Miami County.

The state competition is set for Feb. 17-19. The winner will move on to the national Distinguished Young Women competition in Mobile, Alabama, in June.

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.

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