◆ Whitnee will compete at nationals next summer with the platform ‘Be Involved.’
On August 7, in Green River, Wyoming, seventeen-year-old Whitnee Hale competed for and won the Distinguished Young Women of Wyoming scholarship. This is a program that prepares women for life after high school by combining scholarships with trainings on helpful life skills, such as interviewing, public speaking, self-confidence building, and community involvement.
Whitnee was born in Star Valley and has lived in Fairview her whole life. She was inspired to enter the competition after her mother shared her own experience of being in the competition as a young woman and how it benefited her through many pivotal and life-changing years.
Whitnee said, “I thought, Why shouldn’t I do it? And it turned out to be a really good experience, so I’m really glad I did it.”
Whitnee competed against four other young women from Wyoming in five separate categories: scholastics, interview, talent, fitness, and self-expression.
In scholastics, contestants turned in their transcripts to the University of Wyoming for a review. The university then reported their evaluation to the Distinguished Young Women program.
Before the competition, contestants turned in biographies. The ten-minute interviews focused on these biographies, with judges asking more personal questions to each young woman. The judges focused on getting to know the contestants as individuals. Whitnee was asked: “What was your most humbling experience and why?” “Why do you want to be what you want to be when you are older?” and a deeper philosophical question, “Does religion make people good?”
For the talent portion, Whitnee sang a song from Glee: “Don’t Rain on My Parade” by Bob Merrill. The talent could last only ninety seconds, so Whitnee had to arrange her own version of the song to stay within that time limit. If she went over—she would be disqualified. “I focused on the parts that showed off my voice,” she says. Other contestants clogged, gave a dramatic monologue, created a one-line drawing, and performed a belly dance.
To prep for the fitness category, contestants were given a seven-minute routine to memorize two weeks before the competition. The routine was set to music and was a mixture of dancing, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and exercises to show flexibility. All day before the competition, the young women practiced the routine together. Each young woman was spotlighted with a solo part. The judges were looking for endurance and physical fitness, as well as the ability to stay on beat to the music. Whitnee says, “We never stopped moving. The routine was doable but definitely difficult.”
In the last category, self-expression, contestants gave a thirty-second response to a question they had received twenty-four hours prior. Whitnee’s question was: “How do you incorporate living each day with courage in your daily life?” Her response was the following: “I have a great example of this in my life. Someone who I love and look up to was born with a physically smaller arm. Every day, she has to incorporate courage in her life. Each day, she goes out into the world confidently and courageously, not caring what people think, and each day, her confidence grows. She is an incredible dancer, and each time she dances, she performs with courage. I incorporate living each day with courage into my daily life by seeing her and being around her every day. If she can live each day with courage to be herself and not care what others think, so can I.” This touching and thoughtful response impressed the judges, and Whitnee won this category.
When the competition ended and the results were in, Whitnee won overall, making her the Distinguished Woman of Wyoming 2021. Whitnee received a scholarship for winning the self-expression portion, as well as another more substantial scholarship for winning the competition overall. These scholarships will be sent to the college of her choice.
Whitnee is a senior this year, so between winning the competition and heading off to college, she will organize an event in the community under her platform “Be Involved.” Whitnee says, “I picked this platform because so many things can go along with it: self-confidence, setting and achieving goals, and being part of the community.” Whitnee will also visit schools and speak to students about her platform. She hopes to inspire students to get involved in their families, schools, and communities.
Next June, Whitnee will head down to Mobile, Alabama, where she will compete at the national level. To prepare for this competition, Whitnee will be practicing mock interviews, writing lots of essays, singing, and staying in good shape. And to help her better prepare, she will also be coached by a woman from the national board of Distinguished Young Women. “I’m humbled and honored to represent Wyoming,” says Whitnee.
When Whitnee isn’t preparing for the competition, you can find her at the high school playing basketball and volleyball or participating in the musical theatre group Singcopation.
To other young women in the community, Whitnee says. “Girls should get involved with this program. It’s very rewarding.” We are grateful to have Whitnee represent our community and wish her all the best as she prepares for and competes at nationals.