High school senior Skylar Babin became the first Destin resident to ever win the title of Distinguished Young Woman of Okaloosa County in July of this year.

Although title earned her more than $6,000 toward her college tuition, she said that is not what she finds most valuable about the experience.

"What excited me personally is the fact that I could grow and develop with a group of girls who also want to grow and develop," Babin said. "Over the months we had been practicing, we bonded and became so close. I would have been happy if any of us had won."

Humble in spirit, Babin said she was still honored when she found out she had won.

“It was just such a thrill and such a feeling of excitement,” she said. “I was really proud of everyone that was a part of it.”

Babin said she just tried to be herself during the competition.

“Part of the DYW national outreach is called 'Be Your Best Self,' and with the DYW title I really enjoy telling others about eating healthy, staying positive, being productive and making the most of your life,” Babin said.

The Distinguished Young Women program has been around since 1958 and allows girls in their senior year of high school to compete for scholarship money toward a college of their choice.

Babin said that contestants are evaluated in five categories: scholastic, interview skills, talent, fitness and self expression.

“For the scholastic portion we had to submit our GPA and our SAT and ACT scores,” Babin said. “The interview skills portion is a 10-minute interview in front of panel of five judges where they quiz you on current events and things you wrote in your biography. For self expression, they would ask you a question about yourself that highlights your personality. For fitness we had to spend 10 minutes on stage and do a giant routine with push ups, jumping jacks and everything.”

For her talent, she performed a song.

After attaining the county title, Babin has taken on public leadership roles such as speaking in local community groups and classrooms.

“With that title I get to represent my county in many different ways,” Babin said. “Each girl chose their own class to speak to, and I chose a high school class. I have also spoken at Rotary clubs, Kawanis clubs and have participated in local Christmas parades.”

Babin is homeschooled but attends select classes at Niceville High School and at Northwest Florida State College. The high school senior is also active in the Destin community as part of the Destin Youth Council, she mentors fellow high school students in speech and debate at Niceville High School, and she is a member of nationwide leadership program TeenPact.

“The Destin Youth Council is one of the things I love doing,” Babin said. “I also participate in the TeenPack Leadership School where I get to teach other teenagers between the ages of 13-19 throughout the country. We go to the capital, dress up in suits and we learn about the government. I’ve been really blessed with that level of leadership.”

The second phase of the DYW program will be the statewide competition in February with 26 girls vying for the state title.

“This is extremely exciting because for the first time ever the state competition is going to be in Okaloosa County,” Babin said. “It will take place in February at the Fort Walton Civic Center, and it is open for the public to come and watch.”

As for college, Babin said she is still contemplating what to major in as well as deciding what university she will attend.

“I have applied to a couple of schools but I am open to whatever God has for me,” she said. "I am thinking about studying vocal art, business communications or politics. I haven’t gotten it all figured out, but I am really excited about it.”

Babin said she is looking forward to the upcoming competition in February, especially the opportunity to meet the other girls and enjoy the process.

“I know a lot of them from speech and debate, I’m so excited,” she said.