Distinguished Young Women, formerly America’s Junior Miss, began in 1958 with national headquarters in Mobile, Ala. It is the largest and the oldest national scholarship program for rising high school senior girls. Over 700,000 young women have competed at the local, state, and national levels winning college scholarship money at each level. Evaluation categories include Scholastics, Interview, Talent, Fitness, and Self-Expression.

Okaloosa County’s DYW Class of 2016 has already been active in their communities presenting the DYW outreach program “Be Your Best Self." The core values of the BYBS program encourage girls and young women to be healthy, be ambitious, be involved, be responsible, and be studious. Prior to the Saturday evening program, this year’s 12 participants will have been scored and ranked scholastically, have presented their BYBS programs for an award, and will have completed interviews with the judges prior to the evening.

The Okaloosa County program begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, July 18, at the Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium, 107 Miracle Strip Parkway SW in Fort Walton Beach. Admission for the program is $10 for adults with souvenir programs available for purchase.

The Okaloosa County DYW program was rebirthed in 2012 and is in its fourth year. The program is staffed by a volunteer Board of Directors, many of whom share the honor of being a “has been” (the term of endearment) for a Junior Miss or Distinguished Young Woman program in their youth. Okaloosa County’s DYW for the Class of 2016 will represent Okaloosa County in the state competition in Winter Garden, Fla., in January 2016. The national program is held each June in Mobile.

Returning for the Okaloosa County program will be the three young women who have worn the DYW medallion. Arden Robertson, Destin, Okaloosa County’s DYW for the Class of 2013, is now a student at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. She is an honors graduate of Northwest Florida State College and the Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College. She is a Pathways intern at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

Okaloosa County’s DYW for the Class of 2014, Natalie Lawson, Destin, also took the honor of becoming DYW for the State of Florida for 2014 and was a National Finalist in DYW of America for 2014. Lawson is a graduate of Fort Walton Beach High School and is now studying at the University of South Florida.

Okaloosa County’s DYW for the Class of 2015, Lydia Clark, Fort Walton Beach, is a recent graduate of Choctawhatchee Senior High School and will attend Florida State University in the fall. Clark will present the new Okaloosa County DYW for the Class of 2016 with her DYW medallion at the July 18 program.

Okaloosa County’s Class of 2016 DYW program participants, listed by hometowns, include Emileigh Gaddis and Lauren Kubelka from Destin.

For more information on Okaloosa County’s Distinguished Young Woman program or for information regarding donating to the scholarship program, visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Distinguished-Young-Women-of-Okaloosa-County-FL.