Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) on Wednesday stopped by the Distinguished Young Women of Alabama rehearsals, where she offered her testimony to the young ladies as they prepare for their weekend of competition.

“It is important that we lay the groundwork now in Alabama for what’s to come, and that most certainly means putting a renewed emphasis on our young people,” Ivey said. “I am always encouraged for our future when I spend time with groups like Distinguished Young Women. These young ladies, no doubt, are some of our leaders for tomorrow.”

These 45 high school seniors will have the chance to earn college scholarship money, and one will go on to represent the state at the national program as the Distinguished Young Woman of Alabama.

Distinguished Young Women was founded in 1958 as America’s Junior Miss as a way to reward the accomplishments of high school senior girls seeking to pursue higher education.

Ivey is a former participant in the program. She offered her congratulations to the girls and encouraged them to continue being leaders in all they do. Ivey is only the second woman to serve as Governor of the state of Alabama in its 202-year history.

Prior to its organization, the Jaycees held an annual event, Azalearama, to promote Mobile and the azaleas which can be found all along the Gulf Coast. Each spring, Azalea Trail Maids were selected from high school senior girls in the area to represent the annual event and they would receive scholarships for college. With few scholarship opportunities available to girls in the 1950s, the Jaycees soon found themselves deluged with applications from Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi.

The organizers then created Distinguished Young Women (then America’s Junior Miss) and took the idea nationally.

Distinguished Young Women grew and remains today the largest and oldest scholarship program of its kind for high school girls. With scholarship, leadership and talent as its overarching theme, Distinguished Young Women has drawn over 775,000 young women to compete in the program at the local, state and national level and $114 million in cash scholarships has been awarded to deserving young women.

The group said in a statement that “This past year, more than 100 colleges and universities made available over $1 billion dollars in college-granted scholarships to nearly 3,000 participants in almost 400 local and state programs. With the completion of the 64th National Finals, more than $2.1 million in cash scholarships will have been earned by those young women. Thanks to the dedicated perseverance of thousands of volunteers across the country, who devote countless hours and resources to ensure the success of this program, these young women have all been afforded the opportunity to achieve!”

Ivey, age 76, served two terms as State Treasurer from 2003 to 2011 and two terms as Lieutenant Governor from 2011 to 2017. In 2017 she was elevated to Governor upon the resignation of former Governor Robert Bentley (R) and then elected to her own term in 2018. She is running for a second term.

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