Become a Part of Distinguished Young Women


Paul Vicario

Class of 2020 DYW participants pose before their final showcase in May.

Emma Nicholson

Calling all junior girls: On November 18th at 7:30 PM, the Greater Franklin Distinguished Young Women program will be hosting an informational meeting at the Franklin YMCA, for any juniors who are interested in participating this year.

Distinguished Young Women is a non-profit national scholarship organization that inspires young women to reach their full potential and become the best version of themselves. The program promotes their mission on the basis of five values: being healthy, involved, ambitious, studious, and responsible. 

Paul Vicario
DYW 2020 participants pictured with choreographers Tracy Lane and Emily Yeo, as well as director Amy Azza

The Greater Franklin branch of the Distinguished Young Women program holds weekly rehearsals with a flexible schedule, concluding in a showcase in May 2020, in which participants compete in five categories:

  • Talent –Each participant selects a talent of theirs to display for 90 seconds. Past talents have included dance, music, photography, basketball, poetry, martial arts, fine arts, and more.
  • Self Expression-The day prior to the showcase, participants will be given a question and will prepare a brief answer to be presented on stage.
  • Fitness-Participants will learn a short fitness-based dance routine to be performed in the showcase. No prior dance knowledge is necessary! 
  • Interview-Participants will have a 10 minute interview on the morning of the showcase that will be evaluated as part of overall score. Practice interviews will be conducted throughout the rehearsal process.
  • Scholastics-Academic performance and standardized testing will be evaluated as part of a participant’s overall score. Students will submit their transcript in early spring.

Three winners will be named at the local level, and those winners will advance to the Massachusetts DYW program, held in July 2020.

Paul Vicario
(Left to right) Catherine Middelmann, Emma Nicholson, and Michaela Olah are the current Franklin DYW representatives, and are pictured here with the judges following the showcase in May.

Though there is a competitive aspect to this program, it is more-so a changing experience for individuals throughout the rehearsal process. Participants gain a great deal of self-confidence, public speaking skills, and an opportunity to become the best version of themselves.

Program director Amy Azza is looking forward to beginning another year of Distinguished Young Women. “This program provides young women with the life skills necessary to conquer their fears and realize that they can indeed live a life without limits.  They leave with renewed confidence and tremendous interview and public speaking skills, and they go on to be leaders in college and the world.  Our program participants have also gone on to win scholarships at the state and national level. This program is truly life-changing,” says Azza.

MA State House Photographer
The three winners got the chance to visit the MA state house last month where they were given a tour by Representative Jeff Roy.

This past year, twelve girls from Franklin and surrounding towns participated in the program. FHS students Emma Nicholson, Michaela Olah, and Catherine Middelmann, were named the winners of the local program. The three girls went on to compete at the Massachusetts Distinguished Young Women program which was held in Easthampton Massachusetts this past July. 

With the skills they learned at the local level, all three girls earned recognition at the state program. Middelmann earned a scholarship in the interview category, Olah earned a scholarship in the talent category as well as the spirit award, and Nicholson earned scholarships in talent, interview, self-expression, and fitness. In June, Michaela Olah will advance to the national program in Alabama representing Massachusetts.

Greater Norfolk Distinguished Young Woman Emma Nicholson says that her overall DYW experience was far more about the rehearsal process and the individual growth than the competitive aspect. “DYW truly helped me refine my public speaking and interview skills while simultaneously providing me with opportunities to perform alongside a wonderful, supportive group.  I highly encourage juniors to take part in DYW at the local level because this is where so much of the growth takes place.”

Amy Azza
Participants from the class of 2020 pictured at the end of a rehearsal this spring.

Greater Metrowest Distinguished Young Woman Catherine Middelmann also thoroughly enjoyed her DYW experience. “DYW is important not because of the final performance, but because you form a bond with the girls you work with and help eachother grow to be their best self,” she says.

Greater Franklin/Massachusetts Distinguished Young Woman Michaela Olah shared a similar perspective. “DYW is so much more than just a scholarship program,” she says. “It truly allows you to push yourself in a supportive environment filled with strong females from different towns and stages of life.”

Paul Vicario
DYW 2020 participants in their opening number.

Program director Amy Azza has seen firsthand the impact that Distinguished Young Women can have on participants.

“What I love most about running this program is seeing the transformation of all the young women.  Every single one of them gains so much confidence and empowerment and they learn that the impossible is now possible. Never again will they doubt themselves or say they can’t do something,” she says.

If you are a member of the class of 2021 and are interested in learning more about the Greater Franklin Distinguished Young Women program please consider attending the orientation on November 18th at 7:30 pm, held at the Franklin YMCA. This meeting will provide more details about the program, an overview of the flexible rehearsal schedule, and a chance to hear directly from past participants.

Read more about Distinguished Young Women here: