COLUMBIA CITY — Members of the Board of Directors of Distinguished Young Woman program in Whitley County met recently to establish the date for its 55th and the rehearsal schedule. Leah Bechtold, the 2019 winner of the local program, was a guest.

The 55th program is Saturday, Sept. 7, 7 p.m. in the Newell Rice Auditorium of Columbia City High School. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students K-12. This will be the last program in the present school. Former contestants and former winners are invited to attend this special presentation.

This long established program is for young women who will graduate in 2020 from high schools in Whitley County. Home-schooled girls and girls who live in Whitley County but attend other high schools are also eligible to enter. All who enter this scholarship awarding competition must register through the national program on the national website. The local program awards $3,100 in cash scholarships to its category winners. It is strongly encouraged each prospective participant attend a callout meeting, which will be scheduled after spring break.

The board of directors has condensed the rehearsal schedule to 10 hours of practice. On program day, contestants will be expected to participate in a 10-minute panel interview with judges who are from out of the county.

The rehearsal schedule is as follows: Sunday, Aug. 18, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 25, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday, Sept. 4, 7 to 9 p.m. and Thursday, Sept. 5, 7 to 9 p.m. All rehearsals are in the Newell Rice Auditorium of Columbia City High School and are closed to the public.

Bechtold, the 2019 winner of the DYW of Whitley County, appeared before the members of the board to recount her experiences at the 60th anniversary program of Indiana Distinguished Young Woman in Kokomo, Feb. 17–24. At the conclusion of the competition Feb. 23, Leah was named a Top 10 finalist, winning $500; a preliminary panel interview winner for $500 and overall self-expression winner for $600.

She was then named second runner-up and won $2,000 in a cash scholarship. Her total winnings were $3,600 from the Indiana program. Leah told of her many new friendships with other program winners. She then thanked board members Dr. Emily Berning, Robin More, Stephanie Smyth, Pamela Thompson and Anne Titus for assisting her in preparation for the Indiana DYW program.

Bechtold also thanked the board for hosting her welcome home party at the Community Foundation of Whitley County on the day of her return from Indiana DYW. During the week of Indiana DYW, Bechtold met and talked with Aaryan Morrison, the Distinguished Young Woman of America 2018. Morrison entered the Distinguished Young Woman program through the Howard County program and then was named Indiana’s DYW. She won the national title on June 30 in Mobile, Alabama, the site of the national program. Morrison won a total of $13,000 in a cash scholarship.

The board approved the awarding and distribution of its cash scholarships through the Community Foundation to the university or college chosen by the category winners. Category winners were Leah Bechtold and Mikayla Whitehurst. Bechtold as the winner won — $700; panel interview $300; scholastics $300 and spirit, $200 — for a total of $1,500 in cash scholarship. Whitehurst was first runner-up, winning $400; talent $300; self-expression $300 and fitness $300. Her total cash scholarship money was $1,300.

More information can be found on the national website Distinguished Young Woman,, or by calling 260-244-7467.