‘Just Be Yourself’

Elyse Jones Wins Chautauqua Area Scholarship Program

Jamestown High School student Elyse Jones performs “Ballade in G Minor” by Frederic Chopin. She became this year's Chautauqua Area Scholarship Program champion, in part due to her piano talent. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

“Just be yourself,” Jamestown High School student Elyse Jones said in her acceptance after winning the Chautauqua Area Scholarship Program competition.

High school senior girls represented five area schools Saturday evening at Southwestern High School in a competition that helped them show off their personal development into high-achieving young women.

Jones won the $4,000 scholarship, top honors in the program that featured 14 participating high school senior girls all aiming to show off their unique talents, personality and skillsets in a program themed after “This Is Me,” the hit song that exemplifies the girls’ unapologetic commitment to being themselves.

She wants girls growing up to be able to accept and love themselves, the first step to being the best versions of themselves. Jones said it hadn’t really sunk in that she had won and took her mentorship experience with her “little sister” to heart.

Part of the program placed third-grade girls with each contestant so that they could learn from role models who were determined to be high-achieving in academics, community involvement, extracurriculars and moral character.

The program’s competition has gone on for three years now, and this was the first time mentors were all seen as so impactful to their little sisters that they all received additional $100 scholarships.

In the overall competition, runners up included second place Chautauqua Lake Central School student Shannon McKee, who received a $2,000 scholarship, third place Jamestown High School student Morgan Tracy, who received a $1,000 scholarship, and fourth place Southwestern High School student Thea Keppel, who received an $800 scholarship.

The competition actually took place over the course of months with rehearsals, mentoring the little sisters and an extensive interview process. Scholastic achievement and success in the interview both decided 25 percent of each contestant’s overall score. A talent portion decided 20 percent of the score, a physical fitness routine decided 15 percent, and a self-expression portion with formal wear and a question and answer period made up the remaining 15 percent of scores.

The question sought to know which charity each contestant would donate to if she received $1 million.

Jones said she would donate to a charity that would focus on environmental research and search for efficient alternative fuel resources. She said her parents always taught her to recycle, and after she saw the landscapes of Greece and Italy on a spring break trip, she solidified her beliefs in taking care of the planet.

With her little sister Gracie Watkins, Jones described themselves as a “creative” duo. Jones also took home a $500 scholarship in the talent competition after playing “Ballade in G Minor” by Frederic Chopin on piano and earned another $500 scholarship for her scholastic achievement.

More than $18,000 was raised for the CASP scholarship fund, so there were plenty of $500 awards to give out. Southwestern High School student Elisabeth Meyer also earned the academics award, and Jamestown High School student Sofia Isabella earned the second talent award for singing an Italian operetta.

McKee and Frewsburg High School student Claire Johnson earned scholarships for scoring the highest in their interviews. Johnson and Southwestern High School student Ashley Lundmark took home the fitness scholarships, and Johnson and Tracy earned the self-expression scholarships. Johnson’s answer to the question of which charity to donate to was to give the money to volunteer firefighters fighting the forest fires in California. Tracy said she would give the money to the Humane Society because she wants animals, like her adopted dog, to live healthy lives.

The contestants themselves chose a recipient of the spirit award for the competition; Southwestern High School student Hannah Sullivan was chosen. Lundmark earned a scholarship for sharing the best advice to her little sister on what she wished she would have known in third grade. The director’s award was presented to Panama High School student Lauren Constantino for her dedication to the program and respect of her peers. Isabella was chosen to receive the scholarship for greatest personal growth.