The winner of the 2012-13 Distinguished Young Women of the Lakewood Area competition is Southwestern Central School's Veronica Schuver.
Ms. Schuver won the crown on Saturday at the Jamestown High School auditorium, earning a $3,000 scholarship for her victory and a $375 award for her talent presentation. She will move on to represent the Lakewood area in the statewide competition which takes place in Albany next February.
"It's just exhilarating," said Ms. Schuver, who plans to pursue a career in math or English. "I love all of these girls and they deserve all that they want and even more. I've gained so much confidence from this and gained 14 amazing new friends, and I'm so glad I did. I want to thank my piano teacher, my parents, my chaperone, my little sister and everybody in charge of this. They put on a great show."
Award winners of this year’s Distinguished Young Women of the Lakewood area competition. Pictured, from left, are Morgan Knight, Luciana Sena, McKenzie Cass, Shawna Raymond, Veronica Schuver, Olivia Nugent, Allison Munella and Morgan Fiebelkorn.
P-J photo by Gavin Paterniti
This year's Distinguished Young Women of the Lakewood Area program, formerly known as Lakewood Area Junior Miss, showcased the talents of 15 regional high school seniors from seven different high schools - Jamestown, Southwestern, Frewsburg, Maple Grove, Randolph, Chautauqua Lake and Falconer.
The program was the first time that the three co-chairwomen - Danielle Bongiovanni, Christine Yocum and Kaycee Currie - had served in that capacity. According to Currie, who also acted as the talent coordinator, this year's program is one that she will always remember.
"This year being (the co-chairwomens') first year was kind of a learning experience," she said. "We had a lot to do and it was all brand new to us. But what made the program so much easier for us is that these 15 girls have been absolutely amazing. I could not have asked for a better group of girls. I wrote them a letter beforehand and told them that I would never have a first group of girls again, so they will forever be in my heart."
As for the winner, Ms. Currie is very pleased with the results.
"I'm literally ecstatic. I would have been pleased with taking any one of these girls to states, but I couldn't be happier with the winner and Veronica is going to be a great representative," she said.
Co-chairwoman Christine Yocum had similar comments.
"We're very proud of Veronica and all the girls. They're all winners and it was just a magnificent evening." she said. "It's always a great time and we would like to encourage high school juniors to consider doing this program as seniors."
The theme for this year's program was "Stronger" and incorporated categories such as fitness and academics, which determined contestants' physical and mental strength.
Following a deliberation period for the judges to determine the winner, the results were read by Melissa Holmes, who was the evening's Mistress of Ceremonies. Ms. Holmes is an anchor and reporter at WGRZ-Channel 2 and is also a former Erie County Junior Miss.
The first runner-up was Frewsburg's Shawna Raymond, who earned a $1,500 scholarship for runner-up and a $375 scholarship for fitness. The winner of the $1,000 scholarship for second runner-up and a $375 scholarship for her panel interview was McKenzie Cass, also from Frewsburg. The recipient of the third runner-up scholarship of $800 was Luciana Sena of Chautauqua Lake, who also earned a $375 fitness scholarship. The $600 fourth runner-up scholarship winner was Morgan Knight, also from Frewsburg, and recipient of a $375 panel interview scholarship.
The winner of a $500 scholarship and title of Spirit of Junior Miss went to Morgan Fiebelkorn of Randolph. The $500 'Be Your Best Self Scholarship' went to Falconer's Allison Munella while Olivia Nugent of Jamestown took home the $500 'director's' award scholarship.
Other scholarship winners included: Johnna Graham of Jamestown, who earned $750 for scholastic achievement and her talent presentation; Mary Schmitz of Chautauqua Lake, who earned $750 for scholastic achievement and poise; and Kenzie Sandberg of Maple Grove, who earned $375 for poise.