DISTINGUISHED YOUNG WOMAN: Self-improving program leads local student to state

COLUMBIA CITY —A party of family, friends and fellow classmates hugged and congratulated 18-year-old Columbia City High School student Michaela Thomas as she prepared to leave for Kokomo Friday.Michaela is Whitley County’s 47th representative to compete at the Indiana state level for the 52nd Annual Distinguished Young Women (DYW) program, formally known as Junior Miss. Michaela believes the program has already taught her some valuable life lessons. “I highly encourage any Junior girls this year to participate next year because I think it’s just a very good, informative experience that helps you to look at yourself,” said Michaela.All 20 women competing for the title of Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana 2012 will demonstrate their talents and answer questions from the judges. The winner of state will move on to compete in the 55th Annual Distinguished Young Woman of America Finals.Michaela said practicing her dance routine, a mix of jazz and ballet, and answers to questions has really encouraged her to seek improvement in every aspect of her life, building her confidence and self-esteem.“I don’t think I really realized what my capabilities were, and this has really stretched me,” said Michaela. “I am expecting state to stretch me even more.”Tours, two nights of preliminaries and a night of finals will conclude Michaela’s schedule before she returns Sunday.With a bright smile, Michaela said she is just happy to be attending state this year, as this has been her dream since she was a little girl.