Gifford a ‘Distinguished Young Women Finalist’

Kira Gifford, a senior-to-be at Minneota, is one of four girls that will be participating in Minnesota’s 2018 Distinguished Young Women scholarship program that will be held July 15 at Eden Prairie High School.

“I am very honored to have the opportunity to represent Ivanhoe in the Distinguished Young Women program,” said Gifford, who is the daughter of Brandon and Kristy Gifford that live on a farm outside of Arco.

She also has two brothers, Cody, a sophomore; and Brady, an eighth-grader. The other three state finalists are Gabby Thooft of Tyler, Laura Woltjer of Spicer and Gianna Rucki of Lakeville.

The Distinguished Young Women (previously known as Junior Miss) program begins at the local level. Participants advancing to the state competition are selected from community-sponsored programs, or state-sponsored at-large programs.

“The Ivanhoe program is held in conjunction with our town's Polish Days celebration every August,” Gifford said.

“The program I participated in was held last August (2016) at Lincoln Elementary.” Gifford left for the state competition Tuesday, July 11 to attend rehearsal prior to the actual competition.

“Once we arrive in the Twin Cities, we stay with a host family for the rest of the week,” Gifford noted.

“Along with rehearsing for the program, we will also participate in sessions to improve public speaking and interviewing, volunteer at Hope Lodge, present the 'Be Your Best Self' program at the YMCA, and tour KARE 11.”

The Distinguished Young Women program was founded in 1958 in Mobile, AL, and is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls in the nation. During its 57-year operation, the program has provided life-changing experiences for more than 730,000 young women across the nation.

“Last year, Distinguished Young Women provided more than $367 million in cash and college scholarship opportunities to program participants at the local, state and national level,” said Amy Clarke, Minnesota State DYW Chairperson.

“The mission of Distinguished Young Women is to positively impact the lives of young women by providing a transformative experience that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent,” said Clarke.

All state finalists will compete in five judged categories: Scholastics (25 percent of the participant's overall score), Interview (25 percent), Talent (20 percent), Fitness (15 percent), and Self-Expression (15 percent).

“The Scholastics portion is evaluated by a separate panel of judges prior to the program and based off our school transcripts and academic related activities,” Gifford explained.

“For Interviews, each participant will meet with the panel of judges the day of the program prior where they will be asked questions to get to know us. “The talent can be anything the participant chooses, but has a time limit of 90 seconds,” Gifford said For the Talent category, Gifford will be performing the vocal solo “Better Place” by Rachel Platten. “I chose this song because it fits my vocal range and I can connect to the message of the lyrics,” she told.

“I choose to sing because I have always enjoyed singing whether it’s in choir at school or just for fun around the house.”

The required Fitness routine was sent to each finalist recently in order for each girl to learn prior to rehearsal week. They will finalize the routine as a group during rehearsals. For Self-Expression, each finalist will be asked an impromptu on-stage question and then will be judged on their response All program levels use the same categories and evaluation methods to determine winners. The state winner advances to the national competition held June 2018 in Mobile, Alabama.

“I wanted to participate in the DYW program because of the scholarship opportunities it provided and other life skills the program focuses on, such as interviewing, public speaking, leadership, and community involvement,” Gifford explained.

“I also have been supporting and watching our local Ivanhoe program since I was little and always knew I wanted to be a part of it when I was old enough to participate.”

Gifford is involved in a number of school and community activities. Her current and past activities she's been involved in include National Honor Society, Student Council, FFA, choir, band, trap shooting, volleyball, basketball, golf, mock trial and speech.

She is also actively involved in Lincoln County 4-H, 4-H Leaders Council and Bethany-Elim Church. “Volunteer opportunities I’ve had through these organizations include being a 4-H Camp Counselor, helping with the Santa Shop at Ivanhoe Holiday Bazaar, a chef for Gourmet Guys and Gals, and various service projects through the church. I enjoy volunteering and giving back to the community through organizations,” she responded when asked.

Gifford, also a member of the Southwest Figure Skating Club in Marshall, is employed with Veire’s Gas Station in Ivanhoe.

During the summer, she also works at the Ivanhoe Swimming Pool as a lifeguard and swimming lessons instructor.

Participants from the Class of 2018 will compete for $2,000 in cash scholarships, as well as several college-granted scholarships, and the opportunity to represent Minnesota at nationals.

The Minnesota representative, along with 50 other high school winners, will compete for $100,000 in cash scholarships at nationals.

Kira Gifford

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