These women are distinguished

The Distinguished Young Women of Keizer were back on stage at McNary High School Saturday, April 9, naming Kiele Jarnagin and Anna Sponable as the 2023 representatives.

Jarnagin nearly swept the awards, receiving $250 scholarships from five of the six categories. She won the spirit, self-expression, fitness and scholastics categories outright. Her monologue from Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband tied for the talent award with Lilly Purkey, who sang Top of My School by Katherine Lynn-Rose. Both Jarnagin and Purkey received $250 scholarships.

“The first time I heard my name I was like ‘oh my gosh, I actually won something, this is crazy,’” Jarnagin said. “When they kept calling my name, oh no, this is feeling a little too real right now. Every single emotion came at me all at once. I’m surprised I wasn’t crying.”

The sixth category, interview, was awarded to the first alternate McKenna Eppley.

Sponable’s emotional shock at being named a Distinguished Young Woman of Keizer was apparent when her name was called.

“I was just expecting to sit there and say ‘yay,’ but now I’m here and can’t wait to represent Keizer,” Sponable said. “I was kind of hoping to win, but winning itself, wow, I wasn’t expecting it.”

On top of the $1000 scholarships they each received, Jarnagin and Sponable will now advance to the state competition for a chance at additional scholarship money and to move on to the national program in Mobile, Alabama in June.

Being named the Distinguished Young Women of Keizer comes with more honors than the scholarships and opportunities at the state and possibly national levels. While both Jarnagin and Sponable look forward to competing and learning at state, one thing stands out to them.

“Going in the Iris Parade, I can’t wait for that,” Sponable said. “I’ve always dreamed of being in the Iris Parade just like the previous Distinguished Young Women.”

Jarnagin sees the title as an opportunity to be a role model and continue helping out with the program next year, inspiring future classes as she was by the class of 2020.

“I was just in complete awe because they were strong and independent women, but they also had their sense of femininity with them,” Jarnagin said. “I want to be that person on that float. I want to be that inspirational person that little kids look up to.”

Two former Distinguished Young Women of Keizer received unexpected recognition. 2022 representatives Ellie Auvinen and Sydney Smith were part of the night’s proceedings. The evening began with Auvinen singing the national anthem accompanied by Smith on the piano.

Later, both Auvinen and Smith performed their talent showcases from last year in front of the crowd, something they didn’t get to do last year due to the competition moving online due to COVID protocols.

“There’s an energy that comes with these local, live performances that can not be matched,” Auvinen said. “It was amazing to be able to be back and perform this year.”

Additionally, last year’s changes also caused Auvinen and Smith to miss out on the $1000 scholarships normally given out. However, to the surprise of Auvinen and Smith, both were awarded with scholarships Saturday night.

One of the evening’s MCs, membership specialist for the Keizer Chamber of Commerce Fatima Falcon, was a Distinguished Young Woman of Keizer 2016, and understands what the program is meant to offer its participants.

“One of the biggest points we give to young participants is public speaking ability, and being on Zoom robbed them of that,” Falcon said. “Them being able to be part of this program, even though they weren’t competing, was such a key moment for them in their Keizer career.”

Anna Sponable reacts in shock when announced as a 2023 Distinguished Woman of Keizer as McKenna Eppley and Anet Quintero Salgado cheer her on. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)Fatima Falcon, one of the MCs for Saturday’s Distinguished Young Women of Keizer event, holds up an applause sign while giving her introduction to the audience along with 2022 representatives Sydney Smith and Ellie Auvinen. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)Ellie Auvinen performs her monologue from last year’s competition. Auvinen and the other contestants were unable to perform in front of a live crowd last year due to the competition being moved online. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)2023 Representatives Kiele Jarnagin and Anna Sponable pose for photos together following the Distinguished Young Women of Keizer event on April 9 at McNary High School. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)The 2023 contestants pose at the end of their fitness routine at Saturday’s Distinguished Women of Keizer event at McNary High School. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)Anna Sponable sings This Could Change Everything by Francesca Battistelli for the talent showcase at the Distinguished Women of Keizer event April 9. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)McKenna Eppley plays Menuet #1 from Cello Suite #1 by Johann Sebastian Bach during rehearsals prior to the Distinguished Women of Keizer event on April 9. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)2022 Representatives Ellie Auvinen and Sydney Smith react on stage when told they will receive the $1,000 scholarships this year that they did not receive at last year’s competition. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)2023 Representative Kiele Jarnagin poses with her little sister Isabella Zaragoza Lòpez after the Distinguished Young Women of Keizer competition at McNary High School on April 9. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)