For the first time in 21 years, Oregon’s Distinguished Young Women Kiele Jarnagin will be representing the city of Keizer at the Distinguished Young Women’s National program in June.
Distinguished Young Women (DYW) is a scholarship program that junior girls can participate in starting at their city’s local level. It’s been 21 years since Amy Kerr represented Keizer at the DYW National program in Mobile, Ala. Kerr won the national title in 2002.
McNary High School senior Kiele Jarnagin will rise up and go on to compete for nationals next month.
Girls first start their DYW journey as a junior in high school through their local program, if applicable, they will be named as their city’s representative for the girl’s graduating class. From there they go on to participate at the state level. If named Distinguished Young Women of their state, the girl will then get the opportunity to showcase herself at the national program.
Jarnagin is a first generation college student and has committed to Willamette University. If she won the National Distinguished Young Women scholarship, Jarnagin wouldn’t have to pay for college.
For the talent portion of the showchase, Jarnagin will be singing a fun and fast paced song titled If You Hadn’t But You Did from the musical Two on the Aisle.
Jarnagin says she feels a little pressure being the second woman from Keizer to go to nationals, but has been feeling the support from her city as well.
“I could go up there and do my best and they would still be super proud of me,” Jarnagin said.
Jarnagin says that her competitive side puts some pressure on her.
When Jarnagin first competed for state she was one out of four girls, and was named first-alternate for Distinguished Young Women of Oregon, meaning she would go on to represent Oregon nationally if the other title holder could not. Jarnagin shockingly found out she was going to nationals one night after finishing a theater show at McNary High School.
“It was such a crazy experience,” she said. “I sprinted downstairs to tell my mom, we had a little moment of jumping for joy that day.”
When it comes to competing in nationals, Jarnagin is most excited about meeting the other participating girls. She says that most of the girls going to Mobile this year have made a group chat over Instagram, where they talk about theater, gossip and what casts were like for theater shows at their different schools. Jarnagin has also never been to Alabama before and is excited for the different experience.
The national competition has a tradition where all participating girls take an oyster shot. The oyster shot is the part Jarnagin feels most nervous about.
“I’m a very picky eater, so it’s going to be a strange experience,” she said.
Jarnagin is nervous for the interview portion of the competition. She says it’s hard for her to come up with opinions on the spot, and struggles in front of smaller audiences versus the larger ones she is used to when doing theater.
“I can perform in front of 500 people and I’d be totally okay,” Jarnagin said. “But a judging panel of five people is frecking to me.”
Jarnagin has been advised to think of interviews as like a conversation with friends.
“But these friends could change my life,” she said.
There are multiple categories of the showcase and Jarnagin has been preparing for them all in different ways. For the interview portion, Jarnagin has been practicing with her mom and Shannon Johns, the chairman for Oregon’s DYW.
Sophia Boru, a staff member at McNary and who frequently does pageants, has also been helping Jarnagin prepare her interview and self expression skills.
Jarnagin continues to work out a lot for the fitness category, and a teacher helped her get a voice teacher in order to prepare her talent.
“So I’ve been preparing in different ways, but altogether I’ve been preparing a lot,” Jarnagin said.
Shortly after graduating high school Jarnagin will have to leave for the competition with only a few days to rest. She hopes to spend those few days with friends, wanting to hangout a bit before she has to leave the state for two weeks. For the first portion of the competition, Jarangin will have to travel alone. Family and friends aren’t allowed until the last few days of the showcase. Jarangin says that on competition day her family and parents—Nicole and Scott Jaranagin—will be there, along with her DYW Keizer team and the chairpersons of the Oregon DYW program.
Jarnagin is excited for the national showcase, and says that Keizer has meant a lot to her in the process.
“Keizer has raised me and they continue to help me, so, Keizer pride” she said.