Saturday night, Julia Johnson was selected as Marion County’s new Distinguished Young Woman in the first in-person pageant in the past couple of years. A junior at Columbia High School, Johnson was among six young women who competed for this year’s title which was held at The Church on Main.
Johnson won more than $20,000 in scholarships from the event, plus an additional $250 scholarship for her “Be Your Best Self” essay.
Last year, the event was held virtually, which kept 2020 DYW, Abby Morris, from doing her final walk at the county’s DYW and prevented DYW 2021, Hannah Watts, from having an in-person program to accept her title. This year, the Marion County Committee recognized both Morris and Watts for their hard work during their time as the latest and current DYWs.
Participants this year included Johnson, Adriane Arinder, Melania Sanders, Kaitlyn Amundson, Allie Prine and Kami Purvis. All the juniors attend Columbia High School except Amundson, who attends West Marion High School.
First alternate was Arinder, who received $2,600 in scholarships, plus an additional $600 scholarship for receiving the Scholastic award.
The second alternate was Prine, who received $1,350 in scholarship, plus an additional $250 scholarship for the Spirit of Distinguished Young Women. All of the contestants vote on the recipient of the spirit award.
In the talent portion of the show, the audience enjoyed the vocal performances of Johnson and Arinder. Johnson sang “Hopefully Devoted to You” from the musical production “Grease.” Arinder performed “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” from the musical “Funny Girl.” Sanders did a drum major routine to the theme song of “The Jetsons.” Amundson showcased a drama interpretation to the gospel song, “Holy is the Lamb.” Prine shared the song “There was Jesus” through sign language, and Purvis finished out the talent portion by doing an original piece on the marimba.
Other acategories the participants took part in included self-expression and fitness. Earlier in the day, each contestant had to interview in front of the judges.
By the end of the evening, Johnson was successful in earning the title, and will now represent Marion County at the state DYW competition in July.
Leitha Williamson served as the mistress of the program.
The various scholarships were from Jones County Community College, Pearl River Community College, William Carey University, Delta State University, Mississippi State University, University of Southern Mississippi, Citizen’s Bank, Kiwanis Club, Internal Medicine Clinic of Columbia, First Southern Bank, Distinguished Young Women of Marion County, Marion General Hospital, Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association and BankPlus.