CHIPLEY - The Washington County branch of the Distinguished Young Women is preparing to send its candidate to the upcoming state competition.


At the competition to be held Saturday, Feb. 23 at the Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium, Zoe Shafer, an honor student and senior at Holmes County High School, will compete against other young women from throughout the state for an opportunity to go to the national competition, which will be held in June in Mobile, Alabama.

"She has been preparing since August," said Angela Harr, Washington County DYW Chairman. "We've been working with her on talent and public speaking. She has had a 2016 as her coach on her talent. It's just kind of a joint effort. It takes a village."

The program evaluates young women in the categories of scholastic, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression.

Established in 1958 under its former name America's Junior Miss, DYW is not a pageant, Harr stressed. There is no crown or sash often affiliated with beauty contests.

"Scholastics are a big part of the competition," she said. "Interview is a big part of competition."

Harr started a branch in Washington County about four years ago; previously, the local program functioned under an at-large branch that covered all of Northwest Florida. However, after her daughter, Robin, competed and won $54,000 in cash and scholarships, including a four-year scholarship to Troy University, there was a request that came up for Harr to start a local branch.

And, she did.

"It is a joy. I have seen so many girls," she said. "It helps them get out of their comfort zone, it shows them how to present your best self."

Harr said she expects Shafer to represent the county well, despite the fewer number of points given for dual enrollment classes versus advanced placement and International Baccalaureate programs, which are not offered in Washington County District Schools.

" Unfortunately of our county, we suffer a little bit of a setback ... but, they can make it up in other areas," Harr said. "Zoe has worked really hard and we just have to see how it goes."

Distinguished Young Women of Washington County is open to all junior girls residing in Washington County.  There is no cost to participate. For more information about the Distinguished Young Women program, visit For more information on the local program, visit Facebook page DYWWashingtonCountyFlorida, website www.washington.