Local students win scholarships in state Distinguished Young Women competition

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FORTUNA- Kayleen Kemp and Sophie Northern are much more than average high school girls. The two teens are putting Humboldt County on the map. They recently competed in the Distinguished Young Women of California state scholarship program, both bringing home awards to Humboldt County. Their success marks the first time in program history two North Coast representatives have won in the same competition.

“You compete in five different aspects, so that's scholastics, talent, self expression, fitness, and interview,” said Kemp, a rising senior at Fortuna High School. “Those different categories are weighted different ways and you compete in each category and its to see who's the most well rounded person to go on and represent California at the national level.”

The Distinguished Young Women program started in the 1950’s and is the largest national scholarship program for high school girls. Sophie and Kayleen both won in a local competition for the program in April while juniors in high school. Just two weeks ago, they competed again at the state level.

“It was a giant process of filling out paperwork and all these questionnaires and packing, the packing list was unbelievable but it was so worth it,” said Northern, a rising senior at Arcata High School. “It was absolutely worth it, 100 percent.”

The 10-day competition was held in Bakersfield this year. There, 29 girls from across the state competed for the chance to move on to nationals.

“It was such a blessing to get to know so many girls on such a personal level and the bond that you form with the girls is so much more worth more than any of the awards you could have gotten and it's great to know that I have 28 new best friends and it's been a great experience,” Kemp said.

While at the competition, Sophie won the Spirit award and Kayleen won the Be Your Best Self Essay award. Both girls received $500 scholarships and are only the third and fourth people to ever win at state from Humboldt County.

“It’s an honor just for anyone to win an award at state. And then for both of us to win from Humboldt County, it was really an honor,” Northern said.