Ten college-bound Dallas Independent School District women came together to compete for scholarships on Thursday, March 28. But unlike outdoor competitions pitting athletes against each other, the Women LEAD (Lead ∗ Excel ∗ Achieve ∗ Dream) Scholarship Program was a friendly war of words with the playing field being the Junior League of Dallas headquarters. While there could only be one winner, all proved to eloquent, passionate and impressive, making the judges’ selection tough. Here’s a report from the field:
The Junior League of Dallas (JLD) awarded $25,000 in collegiate scholarships to four female college-bound students Thursday, March 28, during the annual Women LEAD speech competition and awards ceremony. The competition is open to female high school seniors who are currently attending Emmett J. Conrad High School, South Oak Cliff High School or Thomas Jefferson High School.
Scholarship eligibility requires the students to have a 3.0 GPA at the end of their junior year, have plans to attend a two- or four-year college or university, and have a good record of character and service to the community.
In September of last year, the committee held workshops at the three schools to review the application and scholarship program. After the finalists were selected in February, JLD members re-visited the schools to hold public speaking workshops. The committee scored applications based on the criteria of academic performance, resume, letters of recommendation, transcript and an essay. The top 10 ranked applicants were invited to present their speeches Thursday evening in front of four judges including Junior League of Dallas President Alicia Hall, Ryan LLC Community Outreach Manager Amy Kendrick Lee, Judge Amber Givens Davis of the 282nd Judicial Court Dallas and Dallas ISD Director of Counseling Services JoAnn Jackson Powell.
Before the finalists presented their speeches, WFAA News 8 Anchor/ Women LEAD Emcee Marie Saavedra visited with each of the women to get to know their stories more personally. She then took the stage to welcome the audience and expressed excitement about how each of these women are future leaders and the powerful impact they will have on our community in the years to come. Marie thanked each woman for being open and honest about the hardships they have faced and encouraged the finalists by telling them that they serve as an inspiration to every person in the room.
The oratory competition featured speeches by each of the 10 female finalists who were given the prompt – “Imagine yourself as an honored alumnus (graduate) of your high school, five years post-graduation. You’ve been asked to provide the commencement speech to the 2024 graduating class. Who will you be? What would you want to tell your younger self and this class of graduates?”
Guests and judges heard from each student as to how they overcame individual hardships to achieve their dreams, and offered advice to future college students based on their own experiences. The young women shared goals of becoming business owners, doctors, CEO’s and music educators. But for many, these dreams wouldn’t come without overcoming obstacles.
Several are the first in their families to finish high school and have witnessed their parents struggle to make ends meet. On top of these hardships, each woman balanced their schoolwork with work and/or activities such as band, drill team, debate team, National Honor Society and student council. An overall theme was to dream, no matter the obstacles you face, and work hard for what you want – you are your own proof you can do anything.
After the speeches concluded and votes were tallied, the judges determined the winners and awarded a total of $25,000 in collegiate scholarship funds to four students based on the merits of their scholarship application and speech presentation. Fourth place winner Miriam Resendez won a $5,000 scholarship; third place winner Abigail Garcia won a $5,000 scholarship; second place winner Rooha Hagharmehdiabadi won a $5,000 scholarship and first place winner Adrienne Kelly won a $10,000 scholarship.
All finalists received beautiful bouquets of flowers courtesy of McShan Florist. Additional event sponsors included: Christy Jean Jewelry, Half Price Books, Newk’s Eatery, Tiff’s Treats, Topo Chico and WFAA.
* Photo credit: Celeste Cameron