High Heel Boot Camp inspires young girls

Published 8:00 am Monday, July 24, 2023

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Leading up to the July 22 Distinguished Young Women’s (DYW) program younger girls aspiring to be a future participant enjoyed the High Heel Boot Camp for Butler and Lowndes County held at The Ritz Theatre on July 18. Participants ages preschool through sixth grade gathered to learn a dance routine that they later performed at the DYW program. The girls practiced performing and speaking onstage, learned about the Be Your Best Self Program, ate dinner with the DYW participants, and received a t-shirt and admission to the program. 

“The main purpose of the boot camp was to begin promoting the program to the younger girls so they can be aware it’s going to be an opportunity for them as they approach their senior year,” said Butler County Chairman of the DYW program, Starla Jones. “Several girls get to their senior year in high school and they’ve never heard of the program and they’re not prepared because scholastics, talent, fitness, and interviewing is part of the judging process. Those are things you don’t develop overnight, and they need to be prepared ahead of time. This is a scholarship program where they receive cash tuition they might need for their college experience”

Hanna Thrower, the Lowndes County chairman of the DYW program, explained the five elements of the Be Your Best Self program are: “Be Healthy” – be physically fit and drug free, “Be Involved” – serve your community, “Be Studious” – stay in school, “Be Ambitious” – set and achieve goals, and “Be Responsible” – live by moral and ethical principles. These elements were discussed with the young boot-campers. 

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“Our motto for DYW is “Be your best self”, and I think it truly encourages the participants and boot campers to be the best version of themselves,” Thrower said. “I’ve seen the positive effects even with my own daughter, as she tells me every day, ‘I have to find a talent! I have to practice!’ I think the High Heel Boot Camp definitely encourages and excites them to want to be involved one day.”

Having hosted the boot camp for many years now, Jones said that many of the boot campers return to participate in the DYW program as seniors and have even won. 

“It’s fun and you get to learn a bunch of dances,” said Sarah Lowery, one of the fourth grade participants. “Mom said I could learn to play the violin for my talent.”

Another boot-camper, Layla Thompson, is also thinking creatively for her future talent.

“One of my favorite things about the boot camp is I get to make new friends,” said Thompson. “I would like to learn how to do flips for my talent one day.”

An element of DYW that differs from a beauty pageant is that the girls are not competing against each other, Thrower explained. 

“There’s pageants where you’re judged against each other, but during the DYW program you’re judged individually, and we talk to the participants and boot-campers about that,” said Thrower. “They are competing, but they’re competing separately against themselves, as they receive an individual score based on their own grades, talents, interview, presentation, etc.”

The chairman’s hope to continue to encourage both young girls and upcoming seniors in Butler and Lowndes County to join the High Heel Boot Camp and DYW program in the years to come. 

“So many of the younger girls think DYW is just a little pageant,” Jones said. “I want them to know it’s a great opportunity, and to show the community what the program is really all about.”