ALEXANDRIA, LA.-For the past 55 years the program formerly known as America's Junior Miss has been providing not only millions of dollars in scholarship money, but life changing experiences for talented high school girls.
For Alexandria native Emily Redmond, her experience all began when she brought home the state title of Louisiana's Distinguished Young Woman.
"When they called my name to go forward I was just kind of like... me? There's so many other girls and any of us could have won and all of us would have been happy for everyone," says Redmond.
Emily is headed to Mobile, Alabama next week to compete in the national competition...a contest that includes many famous winners like Diane Sawyer and Debra Messing.
"I'm excited to go to through the whole experience because they say the nationals is just crazy and overwhelming and one of the greatest experiences of your life," adds Redmond.
An experience, that's all part of a program that Emily's mother says is very rewarding.
"They are the kind of girls that you want your daughter to be surrounded by. They are really the cream of the crop around the nation," says Vicki Redmond.
The program is an excellent opportunity for young ladies from across the state and right here in CenLa.
"Provide a program that will allow them to excel in scholarship, allow them to excel in self esteem, and will allow them a platform or a mission that they can compete for scholarship dollars for any university in the United States," says Beard.
So for high school girls here in CenLa looking for a way to show off their smarts or make new friends, Emily has a special message.
"I encourage every girl to participate in it, because even if they don't win and get the scholarship money they get some of the greatest friendships that they've ever had," says Redmond.
Emily's friends and family hope that she can be the first Alexandria native to bring home the national title to Louisiana.
"I'm going to go and do the very best that I can and if I happen to win then that's what I do."
And if she is lucky enough to nab the national title of America's Distinguished Young Woman she will take home a $50,000 college scholarship which she could put to use when she starts school at Texas Christian University this fall. Redmond plans to major in business and public relations.