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Western senior earns title of Distinguished Young Woman of Howard County

Anissa Washington advances to state competition in February

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ACCOMPLISHMENT — Western High School senior Anissa Washington won the local Distinguished Young Woman program on Sept. 12.

A new Distinguished Young Woman of Howard County has been named.

On Sept. 12, Western High School Senior Anissa Washington won the local Distinguished Young Woman program, earning thousands in scholarship dollars and advancing to the state competition in February. The senior said she was grateful for the win.

“It feels really accomplished because ever since I started the program, no matter what, even if I didn’t get a scholarship, I knew I was going to get a lot out of it. I can honestly say that I have grown as a person, just working with the other girls and learning how to talk to other people,” Washington said.

Washington joined six other local contestants on the stage at Cross America to compete in several categories for the chance to win scholarship dollars. In addition to earning the biggest award for the night – being named the local representative for the Distinguished Young Woman program – she also received the awards for interview, self-expression, talent, and Be Your Best Self, each a $300 cash scholarship for a total of $3,200.

Washington, the daughter of Dr. Lance Washington and Lisa Washington, plans to attend Indiana University Bloomington next fall to study nursing and potentially go on to earn a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner.

Currently, Washington works as a certified home health aide at a local assisted living facility.

Also earning scholarship money was Sarah Manuel, Western High School, who was named first runner-up, a $1,000 scholarship. She also won the Scholastic Award, a $300 cash scholarship. She is the daughter of Toby and Rachel Manuel.

Anna Grobengieser, Western High School, was named second runner-up, receiving a $500 cash scholarship. She also received the fitness and spirit awards, each $300 cash scholarships, for a total of $1,100. Grobengieser is the daughter of Thomas and Nancy Grobengieser.

The Peoples’ Choice, voted on by the audience, was Keyton Romero, Eastern High School, who received a $100 Visa gift card. Romero is the daughter of Chase and Aimee Romero.

Distinguished Young Woman of Howard County Program Chair Sheila Stephens commended this year’s participants, as she said they all were strong.

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TOP CONTENDERS — Distinguished Young Woman of Howard County Anissa Washington (center) stands with Anna Grobengieser (left), second runner-up, and Sarah Manuel (right), first runner-up.

“This group of girls this year was extremely strong across the board. A lot of times my assistant and I, we can look and say, ‘This one’s doing to do really well. This one’s going to be OK. This one’s going to be all right.’ But we can usually kind of figure it out,” Stephens said. “We had no clue.”

As for Washington being named the winner, Stephens said she was an excellent choice.

“Every year I get the most wonderful girl ever, and Anissa is so very well-rounded. She has a wonderful personality first of all, and she is great at interview … Anybody she’s around, she can just pull them in and start talking with them. She’s very social, very personable, and so she draws you in,” Stephens said. “She’s a beautiful girl, too. From the minute you see her, you’re just drawn toward her, and then with her personality, she just shines.”

For the past couple of years, the local Distinguished Young Woman program has been on a winning streak. In 2017, Kokomo High School’s Aaryan Morrison won the Distinguished Young Woman of Howard County program, won state, and went on to win nationals, becoming the first person from Indiana to ever hold the title of Distinguished Young Woman of American.

Then, 2018’s local rep, Bridget Konopa, Our Lady of the Rosary School, won first runner-up at the state competition, and last year’s representative, Grace Knolinski, Western High School, won the state competition.

As for Washington, Stephens said she expects her to do "very well" at state.

“We’ve kind of been on a little run here lately with Howard County having some wonderful participants … We’re kind of on a roll here, and we expect Anissa to do very well. No pressure. I will definitely tell her no pressure, but I expect that she will do very well,” Stephens said.

Washington thanked her family and friends for their support.

“I have a really great support system that really has always been rooting me on, and I think that’s really important. Sometimes people kind of overlook that you are who raises you and everything like that, but I would definitely want to say that I’ve had a lot of great role models throughout my life, and I can’t wait to take all the skills that I have learned from this amazing program and just absolutely grow and blossom with it and take everything with me for the rest of my life,” Washington said.

The state program takes place in February 2021.