Kassie Miller named Taylor County's Distinguished Young Woman

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By Calen McKinney



She says she hoped she would win, but would have been happy even if she hadn't.

Competing against 11 other soon-to-be high school seniors, Kassie Miller was named Taylor County's Distinguished Young Woman for 2015 on Saturday night.

Miller, the daughter of John and Shelly Miller, also took home preliminary awards in scholastic, self-expression and interview.

As Taylor County's DYW, Miller received $4,500 in cash scholarships, along with several gifts from local businesses and more than $62,000 in college scholarships.

Miller said it felt good to hear her name called as the winner.

"I felt all my effort had paid off," she said.

Miller said she attended the DYW program for many years and knew that when she was old enough, she wanted to participate.

"I'd always thought that'd be fun," she said.

Miller said the opportunity to win college scholarships was also a plus, as was the opportunity to tackle a goal she had set for herself.

"Definitely, definitely I wanted to win. Had I not won, that would have been fine. I would have done it 10 times over again."

Miller said she prepared for the DYW program by practicing the fitness routine several times a day, undergoing many mock interviews, making sure her piano piece was perfect, and talking with friends who had competed for the DYW title before.

A piano student for 12 years, Miller says her teacher Suellen Shaw greatly helped her prepare for the big night.

"She's my best friend," Miller said.

The many mock interviews, she said, helped her stay up-to-date on current events and become more personable.

A swimmer and soccer and tennis player, Miller said she was surprised to receive the self-expression preliminary award.

"I'm not very graceful by nature ... " she said.

Miller said the time she spent with the 11 other contestants was great and the group got to know each other very well.

"It was the best atmosphere ever," she said.

Miller, who will be a senior at Taylor County High School this fall, plans to attend University of Kentucky or Centre College after graduation. She said she is planning to become a lawyer.

Miller will leave Campbellsville on Sunday to attend Governor's Scholars Program for five week in Morehead. While there, Miller said she will likely take a break from her DYW training. But once she returns home, preparation for the state competition will kick into high gear. The state program will be in Lexington next January.

Miller said she will consider choosing another piano piece for her talent and continue to undergo mock interviews. And once she receives the state fitness and self-expression routines, Miller will start getting those down, too.

"I'm just going to be as proactive as I can and hope for the best," she said.

Typically, Taylor County's DYW program is in August. This year, it was moved to June to allow the county's 2014 DYW, Katelyn McMahan, to participate. McMahan will start class at Transylvania University in August.

Having the program earlier, Miller said, was great and she believes less stressful than having it at its regular time. She said having the program early allowed the participants to focus on preparation as summer break began. And this way, those participating can also be a part of summer activities.

Miller said she thanks her mother, who was named first runner-up at her junior miss program in Union County, for all her support along the way.

"She put up with all my nervous breakdowns," Miller said.

Other Winners

Hannah Howard, the daughter of Marion and Carol Howard, was named first runner-up on Saturday, winning $1,000 in cash and $40,000 in college scholarship money.

Second runner-up was Rachel Hinton, the daughter of Dr. Stephen and Debbie Hinton. For that title, she received a $500 cash scholarship and more than $36,000 in college scholarship money.

Hinton also received the talent award for her performance of "Watch My Fingers Rock" on the piano. She received a $500 cash award for that honor.

Jilly Benningfield was scholastic runner-up and received $500 in cash and $1,000 in college scholarship money. She is the daughter of Ron and Laura Benningfield.

The spirit award went to Taylor Smoot, the daughter of Kelly Smoot and Dr. Randy Smoot. She received a $200 cash scholarship.

The Be Your Best Self and fitness awards were presented to Gabby Pyles, daughter of Kim Blevins. Pyles received $1,000 in cash scholarships.

Savannah Delagarza received a leadership award, which came with $250 cash. She is the daughter of Charlie and Tonya Delagarza.

See more photos from the program in the Thursday, June 12, issue and in a slideshow on the home page.