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Raikes reigns as DYW

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'I feel so blessed right now. I'm honored really.'

By Zac Oakes

Standing in front of her fellow contestants, judges, and a capacity crowd at the Taylor County High School Auditorium, Taylor County High School senior Lexi Raikes was crowned 2018 Distinguished Young Woman of Taylor County.

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Raikes, the daughter of Jeremy and Tiffany Cornish, said she would have been happy for any of the 12 other contestants to win, but she was honored that she was chosen.

“I feel so blessed right now,” Raikes said. “I’m honored really… and I am so proud of the other girls in the program because they did so well.”

The contest consists of several parts that are scored together to determine a winner. Categories include scholastics, physical fitness, talent, interviews, and self-expression.

For the talent portion of the contest, Raikes wowed the audience with a poem entitled “Distinguished” performed in a slam poetry style.

During self-expression, Raikes was asked if she was awarded an all-expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world, where she would go, and to explain her choice.

She said she and her mother have talked about traveling to Italy for a very long time, so it would be an easy decision on where they would travel.

She said achieving the honor would not have been possible without several different people.

“I have had several amazing people helping me every step of the way,” Raikes said. “I certainly have to thank Suellen Shaw. She was very helpful.”

Being a contestant in Distinguished Young Woman is no easy task. There are a lot of practice and preparation hours that go into competing in the program. From perfecting fitness routines to repeating interview questions and attending rehearsals, being a contestant shows a great deal of dedication.

“There are a lot of practices,” Raikes said. “It takes a lot of dedication. It takes a lot of time. There are a lot of run-throughs of the fitness routine and a lot of practice interviews. A lot happens leading up to this.”

Raikes, however, said being named Distinguished Young Woman of Taylor County was worth the hard work.

“I really feel like all of the hard work has paid off,” she said.

The overall experience, Raikes said, is one that she will never forget.

“This has just been one of the most fulfilling, amazing experiences of my life,” she said.

Next up for Raikes is the Kentucky Distinguished Young Woman contest, which is slated to take place Jan. 12-13, 2018, according to the organization’s web site.

Raikes said she is excited for it and is honored to represent Taylor County at the state level. She said she knows it will be a great experience for her.

However, she said she isn’t looking too far ahead and is very excited to achieve the honor of being Taylor County’s Distinguished Young Woman.

The 2017 Taylor County Distinguished Young Woman, Blair Lamb, who now attends Northern Kentucky University, presented Raikes the honor.

Raikes is involved with several programs at Taylor County High School, including Cook’s Kids, Y-Club, and she is a member of the soccer team. She also participated in the Governor’s Scholars Program this past summer.

Raikes also won the preliminary interview and self-expression awards.

Matti Blakeman, daughter of David and Jill Blakeman, was named first runner up and won preliminary self-expression, fitness, and talent awards.

Second runner up was Macaela Hansford, daughter of Robert Hansford and Angela Skaggs. She also won a preliminary talent award.

Sami Jo Smith was the Spirit Award winner.

Jenna Smith won a preliminary interview award.

Faith Gaddis was the scholastics runner-up.

Also new to the program this year was the DYW Little Sisters Program. Each contestant had a “little sister” that they mentored and grew a relationship with in preparation for the contest. The program hopes that investing in girls ages 6-10 will continue to grow interest in DYW and provide leadership growth for participants.

Distinguished Young Woman offers approximately $10,000 in cash scholarships.