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Rose Arbittier has the answers ready.

College? The 16-year-old Dallastown Area High School rising senior hopes to go to Princeton. Career goals? She's specific: She wants to run a nonprofit organization that provides special-needs students with socialization activities.

There's a reason she won the interview portion of the statewide competition for Distinguished Young Women on Saturday en route to winning the whole thing.

"I really was not expecting to do so well," she said. "I was very overwhelmed."

Program: The scholarship program, now in its 50th year, focuses on five areas of competition: scholastic, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression.

"The program was formerly called Junior Miss," said program chair Lyn Bergdoll. "The name was changed in 2010 to Distinguished Young Women to better reflect the high caliber and talents of the young women participating."

Applications to the Distinguished Young Women program focus primarily on school records and academics, Bergdoll said. From there, 30 juniors in the York County area are selected to participate in the local competition.

Rose won the local-level competition held at Central York High School in May and also took home awards for talent and scholastics, earning $13,000 in scholarships.

Smart and talented: Rose showed off her singing skill with her rendition of "When I Have Sung My Songs" by Ernest Charles. The song also nabbed her the talent award on the state level, in which she faced off against 16 competitors.

The scholastic portion of the competition relies on experts who take academic records and test scores from participants across many school districts, ensuring fair scoring by making sure grades and records are on the same scale.

The interview portion takes place only between the participants and the judging panel.

"They try to see how articulate the girls are, and how well-versed they are," Bergdoll said. "They basically want to know if they express themselves well, do they communicate well, things like that."

Bergdoll added that the interview takes the bulk of their time during preparation.

"It's 25 percent of the judging," she said. "But it's also a very important life skill. It's not only a huge part of the program but a huge part of how we get jobs, how we present ourselves. We really try to focus on that."

Rose will represent both York County and the state of Pennsylvania next June at the national competition in Mobile, Alabama, where the program originated.

Rose and Bergdoll both said the Distinguished Young Women of York County program is one of the best in the country. Rose credited the local support with contributing to her success on Saturday.

"This year we gave out $43,000 in scholarships," Bergdoll said. "That's leaps and bounds more than any other program, probably more than double some of the closest."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com and Sean Cotter at scotter@yorkdispatch.com.

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