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Local Dallastown graduate and the Distinguished Young Woman of Pennsylvania, Rose Arbittier will compete in the national Distinguished Young Women (DYW) competition  June 23-25.

Having won both York County and Pennsylvania's titles for the program last year, she will now compete against 50 young women, one from each state and the District of Columbia, in the 59th national finals.

Arbittier will leave for Mobile, Alabama, this weekend, just a few days after graduating from Dallastown. She will stay with a host family for two weeks leading up to the competition.

"I can't even describe how excited I am," Arbittier said. "We've all been talking, the 50 other girls and myself, and we've been getting to know each other before we go. I've heard from my host family; I'm so excited for it."

About Arbittier: The Distinguished Young Woman decided to get involved with the program after her older sister  Bonnie Arbittier  competed six years ago. Rose saw how much Bonnie learned from the program and how she was better prepared for college interviews, all of which factored into Rose's own decision to participate.

The girls compete in the same categories at all levels: scholastic, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression. The scholastic and interview portions of the competition are not done on stage. For the self-expression portion of the competition, the girls write and memorize a short speech responding to a question.

For the fitness portion, Rose Arbittier explained, all of the girls participate together in a fitness routine, including push-ups and squats, and they also have an individual fitness routine that they're judged on. The judges look for strength, flexibility and stamina.

"One of the parts of the program has to do with being healthy, so they want to be sure that health is a part of your life and you can stay physically fit while you're involved in everything that you do," Arbittier said.

For the talent portion, Arbittier has performed "When I Have Sung My Songs," a classical song composed by Ernest Charles. She plans to sing the same song at the national competition. For both the county and state competition, Arbittier won the talent award, according to Lyn Bergdoll, the program chair for York County's chapter.

The song was chosen because it reminded Arbittier of her grandmother, who died recently.

"I wanted something to showcase my talent but also something emotional (that) would resonate with the audience," Arbittier said. "The song is about missing someone, and you're singing the song because of them."

In the fall, Arbittier will attend Princeton University to study public policy with a concentration in nonprofit management.

About DYW: York County's Distinguished Young Women chapter has existed 51 years. Nine times in the past, York's DYW program has sent students to compete nationally; one of them was a first runner-up.

Bergdoll was quick to explain that DYW is not a beauty pageant but a scholarship program designed to help young women with future job and collegiate endeavors. Girls are accepted based on their academic transcripts, community service and leadership that they've displayed.

Applications are submitted each year in January and February, at the end of which 30 juniors are accepted into the program. These 30 girls compete on the first Saturday of May each year, using the months in between to practice and prepare. The winner from York County goes on to compete against other winners from the state in August. The following June, the winner of the state contest competes at nationals.

"We're always proud of the girls," Bergdoll said. "This program is about being your best and doing your best and learning everything you can learn. It's not about the winning, per se. All the girls who participate at the local level find that this changes their life."

According to Bergdoll, the York County DYW program awards more scholarship money to its participants than any other local program in the country: $40,000 total is given out. In addition what's given to the overall winners, portions go to competitors who excel in different areas, such as fitness and self-expression, and for other awards, such as the leadership and spirit awards. Additional scholarships are  awarded at the state and national levels.

"It's a joy to be able to work with the girls, and people love coming to the program," Bergdoll said. "They're amazed at what girls who are 16 years old do on stage. They can see all their accomplishments. It's such a focus on the positive, and it makes us proud."

Arbittier leaves for Mobile on Saturday and will spend the time leading up to the competition participating in team-building activities, making appearances at various events and spending hours rehearsing.

If Arbittier wins at the national finals, she would spend one year representing the DYW program making appearances and promoting the program's national outreach initiative, "Be Your Best Self." The outreach program strives to combat issues affecting students today, such as childhood obesity. Arbittier said she's already done several appearances in the local area to Girl Scout troops and other groups promoting the program, and that's been one of her favorite parts.

"I think I've learned a lot about what it means to be a leader. Before going into the program, I was kind of shy and not very confident," Arbittier said. "If you are doing things to help your community and get involved, all of these accolades can be used to inspire other people. I think that's made a huge difference in how I live."

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