'Still sinking in': West York teen wins $12K in York County scholarship program

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Zoey Deel, 17, was selected as the 56th winner of Distinguished Young Women on Sunday. She is among a small group of York County women over the years chosen to receive a $10,000 scholarship.

A West York high student won $12,500 in scholarship money in the Distinguished Young Women program, earning her a spot in the state competition to represent York County.

Zoey Deel, 17, was selected as the 56th winner of Distinguished Young Women on Sunday. She is among a small group of York County women over the years chosen to receive a $10,000 scholarship.

The program, based around the philosophy of “Be Your Best Self,” requires high school juniors to compete in four categories of fitness, talent, self expression and an interview.

In total, $30,300 in scholarship money was awarded to 22 girls.

“I think it’s really humbling to follow 55 incredible women who have gotten this honor before me — it’s something that’s still sinking in,” Zoey said.

Zoey Deel, 17, was selected as the 56th winner of Distinguished Young Women on Sunday. She is among a small group of York County women over the years chosen to receive a $10,000 scholarship.

Though the competition happened Sunday, all contestants were required to also come in on Saturday for the interview portion.

One-on-one, each girl completed an interview with the Distinguished Young Women judges. Questions were based around online profiles each constant was required to fill out prior to the competition.

For example, Zoey was asked about her hobbies, future goals and special interests — like her favorite band, The Beach Boys.

On Sunday, Zoey sang “The Life I Never Led” from the musical "Sister Act" during the talent portion of the event.

The fitness portion brought all girls on stage to learn a choreographed routine involving different exercise movements. Lastly, the self expression portion involved public speaking.

“There’s a lot of elements that go into it,” Zoey said. “I’ve been looking up to this program for a long time.”

Though any female high school junior in York County is eligible to apply, a student’s grade point average and essay also determine selection into the competition.

In addition to winning the overall Distinguished Young Women’s award, Zoey also brought home four individual awards in talent, fitness, interview and self expression — earning her an additional $2,500 in scholarship money.

For Zoey, the Distinguished Young Women competition is special to her family.

Her mother, Julie Deel, has been a “big sister” to the program for three years, serving as a mentor to a girl in the competition.

Due to her daughter’s involvement this year, Julie Deel could not mentor as a big sister.

Distinguished Young Women of York County participant Emily Ford, a Northeastern High School senior, smiles at other participants during a rehearsal for the national scholarship awards program at Pullo Family Performing Arts Center Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. The performance for the program will be Sunday, Aug. 8, at 2:30 p.m. at the center. Tickets can be obtained online at https://bit.ly/37tcPvL. Bill Kalina photo

“We are just in awe at Zoey’s accomplishments,” Julie Deel said. “Everything she does, she’s very dedicated to.”

With a passion for the performing arts, Zoey Deel intends to attend acting school.

Most recently, the high school student made her network television debut appearing in NBC’s “The Blacklist.”

More:'Network debut': West York High teen appears in NBC's 'The Blacklist'

“I’m just so proud of my peers. This year, this group of girls was so incredibly supportive,” Zoey said.

Lyn Bergdoll, the event organizer for York’s Distinguished Young Women Awards, also emphasized that the competition was friendly.

“They would be genuinely happy when a girl did her talent and encouraging everyone beforehand,“ Bergdoll said. “I really saw them giving each other encouragement.”

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In total, 22 awards were given out on Sunday. As the York County winner, Zoey will now go on to compete in the state's competition, which is happening in January.

“It was incredible seeing these young women grow, bond and support each other,” Bergdoll said. “It was really rewarding.”

Applications for 2022’s program is now open. Interested students can visit http://york.pa.distinguishedyw.org/ to apply.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.