Helping children heal and live their best life is part of Dominique Verville’s future plans.
She will begin the six-year trek toward becoming a pediatric physical therapist as a freshman at Auburn University in August. But first things, first. Verville will compete in the 63rd Distinguished Young Women (DYW) National Finals on June 25-27 in hopes of winning scholarships to help fund her education.
For the first time, the contest will be held remotely, in a virtual format – instead of the usual three-day competition in Mobile – because of the coronavirus.
Verville has dreamed of performing in DYW for years.
“Ever since I was a freshman in high school, I was looking to compete,” said Verville, who will perform the classical ballet 3rd Odalisque en pointe from Le Corsaire. A 2020 graduate of Loveless Academic Magnet Program (LAMP) High School in Montgomery, she is the daughter of Alannah and Jacques Verville.
When everyday life came to a grinding halt in March because of COVID-19 – along with the closing of her high school and ballet studio – Verville remained dedicated to competing.
“I couldn’t get in the studio and rehearse, so I chose a variation I’d done before, that was kind of in my back pocket,” said Verville, who has studied ballet since she was 3 years old. “I’m super thankful I’ve had the opportunity to go all the way to nationals and I’m healthy and all. I’m looking forward to competing.”
Verville got her first taste of the DYW competition as a sophomore at LAMP High School. Selected as a “little sister” to a competing LAMP senior, Verville supported her friend by bringing goodies and making posters with upbeat messages.
“I knew then that I wanted to be in this competition one day. Getting to be there to watch it firsthand was awesome,” Verville said with a smile. “We did a number at the intermission, which was good experience.”
On June 18, Verville answered a 10-minute battery of questions from five judges.
“You never know what the questions will be,” she said. “They can ask you anything under the sun from your profile, including political questions. The questions can be about the United States and international issues. You have to be able to articulate your opinions.”
Verville, who has undergone interview coaching for the past year, was well-prepared.
“I learned how to carry myself in an interview,” said the 17 year old, who was coached by a church member and a volunteer for DYW’s national program. “That took a lot of the stress away. The thought of having to go into an interview for school now doesn’t even faze me – the practice has been a huge help and a confidence booster.”
Each young woman is evaluated on scholastics – academic record and standardized test scores – as well as their interview, fitness, talent and public speaking. Verville submitted videos for the talent and fitness categories, and took part in public speaking through a recorded video conference call.
The competition will be live-streamed at DistinguishedYW.org at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, June 25-27. Scholarships will be awarded each night, with a total of $125,000 given to the Class of 2020.
On Saturday, eight finalists will be called from among the 50 young women, and one candidate will be selected to represent Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2020.
“These young women are intelligent, ambitious and ready to take their place as leaders in their communities,” said Kendra Haskins, executive director of Distinguished Young Women. “We are excited to highlight Distinguished Young Women this weekend by highlighting these participants and celebrating the thousands of others who have been impacted by this incredible program throughout the year.”
Verville said she “is as ready as possible” for the live-stream event.
“My parents and I have seen how this process has been transformational for me: It’s been wonderful,” she said. “I’ll be using the money from the county and state competitions, and it will be such a huge help to me as I enter college.”