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Turlock grad finalist in national Distinguished Young Woman competition
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In one of three introduction videos for the 2020 Distinguished Young Women National Finals, Stephanie Temnyk stood in front of downtown Turlock’s Calafia statue (Photo contributed).

Turlock High School grad Stephanie Temnyk had already made history when she became the city’s first to represent California in the 2020 Distinguished Young Women National Finals, but finishing in the competition’s Top 8 was the icing on the cake.

As the winner of last year’s Distinguished Young Women of California (the first-ever Turlock student to do so), Temnyk would have originally traveled to Mobile, Alabama for two weeks last month to compete at the national level of the program, which promotes and rewards scholarships, leadership and talent in young women throughout the country. Instead, she participated in a virtual version of the program June 25-27, finishing as a Top 8 finalist among the 50 contestants and earning a $5,000 scholarship.

As a high school junior, Temnyk was the Class of 2020’s Distinguished Young Woman of Turlock and swept all five categories at the local level — fitness, self-expression, talent, interview and scholastics. At the state program, she not only won the entire competition but also earned first place in the interview and talent categories as well.

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Stephanie Temnyk performs “El Choclo” for the talent portion of the virtual 2020 Distinguished Young Women National Finals (Photo contributed).

At the national competition last month, Temnyk added on to her winnings by placing in the self-expression category, which earned her an additional $1,000 scholarship.

While the event was held virtually, Temnyk said it was still the experience of a lifetime.

“The 63rd anniversary of the nation's most premier scholarship program for girls was incredible to witness. The talent, stamina, intelligence, grit and vision of the 2020 State Distinguished Young Women representatives is phenomenal. I was blessed to be a part of the class that not only will be remembered for its determination in extraordinary times, but also for its extraordinary greatness,” Temnyk said.

Throughout the different stages of the competition, Temnyk embraced her agriculture roots and intends on continuing to do so next year when she attends Arizona State University. She plans on pursuing a double major in sustainable horticulture and molecular biotech — passions she embraces in the meantime at home through gardening. Temnyk is also an avid pianist, which was her talent throughout the program.

For the national competition, all 50 state representatives were required to submit three video introductions that highlighted their career goals, personality and state in front of a local scenic background. Temnyk’s video introductions were filmed in front of the Stanislaus State sign, the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds Arch Gate and the Calafia statue in downtown Turlock.

Across the three videos, Temnyk introduced herself to the judges: “Representing the Golden State with all its natural beauty, innovation and diversity, I am Stephanie Temnyk from California...With goals to advance agronomy in order to eliminate world hunger, I am Stephanie Temnyk...A modern day Renaissance woman, I can as passionately caress the piano keys as cultivate the soil. Proudly representing California, I am Stephanie Temnyk.”

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Temnyk was the first-ever Turlock student to represent California in the national competition (Photo contributed).

Temnyk also submitted a “boomerang,” or animated photo, of herself in her piano-playing attire in front of the vibrant “TURLOCK” mural on the west side. Her 90-second, video-submitted piano performance was a Spanish tango named “El Choclo,” which featured scarlet mood lighting and her hair swept into a dance-inspired updo.

The competition also judged her school transcripts, standardized test scores and academic extracurriculars, as well as a previously-filmed fitness routine which she recorded outside. The self-expression category, which earned Temnyk an additional scholarship, saw her answer two questions via Zoom — the first was given two hours in advance and used for preliminary judging, while the second was answered extemporaneously and used if she made the Top 8.

Temnyk’s questions were, “What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?” and “Do you agree with policy changes that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 11 states?”

After being named a Top 8 finalist, Temnyk and the other seven finalists were featured on June 27 in the livestreamed National Finals, in which her talent, fitness and secondary self-expression videos were played. Ultimately, Elif Ozyurekoglu of Kentucky was named the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2020.

Temnyk said the scholarships she earned will help her when she attends ASU in the fall, and she looks forward to mentoring next year’s California Class of 2021 in the state competition. 

“If I have seen farther than others, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants. I cannot express enough gratitude for my giants, the educators and mentors that have guided me throughout my journey. Distinguished Young Women, you will always have a special place in my heart,” Temnyk said.