At the beginning of the year, Turlock High School senior Stephanie Temnyk was preparing for the 2020 Distinguished Young Women National Finals as the first-ever Turlock student to make it to the competition’s biggest stage. Now, she’ll be part of another first when she competes in a virtual version of the program in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s always in my nature to try and look at things in a positive light and see the silver lining,” Temnyk said. “It was definitely a little bit of a bummer hearing we would be the first class who weren’t going to get that huge experience, but as things are changed there are other positive things and new experiences that emerge from it.”
As the winner of last year’s Distinguished Young Women of California, Temnyk would have originally traveled to Mobile, Alabama, for two weeks next month to compete at the national level of the program, which promotes and rewards scholarships, leadership and talent in young women throughout the country. As a high school junior, Temnyk was the Class of 2020’s Distinguished Young Woman of Turlock winner and swept all five categories at the local level – fitness, self-expression, talent, interview and scholastics.
Temnyk traveled to Bakersfield last July to take part in the state program, where she not only earned the title of California’s Distinguished Young Woman, but also won the interview and talent categories as well. With the recognition, Temnyk became the first Turlock participant to win the state title.
“There has never been a Turlock representative from California before and now I’m able to put Turlock on the map and represent the heart of California,” she said. “Truly, it’s a great way to showcase another really incredible component of the state. It always brings so much pride to me when I’m able to say that first and foremost I was the Distinguished Young Woman of Turlock.”
Throughout the different stages of the competition, Temnyk has 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, having won the talent portion of both the local and state competitions so far thanks to her playing.
As part of the talent portion for the upcoming national competition, Temnyk will send in a video of herself playing the piano from home. The same goes for the fitness category (all participants memorize and perform a routine), but for the self-expression and interview components, she’ll participate in a Zoom call with the panel of judges.
A video of all the contestants will be created for free viewing beginning at 5 p.m. over the course of three nights, June 25-27. While Temnyk will miss the in-person connections that could have been made in Alabama, she’s kept in contact with her fellow contestants on social media and through text messages. A future trip for the national participants is in the works, she added. To help lend their support, past winners and participants have reached out to the Class of 2020 by creating encouraging videos.
Through it all, it’s these relationships — whether personal or virtual — that have left a lasting impact on Temnyk. She also encouraged other high schoolers to consider taking part in the program.
“It can be so easy to get caught up and be nervous about all of the competitive components, but you just have to have fun with it. Once you have fun and realize what a positive experience you can get out of it, you know it’s going to be really rewarding,” Temnyk said. “For girls who are unsure about it, it really is a transformative experience. I would encourage them to go for it and just try it because you’re going to gain so much from it in the end.”
For more information on the Distinguished Young Women scholarship program and to stay up-to-date on the competition’s video airing, visit www.distinguishedyw.org.