Oxford High junior Kiera Serrano named Lafayette County’s 2023 Distinguished Young Woman

Published 4:35 pm Monday, February 28, 2022

Lafayette County has a new Distinguished Young Woman among its own. Kiera Serrano, a junior at Oxford High School, was named Lafayette County’s 2023 Distinguished Young Woman on Sunday afternoon at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

As the oldest and largest scholarship program for high school-aged girls, DYW their competitors to develop their full potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments. The goal of DYM is to give teenage girls the opportunity to further their education and prepare for a successful future.

Cash scholarships are awarded at the local level and millions in college-granted scholarships are available. Local winners will advance to the state program in Meridian, Mississippi where they give away more than 28,900 in cash tuition scholarships.

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Both Serrano and Bella Yant, another junior from Oxford High, competed to show all the talent and knowledge they have gained through participating with DYW. Serrano said she found out about the program through her school website and thought it looked like a great program.

“I loved how it involved all aspects of life from fitness to talent to interviews and it really highlighted how we should grow in every area and the importance of all those areas,” said Serrano. The training on interview skills was a particular favorite for Serrano.

“I am really grateful for the interview portion,” she said. “I’m still in high school and I know that interviews are so important in life and it taught me some amazing tips and personal reminders when going into interviews that I can use forever in life.”

Serrano is thinking about attending the University of Mississippi with a major in nursing but she is also keeping her options open.

For the local program, over $1400 in scholarships were awarded in total. In addition, winners of both Interview and Scholastic categories will each receive $100 in cash scholarships. 

Serrano received a $1000 scholarship, a photography package from Legacy Photography, membership to Core Oxford, and a gift certificate from Deals Auto Repair. For winning the Overall Interview Award, she received an additional $100.

Yant as the first alternate was awarded a $250 cash scholarship, and a gift certificate to Deals Auto Repair. Yant also received $100 for winning the Scholastic Achievement Award.

Although there were only two participants this year, Yant still found that she and Serrano had a great time being a part of DYW. She would highly encourage other high school juniors to join if they were interested.

“It’s a great way to learn kind of new interview skills and also to meet new people,” said Yant. “I think we really want to grow the program, too.”

Yant said she is interested in attending Southern Methodist University to major in fashion media and business.

University of Mississippi alumna and DYW veteran Mary Margaret Hyer was enlisted as Mistress of Ceremonies for the program event. As a past participant in the Lamar County DYW program, Hyer said it was exciting to be a part of Lafayette County’s inaugural year with the DYW program and witness the talent of both competitors. 

“I always thought it was such a shame that Lafayette County never had a Distinguished Young Women program and rarely had a representative from this area because this area is rich with such talent and fabulous young women who should be representing the area at the state competition in Meridian,” said Hyer. 

Serrano will go on to join other Distinguished Young Women from Mississippi at the state program in Meridian, Mississippi.

She said she is nervous but her win means she can continue to grow and learn.

“I am so honored to win this title and it means a lot to me,” said Serrano. “Everything about it is so amazing. Going forward, I just hope that I can learn even more and grow in those interview skills and every other portion of my life.”

Lafayette County’s 2022 DYW Ellie Tucker said it was a bittersweet moment to give up her title to Serrano, but she knows the title is in the right hands.

“I’m so excited for Keira,” said Tucker. “I know she’s a great representation of our county. I know that she will do such great things at state and really thrive in the competition.”

Tucker will attend the University of Mississippi in the fall with a major in business and a minor in Integrated Marketing Communications.

The state program will take place July 14-16, 2022. College scholarships are awarded at the state level ($28,900 last year) and millions in college-granted scholarships are available ($1 billion nationally). And one representative will advance to the national program in Mobile, Alabama where they give away over $130,000 in cash tuition scholarships.

For more information on the Distinguished Young Women program, visit their website at www.distinguishedyw.org.