Anyone who has lost all faith in today’s youth has yet to meet Veronica Townsend.
A senior at Indian River High School, Townsend keeps busy with Honor Society, Leo Club, playing flute in the marching band and being captain of the cheerleading squad. Not to mention that, in her sophomore and junior years at the school, she was class president.
It’s no wonder that Townsend was awarded the honor of Distinguished Young Woman of Delaware this past July.
Formerly Delaware’s Junior Miss Program, Distinguished Young Woman is a scholarship program that doesn’t focus purely on looks.
“It’s not just about looks; it’s about your grades. Your grades are a huge part of it,” explained Townsend. “You have to be really involved in the community and do good things for other people, not just yourself; and you need to have an interview with the judges, and you have to have a talent. So, it’s not just like you can go up on stage and be Little Miss Prissy and Pretty – you have to have something behind it. So, I liked entering this kind of pageant.”
The program is offered only to high school senior girls and is free for them to apply. Within the competition, there are five areas — interview, scholastics, talent, fitness and self-expression. Girls who compete have the opportunity to win scholarship money from each category, as well as to take home the title of Distinguished Young Woman of Delaware.
“It doesn’t cost anything. It’s only for high school senior girls, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for scholarship money,” explained state co-chair Lana Parker. “It’s a scholarship program. You can win a little bit of scholarship money if you win a category other than just winning the title. I think that’s what makes it unique.”
Along with scholarship money, the program awards the winner – not a crown – but rather a medal, to “symbolize her achievements in the classroom and in extracurricular activities,” according to the organization’s Web site.
“They don’t even like to be called a pageant. It is a scholarship organization. You don’t get a crown when you win. That’s the big thing. You get a medal, because they don’t want it to be about beauty. They want it to be about you and for your real personality to shine forth, and to be about what you do for the community,” said Townsend.
Townsend won four of the five subcategories — talent, fitness, scholastics and self-expression — as well as the overall title, earning more than $2,400 in scholarship money.
Townsend, though, is no stranger to the traditional pageant world. In her sophomore year of high school, Townsend became involved with the Outstanding Teen Program, a branch of the Miss America Organization.
“I’m always down for trying new things. I also am always super-busy, but why not? You only live once. Might as well try new stuff. I looked into it and saw that it wasn’t just a beauty pageant. You had to have a talent.”
“It benefits you as a person,” she added. “You get public speaking skills, and you get to have your resume all together for when you go to college. It just really helps you overall as a person.”
Townsend did not place in that pageant but walked away with a positive outlook.
“I got to meet a lot of new people because of it. I got to practice being on stage in front of people, and after that I thought, ‘Well, we’ll see where this takes me.’”
The following year, she competed again, winning the title of Miss Teen Millsboro and Miss Mid-Atlantic Outstanding Teen, as well as being named first runner-up for Miss Delaware’s Outstanding Teen.
After the win as Distinguished Young Woman of Delaware, she is now preparing for the national competition, which will be held in Alabama in June.
“I am still trying to keep my piano skills going, because it’s going to be here before I know it,” said Townsend, who has been playing piano since the fifth grade. “For now, I’m just living on my title and just doing all kinds of stuff out in the community, promoting myself and the program, trying to get my speaking skills down and trying to find a dress. It seems like it’s a long way away, but it’ll be here before I know it.”
“We’re just excited for nationals, and win or lose — we don’t care, we’re very proud of her,” added Parker.
As part of her current duties as the reigning Distinguished Young Woman of Delaware, Townsend will be appearing at many parades in Delaware, including the Georgetown Returns Day parade and the Selbyville Christmas Parade, to promote the program.
“Basically, you just have to get out into the community and be a good role model,” she explained. “The program strives for every young girl to be her best self. There’s a Be Your Best Self Day, where I’m going to talk about what helps me be my best self, at something like a Boys and Girls Club, and promote that to them.”
Along with her duties and the upcoming competition, Townsend is also preparing for college next fall. She has already been accepted and offered scholarships to Auburn University and the University of Alabama, and she is continuing to look at other schools.
“Indiana and a few schools in New York, because my main passion is fashion,” she noted of the potential options. “I really want to pursue that. I’m trying to pursue that in college but not necessarily going to a fashion school, because I have so many other loves, like piano and cheerleading, that I want to be able to pursue those in college, as well,” she explained.
Townsend, who currently writes a monthly fashion column for the Coastal Point, said that rather than wanting to be the stereotypical fashion designer, she’s more interested in the journalism aspect of the field.
“I’m thinking more along the lines of the journalism end of it, just because I really enjoy writing,” she said. “I’ve always heard people talking about being fashion designers, but there’s a lot more out there in the fashion world. I know it seems hard to break into fashion design. There’s the business end of it or the journalism route. I like to write, and I like fashion, so why not combine the two?”
It is obvious upon meeting Townsend that she has an eye for fashion and is fearless.
“My grandma – she’s my fashion inspiration. She dresses up every day… she’s amazing,” said Townsend, while wearing a white tutu-inspired skirt with a black satin bow.
“I just like taking fashions from different things. I don’t think it should be a set thing where this is what you have to wear to be cool, this is what you have to wear to fit in,” she added. “Anybody can dress the way they want to and they should feel comfortable in whatever they’re wearing. I just like being fearless and dressing up. I feel like when I dress up like this, I can be more myself, and I like having my own personality shine forth in the way I dress.”
Townsend said she was grateful for the experience of the Distinguished Young Woman program and the chance to meet other young girls like herself.
“I’m definitely glad I got into the program when I did, because it makes me feel like a much better person. In high school, it can sometimes be tough to be your own person and come out of your shell. For some people, it seems like that’s a problem.
“I’m glad that that’s never really been a problem for me to just be myself,” she noted. “I’m glad I can be so comfortable in my own shoes that I can help other people feel the same way. It really helps me that I have such a good title to uphold that I’m not going to get with anything negative, like drugs or alcohol. I’m glad that I have this to always remind me, like, ‘No you don’t need to do anything like that. You need to keep on a positive path and keep striving for things like this.’”