Helena Magazine

Carrington Hodge is striving to be her best self through the Distinguished Young Women program

Published 1:41 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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By Lizzie Bowen 

When you speak with Carrington Hodge, you can already see the light within her as she speaks about the Distinguished Young Women program.

Carrington was named Alabama’s Distinguished Young Woman of 2023.

Carrington said that becoming a part of the Distinguished Young Women program came to her through her experience with dance.

In the past year, Carrington received the opportunity to dance with the winner of Distinguished Young Women Jefferson County winner and representative. For her, watching this experience offered her an inside look at what it would be like to be a part of the Distinguished Young Women Program as well as well as how prepared many of the participants of the program were for college and life beyond high school.

Carrington began falling in love with dance.  She loves to dance and describes her talent as upbeat, jazzy and funky type of hip-hop style dancer. She describes her style of dance as more of a musical theatre piece.

“I started out in ballet and tap,” Carrington. “Hip-hop and jazz and jazz funk are my favorites. We compete in all styles whether that be contemporary, lyric, ballet or point. It is such a great way to spend my time outside of school. I also would say learning how to manage my time and learning how to take losses are some other things I have learned from dance.”

For Carrington, the rejection that you can often face in dance competitions is one that she feels has grown her stronger. She poses the important question of: how can I be better? She also reiterates the importance of realizing not every day is going to be your day and it’s okay to take a loss sometimes.

“Learning how to handle your number not being called when your friend’s number is or being able to see someone you admire and wonder why you’re not getting the same recognition that they are (is important), and I have been learning that lesson since around ten,” she said.

Being named the Distinguished Young of the Year is a distinct honor, and it is one that felt surreal for Carrington.

“I think the first thing I did when they announced my name was just close my eyes,” Carrington said. “It was just a sigh of relief. All of it had finally come together, that was just a sense of relief like, ‘Wow it all really paid off,’ and the hard work wasn’t going noticed.”

For Carrington, the hours of interview prep, extracurricular activities, hours spent doing homework and prating dance had finally come together.

“So, that was just a sense of relief,” Carrington said. “It all really paid off. The amount of work hard (I did) isn’t going unnoticed. I was so excited to be around girls who all felt the same way about the level of hard work we dedicated (throughout) our last four years.”

Carrington was not only awarded with the honor of being given the Distinguished Young Woman, but she was also awarded scholarship money as well to begin building her future and pursuing her education.

There were 41 girls participating in the Distinguished Young Women program for the title, all coming from different backgrounds and places. Some hailed from rural areas and others were from highly populated areas.

“We did have girls from rural areas,” Carrington said. “So, we did have some things that weren’t in common, but were able to learn from them and learn the values of smaller communities as opposed to the metro area that I’m used to. It was all around a great experience and a great week.”

Carrington will compete for the national title in June. The competition will be held in Alabama, and the program will last two weeks. Carrington said the two weeks will offer more times for the girls participating in the pageant to bond. The competition is high stakes and pressure.

“I’m having to work a little bit harder on the interview prep and self-expression,” Carrington said. “In the preliminary round, you get the question 24 hours before, but in the finals, you have no idea what topic or question has come up, just learning how to improve on those extemporary speaking skills.”

Carrington is currently working both physically and mentally in preparation of the Nationals Event. She is currently trying to work on interview preparation two or three times a week. She is also working to maintain knowledge of current events so that she can be prepared for anything the judges might ask her.

“They are looking not necessarily for the belief or value, but how well you can convey it and back it up,” Carrington said. “(It is) similar with self-expression, just being able to speak off the cuff with a little more flow.”

Carrington spoke about how it can be a struggle to think on your feet in front of an audience of people, especially when you are not prepared as to what question is going to be asked of you. Carrington’s question in the final was “What do you believe is the reality of tomorrow?”

“I was about to say flying cars,” Carrington jokes. “I did eventually pull something out of the hat, and it worked perfectly.”

Carrington has big plans for the future with the scholarship she has received from the Young Distinguished Woman Program. Her plans aren’t set in stone and the future is bright, bearing many options for her to pursue, but as of now, she plans on attending a university out of state and major in Neuroscience and minor in African American studies on a pre-med track.

“I definitely see myself going into the medical field,” Carrington said.

For Carrington, this entire experience has offered her the opportunity to connect strongly with the community of Helena and her fellow women.

“I have grown really close to the board as well as other girls from around the area,” Carrington said. “Just being in the program I have connected with girls from Thompson, Hoover and Pelham. I have been around the area a lot more. I am now seeing how we have all become more of a network.”

The future is bright for Carrington and for many who participate in the Young Distinguished Woman program. The ladder to success is one she had climbed with a smile on her face and joy in her heart, serving as an inspiration for young girls everywhere.