Helena’s Carrington Hodge takes home 2023 Distinguished Young Woman national title

Published 3:16 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2023

By EMILY REED | Special to the Reporter

MOBILE – Helena’s Carrington Hodge recently was named the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2023.

The scholarship program, which was founded in 1958 as America’s Junior Miss, held the national competition last week in Mobile, where Hodge was named the winner.

“It is hard to believe that I was actually the winner of a national program,” Hodge said. “All of the participants are talented leaders and scholars across the nation, so to be recognized as the national representative is such an honor. I also felt grateful to bring the title back to its founding state.”

For Hodge, winning the title means a $40,000 cash scholarship. She earned preliminary awards in the fitness, talent, self-expression and interview categories, as well as a satellite award totaling $46,000 in cash scholarships across the three-night competition.

After finding out she had won the title, Hodge said she closed her eyes and tried to soak in every moment of the celebration.

“The cheers from my enormous support system in the back of the audience only added to my excitement,” Hodge said.

A top moment for her participating in the program was line dancing at the U.S.S. Alabama Battleship, an experience she says she will cherish forever.

“We learned line dances from a variety of genres and had a great time of fellowship with our host families after long hours of rehearsal,” Hodge said. “It was one of the first times all the girls were connecting, and we got to dress Western-style from head to toe.”

Hodge credits her ballet teacher, Angela Walker, as being the inspiration for prompting her to participate in the program.

“My ballet teacher encourages all of her students to participate, so this program has been on my radar since 2018,” Hodge said. “Once I learned more about the program’s mission and the scholarship awards, I became eager to participate. I have danced with last year’s winner and national runner-up, Julianne Abenoja, since I was eight. Watching her go through each stage of the program heightened my excitement to participate. An already amazing young woman, she only talks positively about the program, and now being on the other side, I can confidently reaffirm her sentiments.”

After experiencing nationals, Hodge said she would encourage anyone thinking about participating in future programs to do it.

“If you are on the fence about participating, please just do it,” Hodge said. “Be Ambitious is another element of Be Your Best Self, and you never know what you will walk away from the program with. First and foremost, Distinguished Young Women is a scholarship program, and you do not have to be the overall winner to win the scholarship program, and you do not have to be the overall winner to win scholarship money. Second, the experience of Distinguished Young Women is like no other. You meet girls who will turn into lifelong friends, and you enter a network of phenomenal women with a variety of connections. It is truly a sisterhood.”

Hodge said it is also a great way to grow during your last year of high school.

“Distinguished Young Women allows you to Be Your Best Self, which is so important as one enters a new phase of their life,” Hodge said.

In the fall, Hodge plans to attend Vanderbilt University where she will major in neuroscience with a minor in African American Studies on a pre-med track. Hodge hopes to enter the medical field as a pediatric neurosurgeon.