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Sarah White will be among 50 contestants for Distinguished Young Women program

While you may not hear the adjective "distinguished" used much these days, Wilson High School senior Sarah White is headed to Mobile, Alabama, this month seeking the title of America's Distinguished Young Woman.

You may never have heard of the Distinguished Young Women program because for its first 42 years, it was known as America's Young Miss program.

Winners of that honor include television personalities Dianne Sawyer (1963), Deborah Norville (1976) and Kathie Lee Gifford (1971). Television actress Debra Messing won the Junior Miss title in 1986.

In 2010, the program changed its name to Distinguished Young Women.

Last August White was the winner of the Oregon Distinguished Young Women title. With that came the right to face off against 49 other state representatives competing in the finals for college scholarships worth thousands of dollars.

White went to Reike Elementary and Robert Gray Middle School. She's currently the student body treasurer at Wilson and has been a cheerleader all four years. She's active in Model United Nations and leads the school's Mural Club.

White says making it to the finals in Alabama, where the program was started in 1958 by the Mobile Jaycees, is an honor she's always dreamt about, "but I wasn't sure if it would actually happen, especially considering how talented the girls I was competing against were," she said.

The 50 finalists will be judged on scholastics (25%), an interview (25%), talent (20%), self-expression (15%) and fitness (15%). White's talent is tap dancing, she said.

Even if she doesn't win, White can take satisfaction in making it to the finals. In 1971, the finalist from Georgia went home empty-handed but Kim Basinger persevered and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in "L.A. Confidential."

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