Distinguished Young Winner: Claire Martin takes state

Claire Martin is the 2023 Kentucky Distinguished Young Woman and will participate in the national program in June. (Photo submitted)

After 14 long years, Clark County is back in Nationals for one of the most widely respected scholarship organizations in the country.

GRC’s own Claire Martin competed in tough competition against 26 talented women across the state, but she fought diligently, and was named the Distinguished Young Woman of Kentucky. 

“When I heard my name called, it was immediately drowned out by the cheers of my 26 new DYW sisters. I was so overwhelmed by the love and support from these girls who have become some of my best friends, and I was so excited to know that I was chosen to be a representative for Kentucky out of this group of distinguished young women,” Claire recalls. “I was so shocked and thankful, and it still doesn’t feel real to me that I won. I hope that I can make Clark county and Kentucky proud at Nationals.” 

On top of being named Kentucky’s Distinguished Young Woman, Claire also racked in several awards to boost her even further through the competition — one being the Overall Talent Award.

With her piece “Winter Wind” by Frederic Chopin on the piano, Claire blew away judges, audience members, and fellow participants with her incredible performance. 

“I had actually been worried about my talent and getting it just right since it was the most difficult piece I have ever attempted to learn and perform,” Claire explains. “My teacher, Mrs. Vickers, has so much faith in my abilities, and she constantly reassured me that I could play any piece that I committed to and practiced regularly. I have been taking lessons from her since I was 5 years old, and she has always pushed me to use my talent and determination to keep reaching towards big goals, such as the award I won.”

Claire also received the preliminary fitness award. This entailed displaying rigorous athletic ability for 10 minutes. There was no moment for pause because the judges watch the participants carefully, even when they aren’t placed front and center.

“The fitness was a very long and intense routine that took a lot of time on my own in order to remember the choreography and perfect some of the skills I was asked to perform,” Claire shares. “I spent a lot of time in any open space I could find trying to build up my stamina by doing the fitness routine over and over again. I was elated when I got a fitness award because it was the portion that I had put the most work into so I could make sure I looked and felt my best.”

Claire received a preliminary self expression award as well. Self expression is one of the toughest categories in the competition, as you must articulate an answer to any given question, and then respond in front of a full audience. Claire didn’t let the pressure get to her. She responded clearly and confidently, letting everyone know who she was and what she stood for.

“The self expression portion is very similar to the interview, except you have to add the factors of poise and stage performance into it.” Claire explains. “Since the Distinguished Young Women program is so focused on how we present ourselves in front of a large group of people, the self expression question is a great way to judge how one composes herself when asked to construct a well thought out answer to a heavily loaded question in just 30 seconds or less. It also tests the skill of public speaking and thinking quickly on your feet whenever the top 10 have to pull a question out of a fishbowl and formulate their answer on the spot.”

All her hard work doesn’t stop with awards. Claire is now on the road for nationals, something that hasn’t been achieved in Clark County since 2009. Competing in Mobile, Alabama, in June, Claire will go up against other state winners to show off her talents in the final competition in the program. 

“I’m very excited to meet all of the accomplished women that will come from across the country. I’ve had such a great experience at state, and I know that nationals will be another life-changing event on a larger scale,” Claire says. “Although the competition will be hard in Mobile, I want to focus on the fact that I’ve already made it this far and just make the most of the opportunity I’ve been given.”