Garner native Christina Maxwell joined the likes of Diane Sawyer, Debra Messing, Kathy Lee Gifford and Kim Bassinger on Saturday, June 30 when she was named the 2012 Distinguished Young Woman of America during a program held in Mobile, Ala.
“It was a huge honor,” the new title holder said.
A talented singer, Maxwell performed July 18 at Cambridge Village of Apex where her grandmother, Ginny Maxwell, is a resident.
Formerly America’s Junior Miss, the Distinguished Young Woman of America program has been in existence for 55 years and has had more than 700,000 high school age young women as participants. Last year alone, the program gave out more than $108,000 in college scholarships on the local, state and national levels.
Maxwell’s mother, Renee, was Cleveland County’s Junior Miss in 1981 and took second runner up at the state level. It was a great honor for Renee when her daughter won the national title.
“It was an incredible feeling,” she said.
But, Renee said, it was even better to see her daughter learn and grow while taking part in the scholarship program. She mentioned the Distinguished Young Woman of America program to Christina a few years ago.
“I always knew that (Christina) had the qualities that the program promotes,” Renee said.
Christina started at the local level, winning Buncombe County’s Distinguished Young Woman and went on to win the North Carolina title.
“I just really wanted to soak up every moment,” Christina said.
However, Renee wasn’t confident her daughter would take the national title. She knew her daughter had some tough competition as some of the participants had been accepted to schools like Duke and Yale.
“They all were nearly flawless,” Renee said of the contestants.
Still, she said she knew Christina had a good chance because of her genuine attitude and appreciation for the program.
Christina said the biggest honor is the thought that she gets to represent all of the amazing young women in the country.
“I’m so thankful to be an ambassador for a program that I believe so much in,” she said.
A natural performer
Although Christina moved to the Ashville area when she was in sixth grade, she got her start on stage while at Timber Drive Elementary. In the ABC musical, she was the “leading letter,” an experience that has driven her passion for performing.
She will attend the University of Michigan this fall in the musical theater department. With nearly 800 applicants for the fall 2012 semester, only 23 students were accepted. Christina said going to the University of Michigan is a dream, not only because of the top-rated musical theater program, but because of the university’s strength overall and the opportunity to be a smart actor when she graduates.
Her dream is to star on Broadway, “leaving her heart on the stage every night.”
It’s a goal that Christina’s family is sure she can make happen.
“She’s a natural performer,” Renee said of her daughter.
Christina got a taste for the bright lights when she performed “Phantom of the Opera” at the national Distinguished Young Woman of America competition in Mobile, Ala.
Thankful for family and the Triangle
Still, Christina knows she wouldn’t be where she is now without the love and support of her family and the Raleigh area.
Christina’s grandmother, Ginny Maxwell, lives in Apex and the Maxwells spent several years in the Garner area before their move to Asheville in 2005. With so many friends still in the Triangle area, Christina got a lot of support during her journey in the Distinguished Young Woman of America program.
She has fond memories of Garner and especially Timber Drive Elementary where she was in the same grade as Scotty McCreery. Christina hopes to share the stage with the “Idol” winner this fall at the State Fair. She said she would like to open one of his shows by singing the national anthem.
With the local, state and national titles, Christina will begin her college experience with $44,800 in scholarships.
“I cannot even say what a blessing that is to my family,” Christina said.
While Renee said she and her husband, Ken, would have done anything to get their daughter to the University of Michigan. The out-of-state tuition is the highest in the country and the scholarship money will go a long way.
“We are just so thankful and so grateful for the program,” Renee said.
Contact Kelly Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-552-5675.