The Distinguished Young Women of Santa Barbara (Class of 2012) scholarship organization, a local chapter of the national DYW scholarship program, awarded more than $5,000 in scholarships to well-deserving high school juniors.

For most participants, the funding may be the first scholarships the students receive.

The competition was held this month at the Multicultural Center at UCSB. The university donated the center’s theater space to the scholarship program, enabling it to award substantially more scholarship monies to the participants.

Claire Patterson of Santa Barbara High School, Emily Gordon of San Marcos High School and Camille Miller of Dos Pueblos High School were named the Distinguished Young Women of Santa Barbara and will advance to California’s Distinguished Young Women event to be held the last week in July in Bakersfield.

Distinguished Young Women, formerly America’s Junior Miss, was founded in 1958 and is headquartered in Mobile, Ala. More than 700,000 young women from across the nation have participated in programs at the local, state and national levels. In addition to cash scholarships, participants are eligible for college-granted scholarships from nearly 200 colleges and universities.

Local corporate sponsors of scholarships include Judy Dean, M.D., Montecito Bank & Trust, Community West Bank, Bryant and Sons Ltd., McGowan Guntermann CPAs, Associated Hand Surgeons, B&H Flowers and MyTechCard.

The participants attended several rehearsals in March and April, and with the leadership of last year’s DYW scholars — Juhi Khemani, Haley Araki and Addison Clark — the students honed their skills in interview techniques, poise and carriage, extemporaneous speaking and talent. Special guests Maritza Mejia, outreach manager of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, and college coach and CHOICES founder Andrea Rifkin added to the girls’ training.

The high school juniors are encouraged to reach outside their comfort zone and are judged in fives categories: scholastics, fitness, self-expression (an “on stage” question), talent and interview. There were four category winners in each of the five categories, with each category winner receiving a $150 award. The three overall winners were awarded $500 each — in addition to any category awards they received.

There was an international twist to the talent performances, including Molly Jacobs, who sang the Israeli national anthem in Hebrew, and Elizabeth Linn, who sang ”The Moon Represents My Heart” in Chinese. Shandeep Adhi, first runner-up, performed an Indian Bollywood dance and was a scholastics, interview and fitness category winner.

Talent winner and flautist Jessica Kozachuk performed “Syrinx” by Claude Debussey. Christina Daniels, a talent winner, performed a difficult Frédéric Chopin piece called “Fantasie Impromtu” in a difficult setting as the donated theater did not have a piano. She improvised with a keyboard, a table, a chair and a pillow — truly demonstrating the character of a Distinguished Young Woman.

Caitlyn Holbrook, self-expression winner, belted out an a cappella tune while Esther Nam belted out Frank Sinatra’s famous tune “My Way” on the trumpet. Shari Howard, second runner-up and winner in the scholastic, interview and fitness categories, also sang an a cappella version of “All I Need (Is One Good Break).”

The show’s emcees were last year’s participants — Khemani, Paige Brenner and Alix de Gramont — all known as the “Has Beens.” Brenner, a recipient of national awards for her karate, performed a piece with swinging chains that made the first row of the audience possibly regret their seat choice. De Gramont recited a brilliant monologue on the color “white.” Last year’s two other DYW scholars, Araki and Clark, were unable to attend this year’s competition as they were participating in the World Robotics Competition in Saint Louis.

— Jennifer Goddard is a publicist.