Johnston High School cheerleaders Ana Petrella and Kayleena-Leigh Lariviere stood on the Academy Players’ stage in Providence Sunday night smartly dressed in evening dresses.
They were grouped with eight other teenagers from all parts of the state that made up the Class of 2019, who had just spent two hours competing for the prestigious title of Distinguished Young Woman of Rhode Island.
Sometime around 7:30, Dana Damiani D’Orsi introduced Warwick resident Viansa Portesi, a graduate of La Salle Academy who won the Rhode Island DYW of 2018 and with it an all expense paid scholarship to the University of Alabama.
After Portesi delivered a powerful thank you message, D’Orsi said “it’s time for some awards” and one-by-one, honors ranging from Overall Expression to the First Finalist Award were presented until North Providence High School senior Bailey Campbell was announced as the 2019 winner.
In the middle of the evening was Susan K. Parillo, who doubles as a health and physical education teacher at Winsor Hill Elementary School and Head Coach of Johnston High’s cheerleading program.
For more than a decade, Parillo and Katelyn Socha have worked as a team and headed the state committee that puts on the Distinguished Young Women of Rhode Island finals, an event that is one of the oldest and largest scholarship program available for senior high girls in the nation.
“We are all proud of this program and our girls,” Parillo said. “DYW inspires high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments. DYW strives to give every young woman the opportunity to further their education and prepare for a successful future.”
She also explained that each of the 10 girls who competed for the 2019 title were judged on their interviews, talent, fitness and self expression. and as Parillo, Socha, D’Orsi and distinguished five-person judges panel concurred featured girls with talent aplenty.
Although neither Lariviere nor Petrella won an award, the two JHS students sparkled during their interviews and talent sessions.
Lariviere’s talent selection was Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Hugh Martin that she played on the piano. Her career goals are OB GYN and Parillo said she hopes to enroll at URI in September. She’s a member of the JHS Chemistry Club, National Honor Society, outdoor track and field teams, SADD, cheerleading and even finds time to work at Luigi's Restaurant.
“She also volunteers to feed cats at Petsmart,” Parillo said of Lariviere. “We’re proud of the way she performed tonight.”
Likewise, Petrella put on a Monologue for her talent portion of the program and her selection was The Morality of Fast Fashion.
“Ana has set Fashion Journalism and becoming an Ethical Boutique Owner,” Parillo noted. “She hopes to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology.”
Petrella is a cheerleader, member of the Student Council, Float Committee for Homecoming, National Honor Society, SADD, Panther Cubs and enjoys babysitting, bible study and tutoring.
Bailey Campbell, a North Providence High senior who hopes to become a Pediatric Physical Therapist, won the 2019 DYW title and will advance to the national in Mobile, Alabama. She won a $2,000 cash scholarship and is now eligible for other such cash, in-kind and full scholarships to prominent colleges and universities in the country.
Grace Farrow of St. Mary’s Bay View Academy was the First Finalist and took home the Spirit, Scholastic and Self Impression Awards. Hannah Slaiby of East Greenwich was Second Runner-up and Campbell also won the Fitness and Talent Awards. The Interview Award went to Marie Balemian of Pilgrim High in Warwick.
The 2019 program was dedicated to the late Merry Sue Roarke, wife of former Major League Baseball pitching coach and West Warwick native Mike Roarke, who became involved in 1991 when her daughter Kelly Jo won the state program and accepted a full scholarship to Troy University.
“Merry Sue embodied the true spirit of this program,” said Parillo. “A scholarship was provided by Dr. Laurie Gray in her memory. In all, each year DYW makes over $1 billion in scholarships available and it costs nothing for any girl to enter the state competition.”