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Gracie Stanek: Distinguished Young Woman of NC
Gracie Stanek: Distinguished Young Woman of NC
Posted on 02/28/2019
Roberson honors student Gracie Stanek wins state scholarship competition.By: Benjamin Rickert, Communications Dept. (Photos courtesy of DYW of Buncombe County and Audra Elkington.)

Gracie Stanek wasn’t even thinking about winning when she stood on the stage of the Distinguished Young Women (DYW) of North Carolina competition. The T.C. Roberson High School senior had spent many hours with the 21 other regional winners and had come to view the group as a sisterhood. They had trained, danced, sang, and served the community together, with the constant encouragement to “be your best self.” Gracie was focused on celebrating the community of women who had grown close during her first DYW experience. So, what happened at the state competition was completely unexpected.

“Nobody was even talking about competing,” Stanek explained, “because everyone was focused on having fun, bettering themselves, and making friends.”

Stanek recalled being emboldened by an older friend to get involved locally in the scholarship program. After preparing during the summer months, the honors student was thrilled to be named the Distinguished Young Woman of Buncombe County in September, 2018. Stanek then prepared to compete for the state title alongside Reagan Laney of Enka High School, named the Distinguished Young Woman of Haywood County.

During the January 25-26 state competition, women were evaluated in academics, interview, self-expression, fitness, and talent. Stanek had spent months preparing and was most excited to share her talent and love of dance. Having danced competitively for 15 years, she called performing alone on stage “second nature.” Her original lyrical dance routine was prepared by the Lee family of Asheville’s Center Stage Dance Studio to the song Moments by Kate Bush.

There was no doubt that the audience was in for a treat when Gracie confidently stepped out under the colorful lights! With only 90 seconds to share her talent, Gracie had to make every moment count and she did. After each woman took their turn in the spotlight, it was finally time for the judges to speak.

2019 DYWNC Participants. (Photo by Audra Elkington. Used with Permission.)“All 21 of us were on risers on the stage in formation,” Gracie recalled. “I was so excited for my friends who had just won the first and second runner-up awards.”

For Gracie, the evening was already a success, but there was one big announcement left to make and room fell silent. Gracie Stanek was chosen as the 2019 Distinguished Young Woman of North Carolina! The auditorium burst into applause.

“At first it didn’t even register,” Stanek laughed. “And then I thought, ‘oh my gosh! Wait, that was my name!’”

After being given the state title and winning $11,100 in college scholarships, her peers did something she’ll never forget. The entire group of contestants ran from their places, swarmed around her at the front of the stage, and gave her a long, celebratory, group hug.

“It was a humbling and overwhelming experience,” Stanek said. “I could not be more thankful to have been part of such an amazing group of young women.”

Following her graduation in June, Gracie Stanek will compete in the Distinguished Young Women National Finals in Mobile, Alabama.

Read the full press release about Gracie Stanek and Reagan Laney from the Distinguished Young Women of Buncombe County.

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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