Emma Neal, a senior at East Rutherford High School, has been named the Distinguished Young Woman of North Carolina 2021. She has been awarded a $10,000 cash scholarship and will represent North Carolina in Mobile, Alabama this summer for the National Competition.
During the virtual scholarship program, Emma won in several categories. She won overall talent, fitness, interview and was a preliminary award winner for self-expression. For her talent, Emma presented lyrical dance.
Due to COVID-19 all contestants made videos from home for talent and fitness and did a zoom meeting for self-expression and the judges' individual interview. The program was shown via the internet, said committee member Rhonda Owens.
"The program has been so incredibly wonderful to represent such a beautiful and loving county," Emma said. "Rutherford County will always be my home and I hope I have made them proud at the state competition."
Emma said staying fit and practicing interview skills was very difficult during the pandemic, but with the help of the committee and the local dance studio DreamWeavers, " I was able to make it work."
"Meeting the 19 other girls who were participating in state as well was very different since it was all virtual, but with the help of social media, I have been able to make lifelong friendships with the beautiful girls from across the state. I look forward to participating at nationals and pushing myself to represent North Carolina as well as I can," she added.
Emma is the daughter of John Neal and Karen Neal and the granddaughter of Brenda Neal and the late Bruce Neal and Cindy Toney and the late Hugh Toney.
Emma's oldest sister Alex Neal, is a student at UNC.