Updated: 02/12/2014 11:10 PM
Created: 02/12/2014 10:58 PM KAALtv.com
By: John Doetkott
(ABC 6 News) -- The Distinguished Young Women program, formerly known as America's Junior Miss competition, is a prestigious scholarship program that honors the nation's most outstanding high school girls.
And this year, Minnesota's winner comes from our local area.
"The girls that this program draws are all so kind and so nice and they've all accomplished so much,” said Molly Kestner, a senior at Austin High School and this year’s Minnesota winner.
When Kestner applied for the Distinguished Young Women program, she didn't think she stood much of a chance.
"I was a little bit skeptical at first because I didn't really think I'd be good enough at it,” Kestner said. “But the hard work really paid off."
Kestner impressed program officials with her academic record and leadership, particularly at her church where Kestner is an active member of the youth group, serving as a kind of mentor to young girls.
"She spends time relating and talking with girls all the time,” said Aaron Broberg, family pastor at Cornerstone Church where Kestner attends. “Molly is a very polished young lady, she does well communicating her heart, and she lives a great life as far as an example for young girls."
Kestner also impressed program officials with her tremendous singing voice, and said she hopes to take her love of performing and turn it into a career as a motivational speaker, hoping to help inspire confidence in others, particularly young girls.
"My dream has always been to just kind of be able to talk to girls, like, you don't need to be the smartest, you don't need to be the prettiest girl to be successful,” Kestner said. “If you have a hard work ethic, you can be successful at whatever you want to do."
Kestner will spend two weeks this summer competing against Distinguished Young Women from 49 other states in hopes of winning the national title and thousands of dollars in scholarships.
Kestner said she's thinking about going to North Central University in the Twin Cities and can't wait to see where her title takes her.