A two-week trip to Mobile, Alabama, to represent Minnesota in the Distinguished Young Women nationals was an exciting and rewarding experience for Owatonna's Abigail Hansen.

The latter half of June was spent with busy days, including hours of rehearsals and community service while competing alongside 50 other DYW winners. She was impressed with how the program works to create leaders and was not simply focused on the competition. This used to be known as Junior Miss and Hansen has a number of family members who had taken part in that program. The Distinguished Young Women program awards scholarships and aims to inspire high school girls.

Contestants are judged in the areas of academics, self-expression, interview, fitness and talent. Academics carries the heaviest weight. Hansen is an accomplished harp player and had to pare her selection down to the 90 seconds each contestant is allowed for her talent. Hansen said it was a great challenge to pull that off.


She enjoyed the community outreach that was part of the experience. Hansen most enjoyed the Be-Your-Best-Self Day when she got to interact with young students at a school that caters to kids with cerebral palsy and the connection she made with a non-verbal young girl. Lunch with the mayor, talking to Girl Scouts and hours of rehearsal occupied much of the other time.

Hansen, daughter of Bret and Kari Hansen, was proud of how she represented herself and the state of Minnesota. She didn't make it to Saturday's finals, but had a great time backstage cheering on young women who had become her friends during the time together.

Hansen's reign as Minnesota's Distinguished Young Women ended shortly upon her return home. But the 2017 Shattuck-St. Mary's graduate is ready for her next challenge, going to the University of Toronto where she will study harp performance and entrepreneurship. She already was a history of being in business for herself between the farmer's market, photography and a music studio.