Viansa Portesi of Warwick was named the Distinguished Young Woman of Rhode Island and awarded $2,000 in cash scholarships during a statewide scholarship program for high school girls held Jan. 14 at the Johnston Senior High School in Johnston.
Portesi plans to attend the University of Alabama, where she has earned a four-year renewable, full-tuition scholarship from the Distinguished Young Women program. She plans to major in political science and go for her masters in the same field.
Portesi was one of six high school senior girls from Rhode Island who competed to represent the state as the Distinguished Young Woman of RI for 2018. Participants were evaluated in the categories of Scholastics (25%), Interview (25%), Talent (20%), Fitness (15%), and Self-Expression (15%).
“I thought every aspect fit me as a person… When I found out I had won, I was overjoyed. I had tears in my eyes,” said Portesi.
Throughout the next year, Portesi will represent the state at various public events and serve as a role model to young people by spreading the program’s national outreach message of “Be Your Best Self.” The outreach program is designed to encourage self-esteem and excellence in all young people through its five principles: Be Healthy, Be Involved, Be Studious, Be Ambitious, and Be Responsible.
Portesi embodies these principles through her academics, athletics, and musical performance. When asked how she is able to juggle so many responsibilities, she had a simple answer: “It is very stressful, but I always make sure to focus on one thing at a time. I make time for one specific activity and put my all into it.”
Portesi hopes to share her ideals with young women during the outreach program: “Be true to yourself and strive to be better than the best. Go for your aspirations,” she said.
Portesi is the daughter of Thomas Portesi and Lori McKinsey and is a senior at LaSalle Academy in Providence.
The 61st National Finals will take place on June 28, 29, 30, in Mobile, Ala.
Portesi will travel to Mobile, along with 51 other representatives from across the country to participate in personal development activities and community service projects before competing for the opportunity to become the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2018 and for additional cash scholarships. Portesi is excited to participate. “I’ll be around 50 other girls with the same aspirations, and I hope to surround myself with them and learn in the process,” she said.
The District of Columbia’s Skye Bork, who is attending Columbia University, was named the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2017.
Founded in 1958 in Mobile, Alabama, Distinguished Young Women is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls. During its 60 years of operation, the program has provided life-changing experiences for more than 765,000 young women. Distinguished Young Women provided more than $106 million in cash scholarships and $1.5 billion college granted scholarship opportunities to program participants at the local, state and national level. Previously known as America’s Junior Miss, the program announced its new name in June 2010.
The mission of Distinguished Young Women is to positively impact the lives of young women by providing a transformative experience that promotes and rewards scholarship, leadership and talent. National sponsors include Mobile County, City of Mobile, Wintzell's Oyster House, Encore Rehabilitation, Alabama Power Foundation, Master Boat Builders, The Barbara Barrington Jones Family Foundation, Regions Financial Corporation, Evonik, and The Alabama Media Group.