Carrington Hodge is a rising senior at Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School “JCIB,” the Vice President of the JCIB Black Student Union and the Teen Corresponding Secretary of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., Birmingham Chapter. Most recently, she was named the 2023 Distinguished Young Woman of America “DYW,” competing in the scholarship competition and earning nearly $50,000 in scholarship money. Here, Carrington expresses her gratitude about winning the latest DYW competition.

What is “Unmasked: The Simone Project,” and why did you choose this platform to advocate for in the DYW competitions?

Unmasked: The Simone Project is a resource website that promotes social justice and minority history education in classroom settings. This site also provides current events, highlights misinformed history and provides opportunities for independent learning. Often, these topics can create uncomfortable classroom environments and are left out of curriculums, so our website targets teens and other students that are interested in learning more about the non “white-washed” history of America.

Tell our readers about your dance background and the act you performed in the talent portion of the DYW competitions?

I’ve danced at Birmingham Dance Theatre for the last 10 years. I competed in all style such as, jazz, ballet, pointe, contemporary, lyrical and hip hop. For the talent portion, I wanted to do a jazz dance but also showcase my ballet and pointe technique, so I combined both in a jazz en pointe piece to “Bye, Bye Blackbird,” with a Fosse inspiration. My choreographer, Scarlet Walker, was in New York, and I was in Alabama, so we learned [my act] all through Zoom rehearsals. She would try to tell me to do things, and I would have no understanding of what she was doing. Eventually, we got it done. I won a talent award at every single level of the program, and it’s been great to get to perform this piece for the last year.

What are your plans after high school?

I want to attend Vanderbilt University and major in pediatric neuroscience and African American studies. I hope that seeing a woman of color in the medical field helps draw patients to the doctor at early stages of need. Knowing that someone like me is there to advocate for their needs and treat them accordingly will hopefully reduce late-stage diagnoses and prolong life spans in people of color.

What would you like to say to the people who’ve supported you in your journey?

I had the best cheering squad at nationals in the audience. At one point, I was standing on stage, and they announced my name for the top eight. I literally had to tell my family to quiet down because they were so over the top, cheering for me. Having the help of my parents, my dance family, my school family, my friends and also the support of the state committees and local committees along the way really helped me–it was a community effort.

What would you like to say to other young professionals such as yourself?

I would encourage any girl who is looking to get more involved in her senior year to consider DYW. The national platform is “Be Your Best Self,” and one of the five elements is to “be ambitious.” You don’t know what you are going to get out of this program. You can earn scholarship money without being the title holder. You make such a great connection with friends. Our senator, Katie Britt, was the winner in 2001, and when I won nationals, she called me personally and left me a voicemail, asking for me to let her know when I wanted to come to Washington, D.C. Being surrounded by such like-minded individuals is an opportunity I will always cherish.