Franklin - Sydney Kirkegaard has enough self-confidence to say she did not merely follow in her big sister's footsteps when she recently won the title of 2013 Distinguished Young Woman of Wisconsin.
True, big sister Jordan was the 2008 state winner. Sydney, however, is quick to point out that she has taken in Jordan's enthusiasm for the scholarship program and made it her own.
"I was in middle school when my sister was in the program," Sydney said. "She was my role model and she is my best friend, but I really made up my mind on my own that I wanted to do this."
The Distinguished Young Woman program recognizes well-rounded high school seniors who excel in a variety of aspects, including school activities, community engagement and talent.
Each state winner competes the next spring in the national competition held in Mobile, Ala. She will be vying for a share of more than $130,000 in cash scholarships.
Sydney is a Franklin High School senior with an impressive résumé. She combines an active academic life participating in diverse activities such as poms, student senate and Students Against Destructive Behavior with trying out and landing roles in various Milwaukee-area theater groups.
Her latest foray into theater will be as a member of the ensemble cast of the Skylight Theater's production of "The Sound of Music," which will require plenty of rehearsals in October before the curtain rises in November and December.
"I have always enjoyed performing in theater," Sydney said, pointing that her first experience was at age 6 or 7 in a First Stage production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."
She had one line to memorize, but, she said, "I was hooked."
Those activities and interests served her well during the past year when she competed for the state Distinguished Young Woman title. She was involved in visiting and performing at various community and day care centers as well as retirement communities.
In the end, she was selected by a panel of five judges over eight other finalists.
A different path
While Jordan has just graduated from Butler University in Indiana and is considering applying to medical school, Sydney said she is interested in pursuing an entertainment career.
It's difficult path, said Sue Herman, executive director of Distinguished Young Women of Wisconsin.
"Sydney is very talented and I wish her the best in the nationals and in her career," Herman said. "But theater is a tough career. I hope she has a backup plan."
Sydney is unfazed.
"I know it's not easy, but I am very positive," she said. "I love doing theater and so I am going to pursue it. If it didn't work out, I love cooking, so I might go to culinary school. I would look for something like that because it is also creative."
Family support, pride
Sydney credits her family support, and her mother, Danita, echoes that sentiment.
Danita said she has been very proud of Jordan and Sydney for doing so well at the state scholarship competition. She said she is equally proud of her sons Sam, a television and radio production student at Bradley University and Joe, a Franklin High school sophomore.
"It's very nice having children who have done so well," Danita said. "They have their own interests and they have done so well."
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