BARTLESVILLE -- A year ago, Rachel Lynn Wittenbach would have described herself as a naturally shy person, but that all changed last fall.
The 2013 Bartlesville Senior High School graduate decided she was going to break out of her shell during her final year in high school. She signed up for choir, took a number of hard classes and signed up for the Distinguished Young Women state competition in Bartlesville.
"I thought that this would something that would definitely challenge me and help me get out there so I would be more prepared for college."
She competed in the state competition and won, advancing to the National Finals.
Sunday, Wittenbach left for Mobile, Ala. to meet up with 49 other hopefuls for the chance of winning the national title and compete for more than $100,000 in scholarship and grant money for college.
"It's a little intimidating," she said. "This is totally different from anything I have ever done."
Distinguished Young Women is one the largest and longest-running scholarship programs for high school girls. Contestants will be judged on academics, fitness, a 10-minute interview, talent and self-expression.
"We are not necessarily judged on how we look. It is mainly on what's on the inside and how we present ourselves."
Wittenbach will play the flute for her talent. Twenty percent of her score is based on her grades and how she did on the ACT.
"It's definitely focused on academics."
She will spend the next two weeks in Mobile preparing for the competition with rehearsals, but she will also have the opportunity to give to local community, something Wittenbach said she wants to more of when she gets back home.
"This has also encouraged me to go out into my community and to help others. It's not necessarily comfortable for me, but I know that I can help them and they have helped me."
She is not sure if she will win, but Wiitenbach said this process has helped her to build confidence in who she is, and she is going to do her best.
"A lot of people are encouraging me and a lot of people are expecting me to do well, and it's amazing that I have all these people supporting me.
"I have just been praying about it and I know that God will be right there because he has been really strengthening me through everything."
Wittenbach will attend The University of Oklahoma to study chemical engineering in the fall.