Bush will compete in July pageant

Published 6:19 pm Friday, March 8, 2013

Kay Bush poses for a photo with noted Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi.|Submitted

Kay Bush poses for a photo with noted Romanian gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi.|Submitted

Bainbridge High School junior Kay Bush has such a busy schedule, she jokes that her mom is also her appointment secretary.

A three-sport athlete who is a leader at her school and church, one might wonder how she has time to do it all. She gets a little help from her friends and family, but there’s also a special quality about her that makes her driven to be her best at whatever she tries.

Distinguished Young Women of Georgia, formerly Georgia’s Junior Miss Scholarship Program, held an at-large event to select qualifying young women for the class of 2014 on Feb. 23, at Colquitt County High School in Moultrie.

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Bush was awarded the title of Distinguished Young Woman of Decatur County for 2014 and earned the opportunity to compete for the title of Distinguished Young Women of Georgia July 26-27, in Marietta, Ga.

Distinguished Young Women is a scholarship program that is similar to a pageant but has several important distinctions: the emphasis is less on beauty and more on character, academics and community service. The program “inspires high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments.”

The state winner will travel to Mobile, Ala., to participate in personal development activities and community service projects before competing with representatives from the other 49 states for the opportunity to become the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2014 and for a share of more than $125,000 in cash scholarships.

The 17-year-old daughter of Lane and Lee Bush, Kay had never participated in any pageants or similar programs before.
To qualify for the state program, Kay and other girls went through a preliminary event in which they were interviewed by judges, performed a talent and participated in a self-expression portion in which they wore modest sun dresses. Kay’s talent? A liturgical dance to a contemporary Christian song.

Bainbridge High School football fans may recognize Kay as a varsity cheerleader who runs onto the field on fall Friday nights, pumping up the spirit of players and fans alike alongside her teammates.

Kay and her younger sister Taylor, who also cheered for BHS in Fall 2012.

Kay and her younger sister Taylor, who also cheered for BHS in Fall 2012.

In addition to being a member of BHS’s competition cheerleading team, she’s also an excellent gymnast, as the back handsprings she likes to do on the football field partly attest to. She competes with Murkerson’s Dance and Cheer Gym, is the captain of the “Gymnast-a-Cats” team and has instructed younger gymnasts there for four years.

She’s also attended a summer gymnastics camp run by coach Bela Karolyi, who is as well-known for his outspoken Romanian charisma as he is for coaching numerous young gymnasts to international success along with his wife Marta, the current coach of the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team.

Attending Karolyi’s camp in Houston, Texas as a chaperone for younger gymnasts from Bainbridge this past summer, Kay had two once-in-a-lifetime moments.

She and her fellow campers were given the chance to quietly observe the practice of the U.S. Olympian gymnasts, who went on to win the all-around team gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

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It was an awe-inspiring experience, but the best was yet to come: after getting recognition for her positive energy and ability to work with children, Bela Karolyi personally invited Kay to come back to his camp this summer to work as a both a counselor and coach.

She’ll draw on her experience with the Bearcat Little Girls cheer camp run by the BHS cheerleaders each summer, and interacting with children at local pep rallies. Watching her talk with children, her face lights up as she effortlessly pulls off being both a big sister and best friend to them.

“[Coaching the little girls,] you have to engage them and inspire them or it will be chaotic,” Kay said. “You can tell that they’re interested in you when you do engage them. Our cheerleading coach [Lea Hawkins] is always telling us that the younger girls want to be us when they grow up. So I don’t want to make it seem not fun.”

It’s fun, but the reality is that being a cheerleader, gymnast and most recently, a competitive swimmer—Kay won a silver medal in in the backstroke during her first year of competing earlier this year—requires a lot of time, dedication and fitness.


She’s smart, too—BHS Principal Tommie Howell calls her “an outstanding student and individual” who maintains good grades while taking a “rigorous course of study that includes a number of Advanced Placement classes.” She has been nominated for the Georgia Governor’s Honors summer program and is waiting to hear if she will be chosen to attend the four-week program at Valdosta State University.

She’s currently serving as apprentice at Memorial Hospital in Bainbridge and is a volunteer cheerleading coach at the Friendship House of Jesus, a free, faith-based after-school program.

Among her many other school activities, Kay is active in the Future Farmers of America, is on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes leadership team and is a member of both the Anchor Club and Interact Club service organizations. She’s honed her leadership skills at the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Camp at Berry College, FFA summer leadership camps and her current participation in the Raymond Miles Youth Leadership program sponsored by the Bainbridge-Decatur County Chamber of Commerce.

Kay is a member of First United Methodist Church in Bainbridge and has been a leader both at her own church and in larger Methodist organizations.

“She helps out at a number of church activities and is a great role model for her fellow youth,” Bainbridge FUMC Youth Minister Matt Martin said of Kay, who is president of the church’s youth leadership team.

Her participation as a delegate at a regional Methodist conference led her to be nominated as one of only two young persons to serve on the General Council on Finance and Administration at the church’s annual international conferences, which she will do through 2015. Having attended her first international conference in May 2012, she will also attend quarterly meetings in Nashville, Tenn.

Kay Bush

Kay Bush

Kay hopes to attend Mercer University in Macon, Ga., in fall 2014. She hasn’t settled on a major yet, but is interested in health care professions. If she goes to Mercer, which will begin its football program this coming fall, Kay hopes to join the cheerleading team as a freshman.

Considering all that she does, one might wonder when she has time to focus on her studies, or just being a regular teenage girl for that matter.

Kay’s close with her two sisters, University of Georgia student Sarah Margaret and ninth-grader Taylor, and credits her family’s support with helping her in all that she does. At 17, Kay already has a single-spaced resume that fills an entire page.

“I think I get more out of life with the rigorous schedule, because if I didn’t do it all, I wouldn’t do anything,” Kay said. “That is my ‘normal’ because everything I do, I love — it’s not a toll to go to gymnastics or cheerleading practice and my school activities. I wouldn’t drop any of it; the things you see me doing are worth it to me.”