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franklin county times

Distinguished Through the Decades: 2016, Holly Hardin

Progress 2022: Distinguished Through the Decades

“I absolutely loved it. I met so many friends – dozens and dozens of girls I still talk to now.” That’s how Red Bay’s Holly Hardin remembers the Distinguished Young Women program.

Hardin’s mom competed in DYW when she was in high school, and “it was really her encouragement” that pushed Hardin to follow in her mother’s footsteps. The daughter of Lori and Todd Hardin, the 2016 RBHS alum said she got very close to the other girls in her DYW year. “We still have a group chat, so when people get married or have babies, they post in there,” Hardin said. “It really is a sisterhood.”

After high school, Hardin went to the University of North Alabama, first majoring in pre-med. After two years, however, she changed her major to food and nutrition and transferred to The University of Alabama.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, Hardin returned home, and she said she began to once again reconsider her career path.

She is now an elementary education major at the Mississippi University for Women, and it’s a path in which she feels quite confident. “I absolutely love it. I’ll be a third-generation teacher, so I guess it’s always been in my blood,” said Hardin. She initially resisted an education major because she wanted to do something different, but “I should have done it right off the bat.”

Thanks to COVID, Hardin found herself taking classes at The W online. Despite all the horrors of the pandemic, Hardin said the upside was a valuable opportunity return home and slow down for a bit. When she finishes her degree, targeted for this semester, Hardin said she hopes to teach in the area, perhaps in Florence – although with all the transitions she has gone through, she has learned not to plan too much but instead to live in the moment.

“I really like just being with the children and getting to help them through – not just learning academically but growing the social interaction and learning who they are as people,” said Hardin. “I didn’t realize how much impact you have on the whole life of the student, and I really like that.”

During her years at Red Bay High School, Hardin’s main focus was basketball. She was part of the 2A state championship team her junior year. She was also in the Spanish Club, English Club, Math Club and Science Club, and she ran track and field. She was also active in HOSA, including serving as a national officer her senior year and into her freshman year of college – but she said she just didn’t feel a passion when thinking about med school.

“I’m so happy with where I’m at now, so I feel like education is where I’ll stay,” Hardin said. “I plan on getting my master’s in administration, so the dream goal is to be in administration at some point – elementary principal, right now, is where my goals are.”

When she reflects back on her time as DYW, Hardin said she can’t help but think about how helpful it has been to have connections with other women across the state. “With any aspect of your life, connections are key,” she said. “It was so easy to say, ‘Hey, I’m interested in this field’ and one of my friends be like, ‘Hey, I know someone who does that. I can give you their number.’”

“I wish more girls would do Distinguished Young Women. You can only benefit from it, and the scholarship money is just a bonus.”

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