Distinguished Through the Decades: 2021, Lily Pounders
Rising to her distinguished capacity at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic meant Distinguished Young Women was very different for Russellville’s Lily Pounders and her fellow participants, compared to most years. While the Northwest Alabama program was held in person – albeit with reduced attendance and at a different location – the state competition was held virtually.
Despite the pandemic-restricted programming, Pounders said DYW was an amazing experience.
“I would definitely say, no matter what, whether you feel like you’re unqualified or you’ve never done anything like it, you should do it,” said Pounders, daughter of Paula and Jeff Pounders. “You’re going to build amazing friendships, first and foremost; I would say that’s probably one of the best things that comes from it. And you’re going to become more confident in yourself, whether you win or lose.
“Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and try something new – because after high school, you’re going to be doing a whole lot of getting out of your comfort zone, so you might as well start practicing now.”
The RHS 2021 valedictorian said participating in DYW wasn’t an instant decision for her, but with the encouragement and support of friends and family, she decided to take the leap.
“Mrs. Colagross (a teacher at RHS) choreographed my dance for me, and lots of people encouraged me. My mother helped me practice for my interview,” Pounders said.
For her talent, Pounders performed a jazz and acrobatic dance routine to “The Way You Make Me Feel” by Michael Jackson. “I knew, whatever I was going to do for my talent, that I needed to incorporate tumbling because that was something I felt more comfortable doing; I had been doing it for a while because of cheer,” she explained. “So I was searching Youtube, and I saw a little girl do it to that song, and I thought, ‘That’s it. That’s the one.’”
In addition to cheer, in which Pounders participated from sixth grade through senior year, she was also involved in a number of other activities, including tennis, the National Honors Society and the Future Health Professionals Club – the latter two of which she served as president – as well as making the ACT 30+ Club and second alternate on the Homecoming Court.
After high school Pounders chose to continue her education at Auburn University, where she is now finishing her freshman year, majoring in biomedical sciences–pre-med. “I’ve always been an Auburn fan; the school is amazing and the campus is beautiful,” said Pounders, whose sister Gracie is also at AU.
Pounders said she has plans to continue to medical school or optometry school following her bachelor’s program. Job shadowing and interning at Russellville Hospital, Mission Medical and Campbell Vision Center during high school helped solidify her interest in a career in the medical field. “I just love taking care of other people,” she said. “I want to make sure I can use whatever abilities I have to help others with whatever they are struggling with.”
Pounders said her interest in the medical field was also sparked by a car accident her father had when she was in second grade. She remembers the phone call and her mother crying. “I just remember wishing I could do something to help. I just felt so helpless,” she said.
“You see people who have a hard life and struggles, and I just want to be able to improve their lives somehow, some way, and let them know there is hope in this world.”
Among Pounders’ future goals include her heart’s desire to go on a mission trip. Haiti would be her destination of choice. She’s hoping she’ll have the opportunity one day with Calvary Baptist, where her family attends.
“I just want to use my life for a purpose – something bigger than I am.”
During the course of the DYW competition, Pounders said winning barely entered her mind. She was shocked and thankful to be named Franklin’s DYW.
“When you get there, everybody is so kind and supportive, you’re not even worried about ‘Am I going to win?’ or not,” she said. “You’re just having a good time … I started feeling really comfortable and stopped worrying about what the results would be.”