Tiarra Black, Distinguished Young Woman of Neshoba County, will be one of 33 Mississippi high school seniors competing for more than $44,500 in college scholarships when the Distinguished Young Women Program of 2014 begins Thursday in Meridian.

Miss Black, 17, the daughter of Tina and Jowaski Black, attends Philadelphia High School.

Her accomplishments include being ranked in the top two of her class, superintendent's list and Student Body vice president.

She's a member of the Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta and the Quiz Bowl Team.

Her community service activities include Philly Youth Cheerleaders (90 hours per season) and volunteering with a canned food drive.

Among of her hobbies and interests are tumbling and her part-time job.

She plans to attend the University of Mississippi to pursue a career in law after graduating from PHS.

The state program, now in its 57th year, celebrates and spotlights the outstanding achievements of the state's best and brightest high school girls.

The three nights of competition in Meridian's Temple Theater for the Performing Arts concludes on Saturday.

The curtain opens at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Reserved tickets for the 2014 Distinguished Young Women Program are available for $60 for a three-night package. General admission tickets are available for $45 for a three-night package, or they may be purchased for individual evenings: $15, Thursday; $15, Friday; and $20, Saturday. Tickets may be obtained by calling 601-917-2156. Visa and MasterCard are welcomed.

"We are extremely excited about this year's program," said Sid Wilkinson, Distinguished Young Women of Mississippi State Chairman.

"This program celebrates what is right with today's young people and offers them cash scholarship opportunities to further their education." Last year, Distinguished Young Women of Mississippi awarded close to $240,636 in cash college scholarships through its state and local programs.

During the weeklong program in Meridian, program contestants are evaluated on scholastic achievement, fitness, self-expression, talent and interview.

Miss Black has chosen a dance/gymnastics routine to "It's All About Me" for her talent.

Last year, Mackenzie Ross, Distinguished Young Woman of Lauderdale County, took the title of Distinguished Young Woman of Mississippi and a total of $13,500 in college scholarships. She was awarded the John Houston Phillips Overall Self-Expression Award and talent and scholastic preliminary awards.

The Distinguished Young Women Program was founded as America's Junior Miss in 1957 and is the oldest and largest scholarship program for young women. More than 6,500 high school girls participate each year.

Past participants include Diane Sawyer, Debra Messing, Deborah Norville, Julie Moran, the late Mary Frann, Kim Basinger and Kathie Lee Gifford.