Saturday night my parents were hosting one of their adult gathering parties, and my job is always to help my mother in preparation and then help devour all of the delicious food.
Mom: “Gabrielle, I need you to keep watching for guests as they arrive.”
I glance at my watch..it’s 7:50– “the Distinguished Young Women National Finals starts in 10 minutes,” I thought.
Just then the door bell rang and two more couples came. I helped direct them to the party as I took their desserts to the freezer, eyeing up what deliciousness they had made (I have SUCH a sweet tooth).
Frantically, I hurried upstairs, grabbed my laptop, set up shop in the front foyer, and opened a web browser to the site. Whew! Just in time…the stage lights had just gone up and the opening number was starting.
For those of you who do not know, Distinguished Young Women is a scholarship program that I took part in my senior year of high school. The program works to empower and reward young women who are talented, intelligent, and confident leaders.
Be Your Best Self is an outreach program, which encourage young people to live out their lives with these five elements: Be Healthy, Be Studios, Be Involved, Be Responsible, and Be Ambitious. Previously America’s Junior Miss, Distinguished Young Women changed its name in 2010 to rebrand the program and emphasize the importance of scholastics, not physical appearance.
In 2011 I was named the Distinguished Young Women of New York and got to go to nationals in Mobile, Alabama, and believe me when I say this..those were some of the best two weeks I have had in my life. The people are sweet with southern hospitality, but the tea is sweeter…haha
This past weekend memories came rushing through my head of my time in Mobile and what it felt like that night of finals to be so nervous, but excited to celebrate all of your hard work preparing for nationals for several months at home and within those two weeks.
From the moment I arrived in Mobile, I was blown away. The kind, warm hearted families, contestants, choreographers, committees, everyone made me feel sooo welcomed. Little did I know, Mobile would soon become my home away from home. I cannot even name half of the events we did because we were so booked with rehearsals, sponsor events, Girl Scout Troop visits, time with host families, we did it all! Some of the best moments though were the ones that were not scheduled, I call them distinguished moments. One was getting to know my host family the McKinney’s and their involvement in the program over some frozen yogurt at Cold Snap while heading over to the Gulf Shore for a beach day. This program is not just something they do on the side, it has become a part of their lives. They do it because they believe in the program and its message of “helping college bound young women develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments.” One of the funnier moments was our occasional “elbow licking” attacks when no one was looking. As well as when all the contestants and I were at the Mardi Gras Ball and our group number song “Born this Way” came on and we all as a group just broke out in dance; those are distinguished moments. It was the moment when I was at Camp Grace helping children with disabilities and serving them lunch, and watching the camp counselors have patients as they attended to a child’s every need… that was a distinguished moment. Distinguished moments happen every day if you look for them.
So one may ask, why is it important to be distinguished? Good old Webster says that to be distinguished is to be “marked by eminence, distinction, or excellence.” No one person is the same in this world. We all have our own ideas, interpretations, and opinions about the world. It is the differences of opposing ideas that makes no one the same. How would the world be if everyone thought the same? Nothing would ever change. There would be no collaboration of ideas to get the best outcome of what people have to offer. I believe everyone has something to offer in this world. Getting things to make yourself better in life is the usual, but giving yourself to others in the toughest times is self- sacrificing, a distinct action, a distinguished deed. It is the circumstances that we encounter in life that force us to have opinions. Our innate actions show who we are as individuals. It is when no one is watching that you are yourself.
Although the audience and judges see what happens on stage, a lot of the show happens back stage and in preparation for the big show–from our host families, to the national headquarters, to our head moms (Carol), to volunteer drivers, to choreographers (Casey, Robbie, and Gia–you are wonderful!), to committee members, to donors and many more. Their time and effort and passion for this program makes it possible for all of the 50 contestants to have an experience of a lifetime when in Mobile. Without them, none of this would be possible. They make the experience all that it is, but what truly makes up Distinguished Young Women are the 50 contestants. Those girls are the ones who make the program what it truly is. Those girls are the leaders of tomorrow and have poise, intelligence, and hope for the future to make this world a better place. Yes, the prize is scholarship money, but I believe the real rewards are the friendships and memories that are made and last far beyond the two weeks in Mobile.
Still two years later, I love to stay in touch with my fellow classmates of 2011 and check in on the Distinguished Young Women Facebook page to see how the program is doing. I did not go down as a “Has-been” (participants from the previous year who go to Mobile to help mentor the current class of girls) last year because I had my sister’s graduation party from high school, but I do plan on going down one of these years and visiting the place that is so dear to my heart.[ to see the dance click here]
This program does so much for young women of all ages and it is one that I know is changing girls’ lives all over the country. I am so grateful and count my blessings every day, thanking God for all that he has given me. The Distinguished Young Women program is a true blessing and I glad to be a part of this wonderful family. Thank you Katye Brock (DYW for 2011) for representing my class so well. Christina Maxwell (DYW for 2012), you have been a wonderful representative this year and made an impact on so many young women. To Nicole Renard, I know you will represent this program wonderfully this year. I want to wish you the best of luck as you take this next step.
Talk to me: What distinguished moments have you encountered this week? Gabi