Sunday, October 13, 2013

Distinguished Young Women of Arizona

I had an amazing experience this Fall, participating with the Distinguished Young Women of Arizona program.  Back in the day, it was called "Junior Miss".  Being 11 years past that stage of my life, it was nice to not be competing for anything, except for hits on the DYWofAZ blog (Go check it out!  After only 11 posts, we've had 4,550 hits--let's get to 5,000!).  One of my favorite posts on that blog includes this "inspirational message" I shared with the girls before their interviews & main performance.    One of my favorite bloggers called this a "Summer Anthem" at the beginning of the Summer, and I turned it into a "mandatory" lesson for the girls in the program. :)  Thank you, for helping us be brave, Sara Bareilles!

In all honesty, volunteering with the program brought me a new found love and appreciation for all the leaders who put the program on when I did it (namely people like Aimee Patton, who ran the Gilbert Junior Miss Program for many years with little kids at home).  How many nights did they stay up late?  How many trips did they take to the store?  How many phone calls did they make, or meetings did they attend?  How many times did they bend over backwards just to make it all come together?  Now that I've seen a glimpse of the sacrifices they made, I understand more clearly how much those leaders really cared about me (and all the other girls involved).  Now I know how deeply important it was to them that all of us could internalize the message to "Be Your Best Self".  "Be Your Best Self" is an invaluable message and life lesson--it helps young women rise above challenges, recognize their own worth, find confidence in who they are, and know that it's okay to be unique (not some cookie cutter model off of a magazine cover).  When you can teach a girl to be her best self, she begins to feel something more inside - happiness, excitement, hope, life, and truth.  The truth I speak of is that she has God-given attributes, talents, and gifts - when developed these gifts enrich her life purpose and meaning.

One night I went to Costco to get food for the DYW girls.  While I was busy catching a picture of my cute baby using the watermelons as foot rests, I handed the Costco man 1 receipt for pizza.  I'm sure he was wondering how we thought we would get out of the store.  Fortunately, I remembered Costco isn't a photo studio, and I pulled out the other 2 receipts from my wallet. Sometimes when you buy food from Costco for DYW, you feel the urge to bring someone else along & they feel the need to make a purchase, and then you see something that you know won't be there tomorrow, so you buy it on the spot, and before you know it, you're explaining why you have 3 receipts and act like a ditz to the guard at the door so he'll let you out! :)

I was so fortunate to be part of the committee; not only did I meet and learn from the incredible women running the program, and feel the vibrant energy of the contestants, but I got to wear an official name tag, too!  I'm telling you every single girl who participated in the Distinguished Young Women of AZ program this year was beautiful, talented, friendly, gorgeous, intelligent, and had so much to be proud of. 

On the night of the competition, I enjoyed the program more than most, because I was so happy to see that all the hard work paid off--each girl gave it 110%, and performed their talents better than I'd ever seen before.  They all demonstrated their best selves.  I also had a difficult time watching the competition, because I had come to know all the girls on a personal level.  So even though every single one walked away from the program a better and changed young woman, I wished they could have all walked away with scholarship money, too.  I was so excited & happy for the girls who  won scholarships, sad for the ones who didn't, proud of all the teenagers for being supportive of each other, grateful I had the experience to learn from Jesika Harmon, Becky Mills, & Liane Carmichael, and bummed that the program was over (until next year).   That's a lot of emotions in one moment!  But it was still AWESOME!

Coral is in, by the way.  Miss Katie Wilkinson (The Distinguished Young Woman of 2013) wears it!  Cheryl & I were happy to be matching her at this particular rehearsal.

This is Jaylia Yan - the vibrant, talented, intelligent, well-rounded, and beautiful Distinguished Young Woman of Arizona for 2014.  She will be a great representative for the State of Arizona this next year, and I'm so happy for her!  Now green is in, but I didn't get the memo for the night of the show.  Good thing I still have time to spend around Jaylia. :)