It's About More than Scholarships - by Gabrielle

            As the second week is winding down for the 50 contestants in this year’s Distinguished Young Women scholarship program, only one will be chosen on Saturday night as the Distinguished Young Woman of America. So one may ask, “What does it mean to be the Distinguished Young Woman of America?” Well...there is no right or wrong answer to that. One of the great things about Distinguished Young Women is that the winner is not chosen based off of an ideal mold of what the title winner should look like or what her abilities must be. All of the girls in the program fit the title of Distinguished Young Women and Saturday night one will be chosen who represents all of the participants the best. What is great is that for two weeks one girl from each state brings the country together in celebration of not only who we individually are, but who we are as a country. A bystander inquiring about the program may ask the question, “What is the prize?” and one might answer, “Well, scholarship money of course.” But that is NOT the true answer. The real prize at the end of this is not given to one person, but rather shared by everyone who participated. Unlike money that can be spent within minutes, all of the girls walk away with memories. It is memories that were made with their compassionate host families, dedicated volunteers, patient police escorts, generous sponsors, driven committee members, amazingly talented choreographers, supportive Has-beens, and inspired girl scouts and fans. These relationships are ones that last forever, and after being in this program myself, I speak from experience. In two short weeks, so much happens in the structured schedule for these girls and all of it provides memories to last a lifetime. 

            Robert Gosnell, one of the choreographers from last year along with Casey Noblett and Gia Mongell, sent the girls and I an email letting us know he is thinking of us and remembering what a great time he had last year and that he left inspired by all of us. I remember how much fun I had dancing to our group number “Born this Way” by Lady Gaga. All of the participants got to dance on stage and be their own self, their BEST FIERCE self! The freestyle moments in between the steps represented each girl the best. It was our choreopgrahers that helped us look good and gave us bits of eight counts to be ourselves in front of thousands of family members, friends, and supporters throughout the country and in the host city, Mobile. I remember in one of the rehearsals the power had gone out, but we did not stop rehearsing, although we were all exhausted. Instead, we walked outside, and practiced in the parking lot. That is just one of the thousands of memories I walked away with.

            I came across a quote from one of my good friends and it reads, “We lose ourselves in the things we love, and often find ourselves there too.” It is with the help of everyone in the program that we find who we are and where we fit in, because everyone has their own piece to the puzzle. Without everyone’s passion for Distinguished Young Women, the program would not be what it is today.

Every single one of the 2012 participants is a piece to the puzzle. The participants are seen here making the US map, each representing their own state!!

            Talent is only half of the equation; the other half is using our surroundings to nurture our gifts. And guess what? All of the 50 participants are doing just that and helping others find their own paths too. I’m not psychic or anything, but I already know what will happen on Saturday. Another deserving young woman will be named the Distinguished Young Woman of America and follow right behind previous winners and the wonderful Katy Brock’s footsteps. She will represent her state, country, and most importantly the other girls with pride and empowerment. This is another marvelous memory that will be strung with the other ones and will surely last longer than any scholarship.

Stay Distinguished,

Gabrielle xoxo

Gabrielle Walter is a college freshman at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York majoring in Biology/Pre-medicine. Originally from East Amherst, New York, Gabrielle was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of New York for 2011. Learn more about Gabrielle here!