Going back down to Mobile this June as a has-been is by far going to be the highlight of my summer. I cannot wait to see the girls that I grew so close to during those two weeks at Nationals, and to enjoy the rich city of Mobile once more. As my departure gets closer, I can’t help but reminisce on all the amazing memories I have from the National Finals last year. I also find myself reliving every fun time and memorable experience as I prepare the 2013 representative from Massachusetts, Brittany, as she readies herself for the trip of a lifetime. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite memory, but there is definitely one experience that seems to stand out from those two weeks. During the first Tuesday night of my trip, after we had spent a long day participating in team-building activities at Camp Grace and educating our Girl Scout troops on the essentials of Be Your Best Self, all 50 of us sat around a bonfire to unwind. Guided by questions from Katye Brock, the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2011, the 50 of us conversed and shared our individual stories. We talked significantly about who our role model was in life, and more importantly what it was like to be a role model in our communities. We were asked to think of a candle, with its flame burning bright and illuminating the darkness around it. A light constantly gives, constantly providing support and guidance through dark and confusing situations. We were then asked to imagine if that light was locked up in a cabinet or sealed away in a box. What good does that do? A light has a duty to provide brightness and clarity to other people, so if it’s locked away somewhere with no one to shine for, then it might as well be put out all together. I looked around the campfire and realized that I was gathered amongst 50 lights that will never be put out. All 50 of us have consciously chosen, on our own, to spread our light to the world, and the Distinguished Young Women program has enhanced that ability for us. Our titles are more than just a medallion around our neck or an achievement to put on our resumes. Being a Distinguished Young Woman means we have allowed the light that is in each and every one of us to shine for the benefit of others. We are role models, inspirations, guides, and persistent lights. That light exists in all of us, you just have to have the courage to let it shine. This program has helped me and so many others recognize the bold and brilliant light that is eager to shine. If you can recognize your unique light and never let it burn out, then that is all it takes to not only be your best self, but to be a truly distinguished young woman.
Emily Thomas is a college freshman at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts majoring in Chemistry and Secondary Education. Originally from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Emily was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Massachusetts for 2012. Learn more about Emily here!