An Ode to the Letters “D”, “Y”, and the Legendary “W”

By Sierra Terrell
Distinguished Young Woman of Maryland 2012

Ever since my junior year of high school, roughly three years ago when I was first introduced to the Distinguished Young Woman Scholarship Program, I randomly find myself feeling proud of belonging to the sisterhood of these three letters. Separately, each letter has its own sound and belongs to many different words – just like each woman that is a part of this encouraging program. Each one of us, we find our own path and belong to many other groups. All of us, uniquely able to have a marvelous impact on our surrounding environment, having great potential. However, when these three letters combine to make the acronym, “DYW”, there becomes an undeniable presence – just like if every member of this program were to unite, the potential would be limitless.

I realized that as much as it is important to shine in our own light and glory, it is just as important to shine with our peers. Throughout my life, I have been a part of numerous clubs and dance teams, but never have I experienced what it means to be a part of a true “sisterhood.” My first mentor when I became a member of this program was Ms. Shannon, an alumna. She was a great help at making me feel comfortable and helping me to realize what a great opportunity I had received. She instantly treated me with love and I admit that at first, I was not sure how to receive it. However, I was fascinated by her stories of her trip to nationals some years ago and the confidence she exuberated. Then, I was introduced to more “has-beens” – some already grown with a career, husband, and children. All of these women had such assurance and respect about them. I thought that maybe I would get intimidated, but instead, I felt nothing besides comfort because they were giving me nothing but love, care, and support. 

I did not see it then, but I do now. All these strong, independent, courageous women that I have met through this program began to gain such qualities back when they were my age and experiencing this program just as I am. Every category I faced, they too faced, and we all have gained personal insight through this process. I look back at my junior year self and realize that I have become more confident, respectable, and courageous. I no longer hesitate to speak my mind or give suggestions if I feel I am in the right place and it is the right thing to do. Whenever I do get nervous about speaking in front of my class or speaking my mind, I think to myself “If you were able to speak in front of hundreds of people that you didn’t know with bright lights shining on your face while also being judged, why would this time be so hard?” And whenever I find myself feeling slightly disappointed or being too hard on myself, I think, “You belong to a group of women that have done so much and will continue to do even more. You earned your spot by being you, so continue to do that and you too shall achieve.”

DYW or Distinguished Young Women, either way you put it, it is not simply a scholarship program…it is an opportunity, experience and a sisterhood.

Sierra Terrell is a college freshman at Troy University in Troy, Alabama majoring in Psychology. Originally from Waldorf, Maryland, Sierra was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Maryland for 2012. Learn more about Sierra here!

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