Name: Astha Berry
Hometown: Franklin, Wisconsin
College: Johns Hopkins University
Major: Neuroscience and Writing Seminars
What is your favorite TV show? The Ellen DeGeneres Show
What is your favorite movie? Anything Disney – from Aladdin to the Hunchback of Notre Dame to Finding Nemo to Tangled, I think Disney does it all.
What is the current #1 most played song on your iPod? I actually have a new song of the day every day but I really love “Believer” by American Authors and “Verona” by Geographer.
What is your favorite quote? “Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light” – Albus Dumbledore
What is your favorite time of year? Summer – I love the sunshine and being able to run through the sprinkler and eat ice cream. The environment is so relaxed and almost every day my friends and I bake cakes and deliver them to people to brighten their day. Sometimes we even bring balloons and music with us. Since we don’t have homework or school, it’s nice to be able to focus on little things.
Plan ahead OR procrastinate? I plan…to procrastinate. I have lists and color coded schedules, but in the end I work well under pressure at the last minute.
Paper OR plastic? Plastic because I always reuse the bags.
Glass half-full OR glass half-empty? Definitely Half Full
Introvert OR extrovert? Very extroverted
Cats OR Dogs? Dogs. No…actually cats. Can I say both?
Morning person OR night person? Both! I love dancing around and singing when I get dressed in the morning (as my roommate at Distinguished Young Women Nationals can attest to – *cough cough Michaela Cloutier*) and then I get my second burst of energy very late at night. All of my friends at Hopkins say I’m an owl because I do most of my work at night.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you absolutely need for survival? A book on how to survive on a deserted island would be a good start. Maybe a “How to build a raft” kit? And my best friend of course, because we could get through anything together.
If you could trade places with any other person for a week, famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be? Ellen DeGeneres because she is my idol. She’s always dancing and helping bring sunshine to people’s day through her humor and positive outlook on life. She uses her show to not only entertain people, but also to help people and call attention to things that are often overlooked including random acts of kindness, finding unknown talented people, discovering and encouraging quirky products. She also uses it as a platform to share ideas about equality and empowerment for women. She passionately stands up against bullying in schools and mistreatment of animals. She takes risks and has fun! I would love to host her show and try to use humor and public speaking to make someone’s day and have fun, but still make the audience pause and consider important topics.
What is your biggest fear? Not leaving an impact with what I do. I want my words and actions to be meaningful.
Sum yourself up in three words. Distinguished Young Woman? Just Kidding! I’d say…bubbly, whimsical, optimistic.
What do you want to be when you grow up and why? A cross between Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Sanjay Gupta, and Ms. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus – I want to make science and learning fun and interesting for others. There’s often a gap in what professionals say about a topic and how it is communicated to the public, and I want to help bridge that gap by combining my love of writing and public speaking with my love for science.
Describe your single-most favorite moment from your Distinguished Young Women experience. At Nationals, I skinned, scraped, bruised, and burned my knees over the course of the two weeks – and it was the best experience of my life. See, I hurt my knees through dance and so they already hurt a lot in the beginning of the week. At another point, I fell and basically got rug burn on my knees and hurt my knees caps. Then I tripped and fell on stage during community night and I ripped my tights and started bleeding and limping. For my talent, I dance and spin on my knees so this was the worst possible circumstance I could imagine and I was very scared about how I would go through with it. However, everyone was so insanely supportive and encouraged me to try my best but not strain my knees and do whatever I felt comfortable doing. The first night of the program, it was my turn to do talent and I went on that stage and I thought to myself – this might be the last – or only – time you ever dance on a stage like this, with all of your friends here to support you – either physically or in spirit. I thought about all of the girls from my state program back home who helped me gain more confidence in myself and all of the volunteers and sponsors to helped out. I thought about how many people had invested time and money into making this experience possible for me. And in that moment, I felt the strongest surge of adrenaline that I have ever felt in my life, and my entire body felt stronger and more energized. I began my dance and it is the most fun I have ever had in my life – I felt absolutely incredible, because I wasn’t thinking about what step was next or if I was going to slip or if my knees could handle it. I wasn’t thinking about how it looked from the stage or how I was doing or how it would impact how I did in the overall program. I just thought about how much I loved to dance, and were it not for Distinguished Young Women, I would never have the opportunity to share my love for dancing like this. I dipped down for the knee spin and in that moment, I could hear my friends and family starting to cheer as I spun faster and faster fueled by the growing noise and more and more people joined in. It was more than just my Wisconsin supporters – it was people cheering me on from every state, because that is what this program is all about. We all lift each other and help each other to do our very best. Once the music ended, I was in so much pain – my mouth hurt because I could not stop smiling; I felt elated and my heart was still dancing.