by Madeleine Arnold
As a junior girl in high school trying to gain some skills and maybe even a bit of scholarship money, signing up for my local Distinguished Young Women program seemed like another thing to cram on my extremely full plate. I was preparing for a national piano competition— the most important competition of my life, I might add. I was in the middle of AP tests and finals and a million other things. I’d always known I wanted to participate in the program, but the timing of it all was quite comical. Little did I know at that very first meeting that this program and the experience ahead of me would have such an effect on the direction of my life.
Fast-forward to the end of my freshman year of college. As I look back on these past few years and see the ripple effects of this program, I’m completely overwhelmed by the many ways it has positively impacted me. Let me name a few.
Throughout my time in this program, I’ve gained well over 100 DYW sisters. The sisterhood in this program is so real and so wonderful. We share such a strong bond that can only be created as every girl works and serves together and seeks to build one another up. That is the culture in this program, and it is truly incredible. So to every single one of my sisters, I love you. I can’t tell you what you mean to me.
The scholarship opportunities I’ve received through this program have also been such a blessing for me as I pursue my education at Brigham Young University. Education has always held high priority in my life, and I’m extremely grateful to DYW for its major part in helping me to realize my educational goals.
Many other big doors have been opened for me. A few weeks ago I was able to travel to New York City to attend and present at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. DYW prepared me with speaking skills, increased confidence, a greater desire to understand the world around me, and most importantly a strong belief that I can make a difference.
I’m a firm believer that the purpose of this program is to empower each young woman by giving her the confidence, skills and experiences she needs to prepare for a successful future. I speak from my own experience when I say that this program is about stepping out of comfort zones, and in doing so, expanding them. It teaches girls to live by and share the “Be Your Best Self” message. It is not a perfection program, but an improvement program. I love that. It has taught me that I have something great and unique to offer and that I can be powerful and make a meaningful difference without being perfect.
While I was at the UN, immediately following my presentation on the importance of education and gaining knowledge, I was asked by an audience member what I was passionate about. There are many things I feel strongly about, but at the top of my list is the desire I have for everyone to know of their incredible worth and infinite potential. Maybe that’s why the DYW program resonates so strongly with me. I’ve seen such growth in myself, and I have a new perspective on who I can become. Being your best self isn’t about merely being satisfied with who you are today, but by knowing that you are strong enough to change, improve and become a better YOU. What an empowering message. I’m thankful to DYW for giving me a glimpse of who I can become.
I’ll be forever grateful for the people I’ve met, the growth I’ve experienced, and finally for God’s guiding hand throughout this journey. His mindfulness is so clear to me. I have absolutely no doubt that Distinguished Young Women was meant to be a part of my life, and what a true blessing it has been! All the glory be to Him.
To everyone reading this, whether or not you are a Distinguished Young Woman, I hope you realize that the principles that are foundational in this program are applicable to anyone and everyone. So embrace every growing opportunity life sends your way, and always seek to lift those around you. You will meet people who will touch your life, and you will certainly touch the lives of others. You are more powerful than you know, your influence is far-reaching, and you can make a meaningful difference. Your potential is LIMITLESS.
I may have reached “has-been” status, but the lessons I’ve learned and the strength I’ve gained from this program are things I will always carry with me. I’ll love you forever, DYW! You certainly haven’t seen the last of me!
Lots of love,
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