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By Máire Nakada
Distinguished Young Woman of America 2015

I can not believe that my year as the the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2015 has gone by so quickly. In a little under a month a new girl will be named the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2016 and I will soon be a Has Been.

This year has definitely challenged me in the best way possible and helped me to mature as a young woman in ways I never imagined. I can not even begin to tell you just how much support was behind me throughout my entire journey as the national representative. The women at the national office who put in so much effort and thought to Distinguished Young Women are absolutely incredible. The countless volunteers around the nation and anyone who offered a kind word of encouragement along the way helped me through my year so much. I know it would not have been possible without everyone’s support. Thank you all so much.

I would like to especially thank Ms. Pam Patterson, a.k.a. Mama P, who does so much for

Distinguished Young Women National Finals. June 27, 2015
Distinguished Young Women National Finals. June 27, 2015

me and Distinguished Young Women because she truly believes in and loves this program. You are a blessing from God to this world and I am so honored to have you in my life. I honestly do not know how Ms. Pam does it all. Oh, and she has amazing hair days that she rocks flawlessly to all of our official events. You are amazing Ms. Pam. You’re a true role model and a wonderful person to be the head of Distinguished Young Women. Thank you so much for everything you do and have done for me and DYW.

To Kendra Haskins, the amazing field director, graphic designer, and so much more at the national DYW HQ, you are so cool. I hope every DYW of 2016 gets to meet you because your sassiness, wit, and humor are so great. You work so hard to put programs together and make sure things are running as they should be around the nation while being a wife and mother. You have inspired me in so many ways and I cannot thank you enough for all you do. Thank you.

To Michelle Bronstein Touchton, you have made sure I have been at the right place and time talking to the right people so many times. Thank you for keeping me on track and for being incredibly kind to me 24/7. You really are amazing being a full time momma and wife. Your daughters are blessed to have you to look up to as a role model for life. Thank you for everything you do. Distinguished Young Women is so happy to have you on our team.

To Amelia Jacobs, thank you for making sure I had all of my speeches, blogs and quotes in order before the due dates. Thank you for being so so so patient with me and never getting irritable. Thank you for putting in so much hard work at Distinguished Young Women and for being a model of diligence and patience for me. You are one amazing woman and I hope you know that. Thank you for everything, Amelia.

To Ms. Valerie and Ms. Laura, thank you both for being patient with me and answering any email I sent your way with countless questions and inquiries. You two are so level headed and grounded that I aspire to be more like you in the future. Thank you for working so hard at DYW, your work does not go unnoticed.

To the DYW interns who kept me laughing and smiling throughout my year, thank you wonderful gals for being so positive and uplifting. Thank you for being patient with my late blog posts and for always offering a kind word whenever I was feeling stressed. Thank you for working so hard at DYW while having college and other aspects of life to handle too. You girls are amazing, no matter what you say. Thank you so much!

To Mr. McClory, the Alaska State Chair for DYW, thank you for everything you have done for me and my family. You are one amazing man, sir. You do so much for the Alaska state program and you have changed so many people’s lives through your kindness, thoughtfulness, and constant hard work. Thank you for helping me become the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2015. You’re incredible.

To Kathy and Forrest Latta, thank you for adopting me during my freshman year of college. You two are the kindest, most generous, and hilarious couple I have ever met. I don’t think I would have had such a great year without you both. You gave me so much good advice during my year as the national representative and I can’t thank you enough. I love you both so much and am so grateful for the support and kindness you constantly showed me. Thank you.

To Mom and Dad, thank you for raising a distinguished young woman. Through teaching me your morals and values I’ve learned so much in my life from you. Thank you for supporting me throughout every challenge I’ve faced and encouraging me to always be the best version of myself I possibly can be. Thank you for loving me unconditionally and for always being there for me. I know I could not have done any of this without you. Thank you for being role models on how to be kind and work incredibly hard. I love you both so much.

To my sister, Roisin, thank you for introducing me to Distinguished Young Women. None of this would have happened without you looking into scholarship programs in 2010. Thank you for coaching me before the state and national programs. Thank you for believing in me and my dreams. Thank you for helping me reach my goals. Thank you for teaching me how to be strong despite the curve balls life throws at us sometimes. Thank you for being a true Distinguished Young Woman to look up to. Thank you for being an amazing big sis. I love you forever.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Distinguished Young Women Class of 2015 for being so encouraging and supportive from day 1 together. You gals are my inspirations and I know that each and every one of us will go far in life. Whatever you do, wherever you go, I know that you are all being distinguished in your own way. Thank you for being the best class of DYWs ever. I hope I have represented our class well and have made you proud to be DYWs. I love all of you, “but I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”

Thank you,

Máire Nakada is a college freshman at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama. Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Máire was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2015. Learn more about Máire here!

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