In the past few days, as I’ve been taking care of some housecleaning, one of my projects was to clean out and sort through old photo albums on my computer. Of course when I came across the albums from June and July of last year, I lingered much longer than I should have on the pictures of my amazing experience in Mobile, Alabama, reminiscing of those amazing two weeks. One particular photograph that was taken in the airport before my departure triggered a memory that turned out to be one of the most memorable from the entire trip (and that’s saying something!). I had just settled in for the three hour-ride home from Atlanta, Georgia to Boston, Massachusetts, filled with mixed emotions. I was excited to return home and be reunited with my friends and family, but on the other hand was sad to part from the 50 new best friends I had spent the past two weeks with. I pulled out my itinerary from the trip, my notebook and a pen and began the long process of making a list of all those that I owed thank you notes to for making my trip the incredible experience that it was. About an hour into the trip, I noticed that the lady across the aisle from me was intently watching what I was doing. Upon noticing my upward glance, she quickly took the opportunity to ask exactly what I was doing. I spent the next hour explaining to her that because I won my state competition, I was given the opportunity to spend two weeks getting to know the other state representatives, exploring Southern culture and participating in community service events. She was a little hard of hearing, so as our conversation continued, her speech volume continued to rise, and I noticed the man sitting next to her, looking over at both of us, seemingly listening to our conversation. As he leaned over, I expected him to request that we quiet down, but rather inquired, “Are you talking about the America’s Junior Miss Scholarship Program”? Taken aback, I paused for a moment before explaining that yes that’s exactly what we were talking about, except the program’s name had a makeover a few years ago and that it is now called Distinguished Young Women. Excitedly, he tapped the arm of the woman sitting next to him (who had been listening to her iPod) and replied, “My wife was Idaho’s Junior Miss in the 1980s!” He then looked over to her and explained that I was on my way home from the National Competition and am the current Distinguished Young Woman of New Hampshire. She seemed so surprised and excited and we ended up spending the remainder of the flight talking about the similarities and differences of our experiences. She recalled how, similar to when we arrived in the airport, her and the other girls were welcomed by the Azalea trail maids. She recalled visiting Wintzell’s Oyster House and Bellingrath Gardens. She asked to see my itinerary and went through the entire packet twice over. She shared stories about other experiences she has had in past years, running into other women who had direct and indirect connections to the program, from her hairdresser to her college roommate’s’ mother. After speaking with her, it made me realize that what everyone had been telling me for months was 100 percent true. When I was named as New Hampshire’s representative, I was initiated into a sisterhood. Not just with the girls that I had the pleasure to meet at Nationals, but also with all other participants from years past and representatives from years to come.
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