Focus Empowers

Born in Mobile, Born to Inspire

Photo by Sara Boone

The Distinguished Young Women program was born in Mobile, Alabama 62 years ago, and it continues to thrive as a way for young girls to reach their aspirations. The national scholarship program inspires high school girls from all corners of the United States to “develop their full, individual potential.” The girls go through state and local competitions before finally reaching the national finals, which are held in Mobile each year. 

Distinguished Young Women is a very community-oriented program, and they always want to give back to the community in which it was founded. Community Night was held right before the national finals, where families were invited to meet the Distinguished Young Women from each state and see a preview of the national finals showcase. 

It was a special night for the girls, too, as they were nearing the end of their two week long journey in Mobile. They spent the entire time together developing life skills and spreading awareness about Distinguished Young Women. The program is unlike any other, in that the girls are evaluated in scholastics, interview, talent, fitness and self-expression to ultimately name one as the 2019 Distinguished Young Woman of the America.

Grace Zhang, the 2019 Distinguished Young Woman of Arizona, got much more out of the program than just scholarship opportunities. “This has been one of the most transformative experiences I’ve been able to participate in. I believe this program truly teaches girls and young women how to be their best self and how to help their community,” she said. 

“i believe this program truly teaches girls and young women how to be their best self and how to help their community.”
Grace Zhang

This is a common sentiment, as many of the girls expressed their gratitude for having been able to participate in the program. Evelyn Smith, the 2019 Distinguished Young Woman of Oklahoma, said she came across the program when looking for opportunities for young women to earn scholarships. She said Distinguished Young Women was the only one she found that focuses on all types of talent as well as scholastics and fitness. “It’s a very well-rounded organization that’s great for inspiring young women. My advice to young girls is don’t feel pressured to only excel in one thing. There are so many seasons in life that you don’t have to choose one thing to be passionate about. There are many different gifts and talents that you can develop over time,” she said. 

Each of the 50 Distinguished Young Women from around the country signed autographs for the community. -Photo by Sara Boone

At Community Night, kids were invited to get an autograph from each of the 50 girls and talk with them about the program. Girls and boys of all ages showed up to meet these local celebrities and learn more about the program that calls Mobile home. Everyone was then invited to watch a preview of the national finals showcase along with a few surprises in the show. 

The 2018 Distinguished Young Woman of America, Aaryan Morison, co-hosted the show and brought along a few of her (affectionately-named) “has-been” friends from the 2018 program. The girls served as mentors for the girls in the 2019 program. 

Local Girl Scouts received their Be Your Best Self patches from Distinguished Young Women on stage and were honored for their dedication to bettering themselves and learning valuable life skills. Along with that, the winners of local talent contests performed for the community. 

At the end of the night, all the kids in the audience were invited to hop on stage and learn a piece of the dance that the 50 girls would perform at national finals. 

With fitness being one of the important categories in the program, the girls brought kids from the audience on stage to learn a part of their national finals dance. -Photo by Sara Boone

Later in the week, Dora Guo of Illinois was named the 2019 Distinguished Young Woman of America. She will be attending Yale in the fall with the hopes of becoming an Educational Administrator. 

Distinguished Young Women is a program that truly embodies the term girl power. As Savannah Stanley, the Distinguished Young Woman of Georgia, said, “It’s amazing being surrounded by such powerful girls who have the potential to achieve so much.” 

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