Friday, March 27, 2015

E Pluribus Unum …out of many, one - by Brooke

I’ve always had a love for history, simply because it gives us so much insight on why things are the way they are today and how they’ve changed throughout the years. Washington, D.C. is the perfect place to learn and experience the past of our own country hands on, even if history isn’t your favorite subject.

had never been to D.C. before, so I could barely contain my excitement when I found out I was going. Plus, I’m a huge “Scandal” fan, which made the trip that much better. As we landed in the Reagan National Airport, the Washington Monument came into view, and chills broke out all over my arm.

There’s so much to do in the area, so needless to say, our schedule was jam packed with activities. I started off Wednesday morning by getting the privilege to meet my state senators from Georgia, Senator Isakson and Senator Perdue. When I imagine anyone in government, I tend to think of these stiff individuals hunched over piles of paperwork. However, it couldn’t have been more opposite. They were so friendly, both encouraging me to contact them if I ever needed anything. I always feel so honored that I’ve been able to represent my state through this whole journey, and getting to be recognized on The Capitol steps for the accomplishment was the icing on the cake. 

My visits with senators weren’t just limited to Georgia, though. I also had the chance to meet with Senator Shelby and Senator Sessions from Alabama. Once again, I had the great experience of meeting two great, down-to-earth men who were excited to hear about the Distinguished Young Women program and how it’s been transforming the lives of girls from all over America.

My last official meeting for the trip was with Congressman Bradley Byrne’s Chief of Staff, Alex Schriver, and Legislative Director, Matt Weinstein. What I really loved about meeting with them is the fact that they’re both so young and yet already so successful with their careers. Alex Schriver became the Chief of Staff at the age of 25 and is now 27. It was a great reminder that you never have to feel limited by your age. When you’re truly passionate about something, go after it full force and don’t let anything get in your way.

As fun as all of these meetings were, and they truly were fun, some of the best parts of the trip were getting to tour the city. My personal favorite was getting to see The Declaration of Independence in The National Archives Museum. Looking on that historically famous document took my breath away. Just envisioning the men who gathered to write and sign to England that America would now be a free country was unbelievable.

To add to the unbelievable moments, we also traveled to Mount Vernon where we had the privilege of going to the very top of George Washington’s house, in the cupola, something very seldom granted (our tour guide, Sue, spoke of the King and Queen of Norway going up there). And of course, we hit all of the must sees such as the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and last but in no way least, The White House. Standing in front of The White House truly felt like a dream. To think of all of the stories that house must hold as it’s passed on from president to president is mind boggling. I couldn’t resist imagining myself living in that house one day.

Walking around a city with a lifetime of history engraved in every part of it really helps put things into perspective. Even though I was sad to leave, I was glad to know I was leaving with a deeper respect for my country. It made me think, who am I to say something is unachievable? These men gave everything they had, all the way down to their lives, for me to have the life and rights I do now. I plan on honoring that dedication by going after every dream I have, no matter how big or small.

Brooke Rucker is a college freshman at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida majoring in Dance. Originally from Cartersville, Georgia, Brooke was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Georgia for 2014 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2014. Learn more about Brooke here!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Your Role as a Role Model - by Abbie

About two months ago, on January 13 to be exact, my life was completely changed. I woke up that morning as Auntie Abbie. My older sister, Alison, and her husband had their first child. Her name is Reese, and she is the cutest, most precious thing I have ever seen in my life. Now, this past weekend I was asked to be Reese’s godmother. {Insert screaming girl voice here.} I was overwhelmed with joy (and quite a load of tears), and now I am anxiously awaiting the baptism of my beloved niece!

I tell you this story to preface a conversation about a recently lingering thought of mine- the importance of role models in our lives. I want to be the best role model I can for Reese, but the thought has been pretty overwhelming so I thought it would be best to discuss it with you.

I cannot even tell you how many times I have been asked who I look up to (or some form of this question), as I am sure you can relate as well. The truth is, when I actually think about it, so many people have influenced my life as a role model. Most of them would probably never even guess that they have. Relatives, friends, and teachers- they’re all amazing people to look up to. You might even find a great celebrity that has touched your life in one way or another. All of these people- the people we admire and strive to be like- have shaped who we are.

I want to start by analyzing the importance of role models. I think the only way to really get my message across is to get on a personal level with you.

Think of the people you look up to, and try to list as many as you can in just a minute. There is no way you can name every single one of these people in 60 seconds. All of these people considered, how different would your life be if they were not in it? Probably very different! Now that you see how many people have influenced you, try to take a minute and think about those that you have touched in some way. This might be a bit harder. You will never possibly know the entire scope of people on this list.

My point is, being a role model is just as important as looking up to a role model. Everyday you meet countless people, and you probably influence (either positively or negatively) a great majority of them. For example, I might influence my close friends and younger sisters by my actions and words, but there are probably people at the classes, stores, and restaurants that I go to that see my actions and are influenced by them in one way or another.  This is why it is incredibly important to be aware of your actions at all times. It is so important that you set a good example for the younger generations below you. I know I look up to my grandma, mother, older sisters, and even older friends for advice. Always try to remember that someone is watching you (in the most un-creepy way). What you say, and more importantly what you do, gives a great deal of insight to those who look up to you.

I saw this quote awhile ago, and it has stayed with me every since: "If you even feel like giving up, just remember there's a little girl watching who wants to be just like you.  Don't disappoint her."

That little girl, for me, is my niece, but I know that my actions can affect anyone. Even though the quote is primarily speaking to women, the message can be applied to everyone. Your life is an example to all who you encounter. Make it a great example, one that inspires them to be the best they can be!

Abbie Hebron is a college freshman at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri majoring in Dietetics. Originally from O'Fallon, MissouriAbbie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Missouri for 2014. Learn more about Abbie here! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is Chivalry Dead? - by Abbie

We live in a growing feminist world, which to many women is encouraging. Being a feminist, though, does not mean that you have to be “against” men. Believe me, I think it is extremely important to empower the women of the world and to inspire them to have confidence in themselves, especially since our society has grown accustomed to constantly degrading them. But there does seem to be this new type of characteristic associated with this feminist movement - the “I can do anything, and I do not need a man’s help.” motto that some have adopted.

Before I go on, I do want to stress the importance of believing in yourself and have the confidence to run after your dreams. I have dedicated a large portion of my time for the past five years working with and hopefully empowering young women. So, I hope that what I am about to say does not make anyone too mad, but actually encourages some thought and reflection.

One great thing about a confident woman is that she demands respect. I don’t mean in a physically threatening way, but her self-assurance and personal worth calls for kindness and a unique form of reverence, especially when men see her. As women, this is what we strive to be. Motivated. Poised. Independent. Men respect and seem to be driven towards this type of girl. But in reality, are we ever going to be that perfect version of ourself? As I mentioned in my last post, no because it is physically impossible.

In the media, there has been this recurring theme popping up everywhere. There is this theory that chivalry has been distorted, and some would even say it is inexistent or “dead”. I have been really intrigued by this notion, because as a girl I want to know why some men do not treat me with the courtesy that I deserve. (I hope I am starting to relate to most of the girls now. I think we all feel this way.) Most women immediately think that it is the men that have gone wrong and trashed the immaculate virtue of chivalry. And for a long time I believed that as well. I would walk into a building after a man, and get the door slammed in my face. I would sit on the floor in the lunchroom on a busy afternoon at high school. I’m sure you women can think of several times you were not treated with the utmost regard from a man. So, yes, men in general do not have a recent running record of chivalry, but can we really assume that it is all the guys’ fault? In my opinion, no.

First, I don’t think all men are raised to inherently see the dignity in a woman. I know that is no excuse, but we cannot hold a standard to all men. I think women are the same; we are not all perfectly kind to every man we meet, and some of those attitudes are products of the families we were raised in. In other words, some people just can’t help it. For the most part, though, I firmly believe that men do have a significant amount of respect for women, but are afraid to show they are vulnerable. The media puts a stereotype on men to be strong, unwavering, tough, and the list could go on and on. Not only does the media pressure most men, but I think some feel belittled by women. Now, I don’t mean that they feel inferior or anything, but the way that some women treat mens’ acts of chivalry is humiliating. This feminist idea that women do not need men for anything has influenced a trend in our society. When a man gives up a seat in a crowded room for a woman, most women would probably refuse it so they do not look weak. So when a man is put down one by one, he eventually becomes immune to the chivalry that was once burning inside him.

I heard one of my friends talking about this last week, and it really resonated with me, and I hope you can find some worth in it as well. He was saying that some (notice, I am not trying to group all women under this umbrella) women do not accept chivalrous gestures, so why should he feel inclined to offer them when he knows he will likely be humiliated? I think it is time for women to consider this. I want to challenge all of you women reading to simply accept kind acts from men. If you let them be courteous and chivalrous, I believe that it will slowly become the obvious thing to do. It is okay to be confident in yourself, and still acknowledge the kindness of a man. They can both coexist, I promise. And men, I want you to know that women really do appreciate your respect and courtesy. Give us another chance to accept your polite gestures.

So, to answer the question… No, I do not believe that chivalry is dead.

Abbie Hebron is a college freshman at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri majoring in Dietetics. Originally from O'Fallon, MissouriAbbie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Missouri for 2014. Learn more about Abbie here!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Distinguished Opportunities - by Natalie

Distinguished Young Women has been a blessing from the beginning. I enjoyed every second I spent with the state and national participants who are now my lifelong friends! (There is nothing like having at least one girl in every state that you know you can call at any time!) The connections I made with the girls were completely priceless and they made every hour of fitness routine practice worth it.

I always knew DYW would be a great way to make friends. That is actually why I did the program, to meet studious, responsible, healthy, involved, ambitious girls! What I did not know is that DYW creates great business connections as well.

During Nationals, about midway through our jam-packed two week schedule, we were all invited to a relaxing lunch where we could finally meet and personally thank our sponsors. I was blessed to be paired with, Hargrove Engineering + Constructors, a generous, Mobile-based civil-engineering firm who makes sure to have “the right people, at the right place, at the right time.”

After searching through a crowd of nametags. I found Mr. Roy Duncan “Operations Leader at Hargrove Engineers + Constructors.” It was a great honor to shake his hand and personally thank him for Hargrove’s sponsorship. I knew that without them I could never have afforded those two beautiful weeks in Mobile. Then, Mr. Duncan said something I never expected.

“You know Natalie,” he noted with a smile, “We like to sponsor this program because we hope you young engineering women will show interest in interning for our company in the future.”

WHAT?! Did that just happen? Was I just offered a real engineer internship before my first college semester? I couldn’t believe it! The only thing I could think to say was “Thank you!”… over and over again… “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” This was something I definitely wanted to consider.

When I told my parents about the opportunity, my mom commented knowingly, “Natalie, I just want you to know, you have your whole life to be an engineer. It is ok if you want to wait before taking this on.” I considered her advice, I really did. But after a whole semester as a pre-engineering student at Auburn University, I knew I didn’t want to wait! After all, why wait to start doing something you love?

So, I am proud to announce, on January 1st of 2015 I signed my official contract for a ten week summer employment with Hargrove Engineers + Constructors in Mobile, Alabama. (of course, they are giving me a week off for the Has Been Program!)

I cannot wait to be back in Mobile working for great people, at a great place, at a great time. This truly is a distinguished opportunity!

Natalie Palmquist is a college freshman at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama majoring in Civil Engineering. Originally from Moran, Wyoming, Natalie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Wyoming for 2014. Learn more about Natalie here

Thursday, January 29, 2015

When Life Throws You Footballs - by Brooke

2015 GoDaddy Bowl Mayor's Luncheon
2015 GoDaddy Bowl
Brooke with Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Danica Patrick
Life has a way of throwing curve balls at you. The one it threw at me happened to be in the shape of a football. Never have I ever been a sports enthusiast, but the GoDaddy Bowl and the Senior Bowl had a different plan in mind.

I had no way of predicting what to expect when attending these two events. What I ended up with was something better than I had ever imagined. I don’t know how close you’ve ever gotten to college football players, but let me tell you, they are huge! I won’t lie, I was kind of star struck, especially at the Senior Bowl.

However, at both events, when I had the chance to visit the USA Women’s and Children’s Hospital with the teams, it was clear that there was more to these guys than their muscles. I find people, myself included, always getting tied up in their own hectic life styles and forgetting to turn an eye to others around who might be in need. Nothing makes you more aware of other’s struggles than going to the source.

Meeting these strong children who are each fighting their own war against their diagnoses is inspiring to say the least. Even more inspiring was getting to watch the football players interacting with these kids. To see all competiveness be put aside and focused on making a positive impact on the kids brought a huge smile to my face. It was a well needed reminder of how connected we all are to one another and just how far an act of kindness can go.

Another one of my favorite moments from these two events would of course have to be getting to participate in the coin toss for the GoDaddy Bowl. Meeting Danica Patrick could not have been more perfect. She’s a wonderful example of the women out there making a stand in a “man’s world”. I had never been surrounded by so many cameras in my life. They literally blocked out the whole view of the crowd. The best word to describe it would have to be surreal. And just in case you were curious, yes, Danica is super nice!

Talking to the football players throughout my time there really showed me just how normal they are. We always make up these assumptions in our heads—that children are weak, athletes are rude, celebrities are conceited—and that these people have no relation to us whatsoever. In reality, we have more in common than we realize. The great thing about humans is that we all crave and need the support of one another. Looking back now, I think that the reason I’ve never taken interest in sports is because I always believed it had nothing to do with me. The two Bowls gave me a completely different perspective, though. I actually found myself enjoying the games and cheering along with the rest of the crowd. Who knows? Maybe there’s hope for me in the sports world after all.

USA Children's and Women's Hospital visit with Senior Bowl players

Being introduced at the 2015 Senior Bowl
2015 Senior Bowl
Brooke Rucker is a college freshman at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida majoring in Dance. Originally from Cartersville, Georgia, Brooke was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Georgia for 2014 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2014. Learn more about Brooke here!