Though they were just a day away from their state competition, the participants in the Distinguished Young Women national scholarship program took the time Friday morning to volunteer with the children of the Boys & Girls Club of Westminster.
Winners of local DYW competitions all over Maryland gathered in Carroll this week in preparation for the state competition on Saturday at Carroll Community College, where they will have the chance to earn more than $15,000 in scholarships. Two Carroll residents, Brooke Nixon, of Maryvale Preparatory School, and, Elena Rippeon, of Francis Scott Key High School, will compete.
The service day was a part of the nationwide Be Your Best Self Program, a DYW outreach effort that encourages young people to excel in five ways — be studious, be ambitious, be healthy be involved and be responsible.
At the Boys & Girls Club on Friday morning, the children rotated through five stations run by the DYW participants, one for each goal of the program.
Nixon, the Carroll County DYW representative, worked with her partner Sandra Karsly, the Eastern Shore representative, at the Be Studious station. They asked the groups what they wanted to be when they grew up and had them draw a picture of themselves in that role. Nixon and Karsly then asked the boys and girls what school subjects could help them achieve their goals.
During the activity, even the youngest members of the Boys & Girls Club had strong ideas about what they wanted to be in the future. Their answers ranged from paleontologist to professional athlete.
Nixon said that education has always been important to her and that is one reason she participates in the DYW program. "It's helping me to become a better role model myself as I prepare for college," she said.
Rippeon, the DYW from Greater Westminster, and her partner Beyonce Carrington, the DYW from Frederick County, came up with a "heads-up" game featuring well-known men and women to help teach their groups how to "Be Ambitious."
Rippeon said ambition can be a tricky concept to teach to younger children, but she hoped the activity would make it fun for them to think about possibilities for their future.
After each player guessed the name they were assigned — whether an athlete, celebrity, businessperson, movie character, politician or humanitarian — Carrington and Rippeon asked the group to consider why that person was so well known.
Rippeon said she initially joined DYW because of the opportunity to earn scholarships. "But I realized that it is much more about learning life skills," she said.
Carrington agreed. She said the most rewarding part of DYW is "empowering young women to do the things they want to do and not be pushed down by men or society — plus it's fun."
As part of the Be Your Best Self Program, Rippeon learned that there is a Be Your Best Self Patch available through the Girl Scouts of the USA. Previously, this patch had only been awarded to Girl Scouts in Alabama, where the DYW program is headquartered. As part of her service as a DYW, Rippeon decided to help Maryland Girl Scouts earn the patch. She succeeded and several will be awarded on Saturday at the state competition.
The competition will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Scott Center of Carroll Community College. Participants are judged in five categories: scholastics, interview, talent, titness, and self-expression.
The scholarship and interview portions are judged before the Saturday night competition. Chairman of DYW of Carroll County Amy Hackett said the many categories of the competition can make it more appealing to girls who fear that the competition is a beauty pageant. "It's really about being a well-rounded individual," she said.
Having worked with the program for several years, she said she is always impressed with the participants.
"These girls are the best of the best," she said. "The amount of community service they do is amazing."
The winner of the Maryland competition will be eligible to compete at the National Finals Competition in Mobile, Alabama, in 2018. The the winner will take home a $30,000 scholarship and runners-up will receive scholarships as well.
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