Monday, September 9, 2013

An Excerpt from Full Bloom: Cultivating Success - by Amy Osmond Cook, Ph.D.

Chapter 8: Academic Success

One afternoon, my seven-year-old son bounced in the front door after school, threw his backpack on the chair, and said, "When I grow up, I'm going to start a company that makes blocks. Then at night, I'm going to be an inventor." 

"Sounds like a great idea," I said. "What are you going to invent?"

"I'm going to invent spy gear."

"Sounds cool. Now you have to do your homework."

"Aw, Mom. I don't want to do my homework." 

"If you want to own a company and make spy gear someday, you have to do your homework." And the battle begins.

As a mother of four and an instructor of communication and interdisciplinary studies at Arizona State University, I understand the importance of achieving academic success. By this I mean not just getting good grades, but also looking ahead to get into the college or university you want to attend and doing well once you're there. In this chapter, I'm going to give you some tips that have helped me and others reach our academic goals.

Success is much more than academic achievement. Teenagers across the country have defined it as happiness, having goals, having a good job, having a family, following God's will, making good money, working hard, and being educated. For me, success is happiness, which comes from experiencing spiritual, mental, physical, and social fulfillment. But even though scuess is much more than doing well in school, academic achievement is connected to many areas of success. Achieving academically will help you get a good job, become an intelligent person, and make good money. It will also help you learn to achieve your goals and work hard. I know this has been drilled in your heads over and over again, but how do we actually get there?

In my many years of teaching, I have come across all types of students. Some are shy; some are outgoing. Some are quiet; others are loud. Some are lazy; some are hard working. Some are great students and some are not. What's the difference? From my experience the A students do a few extra things that B and C students do not do, and that seems to make all the difference. 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Purchase your own copy of Full Bloom: Cultivating Success to read more of Amy's advice on Academic Success, including her top ten list of things you can do to success academically  as well as essays from other amazing women who offer a variety of perspectives on what success means and how they have achieved it.

Amy Osmond Cook is a faculty associate in the School of Letters and Sciences at Arizona State University, where she teaches interdisciplinary and communication courses. She was America's Junior Miss in 1994 and is very grateful for the incredible experience and scholarship money that enabled her to receive her B.A. and M.A. in English from Brigham Young University. She later received her Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Utah.

As a violinist, Amy performed for multiple years with the Osmond Brothers. She released her debut album, Nativity (a collection of traditional Christmas songs peformed on the violin and harp), in 2004. She has taught violin lessons and worked as a freelance studio violinist for many years.

Amy has been featured in the print publications such as People Magazine and USA Today and on television programs such as Good Morning America. 

Amy is married to Jeff Cook, and they are the proud parents of four beautiful children.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The People You Meet – by Julia

This year I attended the fourth largest university by enrollment in the United States, and while the classroom learning is phenomenal the lessons I learned outside the classroom were equally important.  Even at the end of the year I felt as if I was meeting or connecting with a new person every day (I thought remembering names at nationals was hard, but at least we had name tags there!) and the hundreds of people it seems that I have met have all taught me a little something; the following are the ones that stuck with me the most.

With the exception of my roommate, Branden was one of my first dear friends at college; he was also one of the first people to figure me out.  I think I had known him a week when he told me with complete confidence that I was going to be an engineer some day.  I of course scoffed at this, but he just laughed and said that I would eventually figure it out.  Branden had confidence in my abilities before I did and I owe him my future career in biomedical engineering for that.

Laura, my dear neighbor for my entire freshman year, is one of the most personable people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing or even meeting.  This is a girl who can start up a conversation with anyone, lighten the mood of any room, and fill at least a quarter of our approximately 700 occupant building with her laughter.  To her I owe many hours of talking and a lighter heart that has an increased appreciation and awareness for spending precious time with family and friends.

Ericka, Laura’s roommate and another one of my dear friends has taught me probably much more than she knows.  Besides being one of the funniest people I have ever met, she is also one of the strongest and most humble.  She cares so much for her family, especially her younger siblings and has inspired me to be a better and stronger role model for my own.

Nick, is a friend that I met through Laura as well, and despite what we thought was a personality clash that made us complete opposites; he and I are so much alike in our work ethic it was quite shocking when it was first brought to my attention.  Our competitiveness was heightened when we shared a class second semester and I must say that I most likely would not have cared about that class as much as I did, had he not been in it.  I owe him a wonderful lesson in patience and a solidified belief that hard work does pay off.

Mary is without a doubt the most wonderfully outgoing person I have ever met.  She is not afraid in any way of what others might think of her and has a knack for making a room full of people die with laughter.  She has taught me how to laugh a little harder and hug a lot tighter.

John will argue against me until the day he dies, but he truly is the most caring person I have yet to meet.  He has the biggest heart for everyone he meets and probably knows at least a quarter of the undergraduate population (or at least it feels like it).  He has taught me that you should be grateful every second of every day for the people in your life and you should not be afraid to tell them so.

Joseph, my first friend as an admissions ambassador(tour-guide), is a person whose hugs and smiles could brighten the day of the saddest person in the world.  I secretly hope that I will see him around campus so I can yell his name and be welcomed by one of his famous hugs (not joking- everyone knows him for his hugs).  He has taught me to always keep a smile on my face because you never know whose day it may brighten.

Margo, is the type of person who despite having just met her you feel like you have known her forever.  She is a wonderful listener and I look forward to many long talks with her in the future. 

Last but certainly not least, Shelby has been my roommate and best friend throughout this year.  She is one of the most hard-working people I know and she has a great heart and sense of humor to match.  I cannot list the number of things she has taught me because it would go on forever; but if there is one thing that she has taught me the most it is that a true friend will stand by your side no matter what the circumstances. 

Unfortunately, most of the people reading this will not have the opportunity to meet these people, however I would like everyone to take a moment to appreciate the Branden or Shelby in their life.  To those of you young women heading off to college in the fall, it may seem like the scariest thing in the world, especially if you are going somewhere where you will know little to nobody but there are so many wonderful people out there and they have so much to teach you whether they mean to or not.  I am grateful that I have three years left to learn more from those that have already touched my life and from those who I have yet to encounter.  Thank you all!
Julia Carlson is a college freshman at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota majoring in Biology with a minor in Management. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Julia was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Nebraska for 2012. Learn more about Julia here!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Shine Your Light – by Emily

Going back down to Mobile this June as a has-been is by far going to be the highlight of my summer. I cannot wait to see the girls that I grew so close to during those two weeks at Nationals, and to enjoy the rich city of Mobile once more. As my departure gets closer, I can’t help but reminisce on all the amazing memories I have from the National Finals last year. I also find myself reliving every fun time and memorable experience as I prepare the 2013 representative from Massachusetts, Brittany, as she readies herself for the trip of a lifetime. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite memory, but there is definitely one experience that seems to stand out from those two weeks. During the first Tuesday night of my trip, after we had spent a long day participating in team-building activities at Camp Grace and educating our Girl Scout troops on the essentials of Be Your Best Self, all 50 of us sat around a bonfire to unwind. Guided by questions from Katye Brock, the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2011, the 50 of us conversed and shared our individual stories. We talked significantly about who our role model was in life, and more importantly what it was like to be a role model in our communities. We were asked to think of a candle, with its flame burning bright and illuminating the darkness around it. A light constantly gives, constantly providing support and guidance through dark and confusing situations. We were then asked to imagine if that light was locked up in a cabinet or sealed away in a box. What good does that do? A light has a duty to provide brightness and clarity to other people, so if it’s locked away somewhere with no one to shine for, then it might as well be put out all together. I looked around the campfire and realized that I was gathered amongst 50 lights that will never be put out. All 50 of us have consciously chosen, on our own, to spread our light to the world, and the Distinguished Young Women program has enhanced that ability for us. Our titles are more than just a medallion around our neck or an achievement to put on our resumes. Being a Distinguished Young Woman means we have allowed the light that is in each and every one of us to shine for the benefit of others. We are role models, inspirations, guides, and persistent lights. That light exists in all of us, you just have to have the courage to let it shine. This program has helped me and so many others recognize the bold and brilliant light that is eager to shine. If you can recognize your unique light and never let it burn out, then that is all it takes to not only be your best self, but to be a truly distinguished young woman. 

Emily Thomas is a college freshman at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts majoring in Chemistry and Secondary Education. Originally from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Emily was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Massachusetts for 2012. Learn more about Emily here!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

An Ode to the Letters “D”, “Y”, and the Legendary “W” – by Sierra

Ever since my junior year of high school, roughly three years ago when I was first introduced to the Distinguished Young Woman Scholarship Program, I randomly find myself feeling proud of belonging to the sisterhood of these three letters. Separately, each letter has its own sound and belongs to many different words – just like each woman that is a part of this encouraging program. Each one of us, we find our own path and belong to many other groups. All of us, uniquely able to have a marvelous impact on our surrounding environment, having great potential. However, when these three letters combine to make the acronym, “DYW”, there becomes an undeniable presence – just like if every member of this program were to unite, the potential would be limitless.

I realized that as much as it is important to shine in our own light and glory, it is just as important to shine with our peers. Throughout my life, I have been a part of numerous clubs and dance teams, but never have I experienced what it means to be a part of a true “sisterhood.” My first mentor when I became a member of this program was Ms. Shannon, an alumna. She was a great help at making me feel comfortable and helping me to realize what a great opportunity I had received. She instantly treated me with love and I admit that at first, I was not sure how to receive it. However, I was fascinated by her stories of her trip to nationals some years ago and the confidence she exuberated. Then, I was introduced to more “has-beens” – some already grown with a career, husband, and children. All of these women had such assurance and respect about them. I thought that maybe I would get intimidated, but instead, I felt nothing besides comfort because they were giving me nothing but love, care, and support. 

I did not see it then, but I do now. All these strong, independent, courageous women that I have met through this program began to gain such qualities back when they were my age and experiencing this program just as I am. Every category I faced, they too faced, and we all have gained personal insight through this process. I look back at my junior year self and realize that I have become more confident, respectable, and courageous. I no longer hesitate to speak my mind or give suggestions if I feel I am in the right place and it is the right thing to do. Whenever I do get nervous about speaking in front of my class or speaking my mind, I think to myself “If you were able to speak in front of hundreds of people that you didn’t know with bright lights shining on your face while also being judged, why would this time be so hard?” And whenever I find myself feeling slightly disappointed or being too hard on myself, I think, “You belong to a group of women that have done so much and will continue to do even more. You earned your spot by being you, so continue to do that and you too shall achieve.”

DYW or Distinguished Young Women, either way you put it, it is not simply a scholarship program…it is an opportunity, experience and a sisterhood.

Sierra Terrell is a college freshman at Troy University in Troy, Alabama majoring in Psychology. Originally from Waldorf, Maryland, Sierra was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Maryland for 2012. Learn more about Sierra here!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Learning to Appreciate The Little Things - by Chloe

After one year of college I have learned to appreciate a few things about home that I never realized I would miss at school. Here is a list of some things I have a newfound appreciation for.

1.     Soft Toilet paper: It’s good stuff guys. Let’s be honest. I go to a great school, but their toilet paper is reminiscent of that tissue paper you fill gift bags with; Truly awful. Love it while you have it… and then pack some for college!

2.    Soft water: Some of you probably don’t even know what I mean by this. Well at my house we have a water softener that takes the hard minerals and other things out of the water. (This is the reason your hair feels softer when you shower at home than at a hotel.) Well colleges don’t have that, so every time I come home it is like a vacation of soft hair: Glorious. You’ll understand someday.

3.    Home cooked food: You knew this one was coming, but it really is worth noting. There IS a difference; maybe it’s mom’s love, who knows.

4.    Seeing Old people: No really. Every time I see a person over the age of about 60 at IWU it is either a Sunday and they are there for their Sunday brunch, or it is Grandparents Day. No exceptions. Sometimes it is nice to know that there are still people other than college students out there.

5.    Animals (other than squirrels):Every college campus has a million squirrels. I don’t know why, but that is a cold, hard, fact. All other animals, however, might as well be mythical creatures. IWU actually has a Puppy Day where they bring in puppies from local shelters for the students to play with because we never see dogs and the dogs get to run around. It is a win/win, but love on your pet while you can because you will miss them!

6.    Sleep: Everyone has heard the all-nighter stories, but you don’t know the truth of lack of sleep until you are up until 3 or 4 writing a paper or studying for a test. I came home for the summer and slept for 14 hours the first night! I guess I really was exhausted!
7.    My parents: I couldn’t leave this without saying that I missed my family a lot more than I thought I would. They are pretty spectacular people and after a year in college I have an even greater appreciation for them.

If you are a graduating senior, or a younger student in high school, keep these things in mind this summer and appreciate the little things. You might just realize that it is the little things that make a place feel like home.
Chloe McLaughlin is a college freshman at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, Indiana majoring in Church Music and Christian Worship. Originally from Frankfort, Indiana, Chloe was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana for 2012. Learn more about Chloe here!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Do It Anyway - by Christina

One of my favorite places to be is the Welcome Table, a homeless ministry in a church in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.  Every Wednesday, they serve hundreds of homeless people a delicious meal, sometimes serving as many as 600 people in one afternoon.  Afterwards, they open up the sanctuary for a worship service that embodies a “holy chaos” as ministers, homeless people, college students and CEO’s on lunch breaks all praise God together. 

This year, I’m blessed to be home in Asheville for the majority of the summer.  For the first time, I’m able to go help serve meals before the services on Wednesday.  This is not your typical soup kitchen homeless ministry.  Instead of moving through an assembly line of food, visitors are served family style gourmet meals.  The first day I served, I helped pass out platters of lemon poppy seed chicken adorned with banana peppers and sprigs of fresh cilantro, collard greens, roasted potatoes, fresh salad, buttery cornbread and fluffy raisin bread pudding.

The two incredible men who run the kitchen plan the meals well in advance, taking joy in creating delicious dishes that match the quality of something you could buy in a nice restaurant.  One of the men explained to me how important the presentation of the food is.  He said that he didn’t want them going through a soup kitchen line as if they were in a prison.  He wanted them to know they didn’t deserve leftovers or second best.  As fellow human beings, they deserved the best. 

How often do we get rushed, stressed, burned out or lazy and give people our second best, particularly people we may think don’t deserve our best?  What a striking portrait of love for humankind it would be if we treated everyone with the respect, compassion and thoughtfulness we sometimes reserve for those we consider by our standards or the world’s to be “worthy”?

Yet sometimes when you open your heart and give your best, people may not notice your kindness, may not bother to thank you or may accuse you of ulterior motives.  It is important to not be discouraged.

At the very first table I served at the Welcome Table, a women asked for more chicken, which we couldn’t give seconds of.  I apologized and offered to get her more salad or bread instead.  She was furious.  She pointed her thumbs down at me and told me my service got two thumbs down.  She then told me I could go and send someone else over to refill her water, that I was a disappointment. 

At first, I was stunned and didn’t know how to react!  Yet, we have to love people where they are, knowing that we are all in need of a little grace.  So I pulled myself together, smiled back at her and said, “Alright, great!  Let me know if I can do anything else for you!”

Sometimes life isn’t all peachy.  Sometimes we go out of our way to give our very best and get two thumbs down in return.  Maybe you refused to cheat on a test like your friends did and ended up getting a lower grade in your class because of it.  Or maybe when you don’t get the playing time you deserve, instead of complaining or being rude to your coach, you wait patiently with humility – something no one ever compliments you on.  Some of the greatest acts of kindness go unnoticed and unappreciated.  I think that these are the times when the core of our ministry and character is tested.  One of my favorite poems of all times provides inspiration for the times when we may think that our hard work is insignificant or meaningless.  Written by the selfless Mother Teresa, it helps us to remember what to do when we get two thumbs down.  Do it anyway. 

Anyway” by- Mother Teresa
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Christina Maxwell is a college freshman at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan majoring in Musical Theatre. Originally from Asheville , North Carolina, Christina was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of North Carolina for 2012 and the Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2012. Learn more about Christina here!