A year and a half ago I entered my local program, because I needed to prove to myself that I am able and beautiful. I never dreamed I could do anything like Distinguished Young Women, because I could not trust and believe in my own abilities. After winning my local level I went to State with the intent of having a wonderful time, but to be honest, I was horrified that I would not measure up. I kept worrying about the opinions of others, but that was so unimportant. The girls who greeted me last February were not judgmental; they were accepting and loving. I was overwhelmed by kindness and as the week went on I grew to love them dearly as my “Diwah” sisters. So on finals night as the finalists stood in a line and the runners up were called, I was consumed by joy. I squeezed the hand of the girl next to me as the emcee opened the envelope to reveal the new Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana for 2012. I was hoping she would be the winner so I could be the first to hug her, but instead the emcee announced my name, and I swear my jaw hit the floor. I was shocked. The judges saw something in me that I never believed I possessed. They believed in me more than I believed in myself. In my judges meeting I cried as they told me that other contestants came up to them in the hysteria after my name was announced and thanked them for choosing me. They all believed in me.
This week, as I guided the class of 2013 through their state week, I realized just how much I needed to win. I needed to win confidence. I needed to win my life back. I have never been so blessed by anything. One year ago I was a totally different person. I learned that I don’t have to be a size 2, 4, or 6 to be beautiful. I have never been a small girl, no matter how hard I’ve worked, I have always been tall and full figured. I always believed there was something wrong with me and I had horrible self-esteem, but as I let go of my insecurities and embraced the experience, I grew. I have learned to place my personal value in my relationships and the impact I can have on other people.
Distinguished Young Women helped me to become the kind of woman that mothers want their daughters to grow into. I truly believe that the goal of this program is to create role models. We are meant to be leaders of character. I have spent the last year striving to uphold the meaning behind the title of a Distinguished Young Woman. I have tried to embody the values of this program and I have embraced my former insecurities and come closer to becoming my best self. This program is not about medallions or even money; it is about the people behind the scenes. Distinguished Young Women is about people who care and young ladies who are role models for little girls. At Nationals last June we sat in a circle at Camp Grace only 3 days after arriving in Alabama and talked about people who have been lights in our lives. If I was asked the same question today, the amazing women I met through Distinguished Young Women would definitely make my list. They have lit up my life and shown me friendship. This program gave me best friends, and even if I had not won a dime I would be a winner because of them. They are the best prize I ever could have asked for.
I have not lost anything by passing on my title, I am simply passing a torch. I still have those friendships and memories that changed my life. My light has lost nothing by helping to light the hearts of another class of Distinguished Young Women and I can only hope that they will grow into the kind of women that little girls want to be.
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!