Last year, when I heard about the Be Your Best Self message for the first time, my initial reaction was “wow what a great message to teach to kids”. However, as I made presentations to different groups throughout the year, I quickly learned that this message by no means applies only to children, but to anyone from any background of any age. Since learning about Distinguished Young Women’s outreach program, I have not only become more contentious about striving towards being my best self, but have begun noticing when others do as well. In the past few weeks especially, with the passing of national Be Your Best Self week, I have been excited to notice many different aspects of the program being put into action all over UConn’s campus. Interestingly enough, I noticed many of the aspects being focused on through activities revolving around Spring Weekend. Now, in the past, it’s no secret that UConn’s spring weekend has been associated with wild partying, destruction, injuries and arrests. In fact, for the past two years, all activities have been banned and the campus has been put into a semi-lockdown state. However, this year, the president of the University decided to reinstate the tradition, but press that it be associated with a much more positive message. In fact, the motto surrounding the three-day event was “UConn Learns, UConn Serves, UConn Cares”. Throughout the entire weekend, I watched as students enjoyed the beautiful New England spring weather and participated in fun and constructive events. One of the featured events of the weekend was the annual Oozeball tournament-a massive, multi-court, day long tournament of mud volleyball. When I agreed to sign up a month in advance, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Regardless, I knew that it was a long-lived tradition in the school, and I felt like there had to be a reason why. Sure enough, it was probably one of the most entertaining activities I’ve participated in all of my freshman year. Although my team ended up losing a tied game in the last 20 seconds of the first round, it was a great experience, and an awesome way to get exercise. For students who preferred more “clean” fun, there were different service activities being hosted the entire weekend. From a trash clean-up crew, to different off-campus service trips, to the “stuff-a-husky” care package drive, there was something for everyone, allowing students to be involved and give back to their school and their community. For students that were beginning to prepare for upcoming finals, workshops were held. These focused on different study techniques, time management and even thesis writing. Although it was a fun and exciting weekend, students were encouraged to continue to be studious. On Saturday, there was a carnival, which consisted of blow-up games, tents, free food and giveaways (basically, a college students dream). At one of the booths, the suicide prevention group was coordinating a program called “100 Reasons to Live”. Students were asked to decorate an index card, and record a goal that they had or something they wanted to achieve in life. The goals ranged anywhere from elaborate life plans, to finding love, to traveling the world. All were unique, all were special, and all showed the ambitious personalities of the different students. Finally, the president of the university recognized the concerns of many students that because of the restrictions put in place, they wouldn’t be able to have fun this weekend. She reassured everyone that she understood the concerns and that she wanted all to have a good time, but while staying safe, remaining in control and taking full responsibility for actions. Overall, it was an enjoyable weekend and for me personally, it was great to see the pillars of the Be Your Best Self program being encouraged on a college campus, a place that a message like that is far-too-often not associated with.
Stephanie Brady is a college freshman at the University of Connecticut in Storrs-Mansfield, Connecticut majoring in pre-pharmacy. Originally from New Market, New Hampshire, Stephanie was a participant in the Distinguished Young Women program and was selected as the Distinguished Young Woman of New Hampshire for 2012. Learn more about Stephanie here!