As part of their volunteer spirit and community service, the celebrated young ladies put on a dazzling performance of singing, dancing, piano playing and jazzy gymnastics for the delighted residents. They also served ice cream to the residents and shared in several heartwarming conversations with them.
Donna Lowe, a Distinguished Young Women executive board member, said, “As a former Junior Miss myself (1989 Soddy-Daisy Junior Miss), I know there are many events planned for these young ladies during their week in Cleveland, and things can run together and get quite hectic.
“However, in my personal opinion this particular experience is one of the most touching and rewarding for them. It allows them to slow down, sit down and have a wonderful conversation. They get to visit with some of the most distinguished and experienced people they will meet in their entire life. For that reason it has been a very special and memorable experience for all involved.”
Judy Harvey, recreational director for the Garden Plaza, agreed with Lowe, stating, “We’re very excited about hosting this community service. There’s nothing that thrills our residents more than seeing young people perform and interacting with them.”
According to Lowe, it’s all about making memories and helping someone when they visit The Garden Plaza. “There are sweet memories being made for and by everyone involved,” she said.
“There is something amazing that transpires every year when the young ladies visit with the residents at The Garden Plaza. The bringing together of these generations is almost magical because both really need something from the other. The girls gain a little wisdom, life experience and genuine friendship, and the residents gain excitement, energy and friendship.”
Lowe added, “I feel this partnership with Life Care Centers of America is an element that strengthens our program because it validates the need to give back to the community and that is a core element of The Distinguished Young Women program. Everyone knows that when a community is doing well as a whole, its individuals are better off, too.”
Having been a former Life Care Centers of America corporate employee, Lowe said she knows first-hand how Life Care strives to be involved in the community.
“The Distinguished Young Women (formerly Junior Miss) program places a strong emphasis on community service, so it seems like a natural that LCCA and The Distinguished Young Women program come together to give back to the residents who have given so much throughout their lifetime,” Lowe explained.
For many of the residents who have grandchildren living far away, a visit by the young ladies in the program can help them connect with another teen and possibly fill a void, according to Lowe. At the same time, “for the young ladies, the residents can be that ‘grandparent’ to them — if only for a day,” she said.
Every local and state Distinguished Young Women program has a community service project their girls participate in for that program. In some cases, there are several community service projects the girls are involved in.
In addition to The Garden Plaza community service project, the distinguished young ladies will also be donating food to The Caring Place, in Cleveland.
Since the core of the Distinguished Young Women’s program is community service, its “Be Your Best Self” program is a highlight of the event.
It allows Distinguished Young Women participants to reach out and encourage young people nationwide to make a commitment to being their best selves in areas such as academics, physical fitness, morality, character as well as social and civic participation.
“The great thing about the Be Your Best Self program is that everyone can apply it to their lives,” Lowe said. “That is something our young ladies also strive to convey during their community service projects at The Garden Plaza. Everyone of all ages and backgrounds can strive to be healthy, involved, studious, ambitious and responsible.”
Providing a wealth of entertainment and association for the residents of Garden Plaza proved to be a win-win situation for both parties.
Lowe said, “One of the most amazing things is seeing how these young ladies go in not knowing what to do and sometimes how they could possibly relate to the residents.
“However within minutes you see them sitting and laughing, sharing stories and talking about things that are just everyday normal stuff. Some of the young ladies from years past continue to stay in touch with the friends they make at the Garden Plaza.”
The 24 young ladies are the top of their class and come from all over the state to compete in this scholarship program on July 22 and 23 at Lee University’s Dixon Center. The 55th National Finals will take place in Mobile, Ala., June 28-30, 2012.
Founded in 1958 in Mobile, Ala., Distinguished Young Women is the largest and oldest national scholarship program for high school girls. It has provided life-changing experiences for more than 700,000 young ladies across the country and more than $93 million in cash scholarships at the local, state and national level.
In addition to cash scholarships, Distinguished Young Women participants are eligible for college-granted scholarships from almost 200 colleges and universities. More than $50 million in college scholarship opportunities were provided last year.
Distinguished Young Women, formerly America’s Junior Miss Scholarship Program, is sponsored by the City of Mobile, Mobile County, Eastern Shore Toyota, Encore Rehabilitation, Mobile Gas-A-Sempra Company, Regions Bank, Alabama Power Foundation, and Master Boat Builders.
For further information about Distinguished Young Women, visit www.distinguishedyw.org.