Ward encourages teens to ‘Be Your Best Self’
by By JOYANNA LOVE Banner Staff Writer
Jul 14, 2013 | 588 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Katie Ward
2013 Tennessee Distinguished Young Woman 
Katie Ward
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Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee for 2013 Katie Ward said she will miss speaking to students about “being their best self” when she ends her year as the Tennessee representative.

The new Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee will be selected in Cleveland this week.

“This year has been great,” Ward said. “My favorite part is I get to go and give talks to younger kids, spreading ‘Be Your Best Self.’”

The “Be Your Best Self’ program is an outreach of the Distinguished Young Women of Tennessee program.

“The ‘Be Your Best Self’ program has five facets: be healthy, be ambitious, be involved, be responsible and be studious. I kind of try to take a holistic approach and that is something that I love about (the DYW program). ... It is more than just about finding the pretty face, finding the perfect person, it’s about finding that all–around girl.”

Ward recently traveled to Mobile, Ala., to compete at the national level of the scholarship program.

Although she did not bring home awards from nationals, she said she enjoyed the experience.

“Nationals was an incredible experience. It was just one of those things that at times felt surreal. … It was great meeting 49 other girls who were so talented and smart,” Ward said. “They were so inspiring.”

The contestants formed close relationships during the two weeks of national competition.

Ward said the program helps participant develop traits that will help them in the rest of their lives.

“What’s so great about the program itself is it celebrates your strengths, but challenges you to get better at the areas that you are not so great at,” Ward said.

Ward first heard about the scholarship opportunity from Charles Fant, who had recently come to her school as a football coach.

Fant, who has served as co-chair of the Tennessee program for the past few years, made a point to talk to the high school junior girls about competing in the program.

“I had never really heard of it and I thought, ‘This sounds like a really cool way to win some scholarship money for college,’’’ Ward said.

Ward competed in an at-large competition, and made it to the state level where she was named the 2013 Distinguished Young Woman of Tennessee.

She also won the talent and self–expression categories.

Ward received $5,400 in scholarships at the state level.

“I felt very lucky to get that,” Ward said.

She will use the funds to attend Belmont University this fall.

“I love Nashville and I love the location,” Ward said. “Not only is it a Christian school, but when I visited the campus I felt really at home, and it felt like the right fit.”

Belmont is still close to her home in Chattanooga, yet far enough away for the full college experience, she said.