Ward addressed the young members while standing atop the unit’s performing arts stage. Children talked excitedly while sitting cross-legged on the floor.
“OK, peace signs in the air and your finger on your lips,” Ward said. “I need you guys to be quiet for me.”
The buzz of chatter died down enough for Ward to explain her part in the DYW scholarship program. She told the children how she had to go through the program’s various challenges to become Tennessee’s candidate. Then she had the opportunity to tell others about the organization’s outreach program, Be Your Best Self.
Five elements make up the Be Your Best Self program: be healthy; be involved; be studious; be ambitious; and be responsible. To further explain each element, Ward chose 12 volunteers from the audience. Those chosen were then asked to create a short skit highlighting their element.
“Oh no,” groaned one volunteer.
“Yes,” cried another.
Ward asked her remaining audience questions about each element before giving further background information.
“Can anyone tell me what it means to be healthy?” Ward asked.
Arms shot up across the small audience.
After being chosen, one little girl raced to the front to speak into the microphone.
“Eat a lot of vegetables,” she said before returning to her seat.
Ward agreed eating vegetables is a part of being healthy, before adding exercising to her volunteer’s list.
She explained being ambitious was important in accomplishing both short- and long-term goals. Ward said she just graduated from high school so her new long-term goal is to graduate from college. Her short-term goal was to successfully finish her presentation.
“You always have to set a goal and work hard to achieve it,” Ward said. “Without hard work, nothing is ever going to get done.”
Children learned being involved could also be good for themselves and for others.
“So being involved is really important because we want to think about other people before we think of ourselves,” Ward said. “Being involved means we are willing to reach outside of ourselves to go help somebody else.”
Another volunteer from the audience declared responsibility is, “Keeping up with your stuff.”
Ward added it also means making good decisions.
“What happens when you are faced with something that is difficult?” Ward asked. “You have to be able to stand up for what is right.”
Finally, Ward explained being studious for students means attending classes, doing homework and trying to understand their lessons.
The young audience members then watched and listened as their peers presented their skits. Ward asked which element was highlighted at the end of each skit. The winning skit member then received a piece of candy for their hard work.
Not to be left out, Ward then asked her DYW helpers Casey Johnson, Knoxville DYW 2012; Emily Fain, Sevier County DYW 2012; and Taylor McMahan, DYW McMinn 2013 to help her pass out small bags of baked chips.
Ward later said her time in Cleveland had given her a better understanding of the Boys & Girls Clubs.
“I think it is so wonderful the things they do. [Organizations] like this really promote the Be Your Best Self idea, whether they do it intentionally or not.”