For my senior project, I am helping put together the South Fremont Distinguished Young Women program. Distinguished Young Women is a national scholarship program that inspires high school girls to develop their full, individual potential through a fun, transformative experience that culminates in a celebratory showcase of their accomplishments. A stigma in the community is that the Distinguished Young Women Program is simply a beauty pageant. However, Distinguished Young Women is about more than wearing pretty dresses and walking on stage. Distinguished Young Women is about uplifting and empowering women while striving to become the best version of yourself. It helps young women find self-confidence, recognize their talents, develop skills and prepare for life after high school.
I had a very unique and personal experience this last year watching my younger sister participate in the program, attain the title and represent her community as the Distinguished Young Woman of South Fremont. I watched her grow, become a better version of herself and focus on her community more than just herself. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of the program.
My responsibility for the program was spearheading the “Be Your Best Self” project. “The Be Your Best Self” program is a smaller platform under the DYW umbrella that focuses on service and community involvement within 5 categories: be responsible, be involved, be ambitious, be studious and be healthy. In the past, the “Be Your Best Self” project was simply a day-long event for little girls in the community to come and learn from the participants how to be distinguished within the five categories of the “Be Your Best Self” platform. It was a tired tradition, and the participants for this year wanted to go in a different direction. This gave me the opportunity to organize a service project for the participants and the community to get involved. As a group, the participants and leaders decided to work with The Village Foster Care Closet.
The Village is a foster care closet that collects and distributes donated items to children in foster care. The Village is run by volunteers and accepts donations from individuals, churches and businesses. We have over 300 children in foster care in Southeast Idaho at any given time, and many come into care with little or no personal items. The Village provides them with clothing, personal items, blankets, etc. to begin to restore their dignity and self-esteem.
When this organization was brought to my attention, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Although it wasn’t in South Fremont, it still serves this area (Southeast Idaho) and therefore is a part of the community. Over 98% of foster children have been removed from their homes without the things they need to survive. The Village Foster Care Closet is a safe place they can go to get all of the things they need at no cost to them. Many will walk into The Village, and walk out with multiple duffle bags full of things they need and want.
The goal for this project was to get the DYW participants involved, get the community involved and get involved myself to help put together donations (both tangible and monetary) to help show The Village the same love they show to our foster youth every day. For the project, I put together a list of items that can be donated, and the specifications for those items. I then created infographics for those items to promote it on the DYW social media pages seeking community involvement. I also gave them to all the DYW participants so they can gather items and spread the word about donating to the project. I took the participants down to The Village to get a very personal idea of who they were helping and the value it has. During the month-long service project, I facilitated the process of gathering items, sorting items and ensuring they meet the specifications. I made sure the community and DYW participants were getting involved and gathering items. I took many donations to “The Village” for the foster youth, and while at the Village, I volunteered time sorting, placing and weeding out different items.
I used so many skills I have developed throughout my degree for leading this project. However, a few that I want to highlight are: content creation, writing, event panning, persuasion and leadership. The project pushed me to create important and visually pleasing materials, write in persuasive ways using person-first language, plan a large event that involves many participants, be a leader to the participants and be a coordinator between DYW and The Village as I facilitated the service project.
What set this project apart from any other project that I have done is the fact that it was something I’m so passionate about—empowering young women AND empowering underserved/at risk populations in the community. I put my heart and soul into making this project something more to the participants than “required service” and more to The Village than “volunteered time.” This project has sparked a movement in the community of South Fremont by showing how the DYW program turned a tired tradition into a meaningful act of service. It taught us all that the “Be Your Best Self” platform is not just a platform for DYW participants, it’s one we should all adopt: We are all equally responsible for our community and it’s so easy to find ways to help. When it comes to non-profit work and honestly life in general, to be responsible, involved, ambitious, studious and healthy is the formula for being our best selves and giving our best to the organizations we serve.
I attended The Village with all of the participants to get a run-down of what The Village is, why it’s necessary and how we can help. We spent two hours going through the entire store, interviewing the director and coming up with ideas to help.
I made a news release about the service project for the local news outlet to get more community involvement.
I had all the participants write what they learned from the experience attending “The Village Foster Care Closet” and sent them to the director of The Village organization as a thank you. Here is a sample of some of the “thank you” notes.
Here are a few graphics I made for the social media pages to remind the participants of important information regarding the service project.
I made weekly affirmations for the participants to be reminded of their worth. This was less about the project and more about reminding them to be their best selves. Here are two samples:
I made some social media samples to use on the DYW Facebook page for important events. Here is one from International Women’s day that I was particularly proud of. This was a reminder for the participants that they are great and what they are doing is powerful.
I attended The Village personally to give donations, sort items and get more information on how to help. Here are some photos of what the care closet looks like, and the type of work I did.
My duties at the village: sorting, placing/weeding out and donating. There were over 40 bags of donations taken down to the Foster Care Closet in the first trip alone. After the items were washed, my first job was to sort them into their designated locations. Example: Little girl’s clothes are separated into different spots in the store based on size, and must be tagged with their size. My second job was to place the items in their designated locations, and get rid of anything that was stained, in rough condition or simply out of style. Unfortunately, not every item is in good enough condition or style to keep. And for some items (like socks and underwear), the closet only allows new thing in a package. So for items that don’t make the cut, we sort them into piles to donate to the DI, Family Crisis Center, or garbage for anything absolutely gross. Below are photos of me sorting and tagging jeans, putting together baby clothing and checking clothing for stains and pilled-fabric.