In a colonial-style building downtown with big white columns and a brick entryway, 25 young women gathered onstage to showcase their best selves. With family and friends watching proudly from the audience, each contestant competed to be a representative of San Diego’s Distinguished Young Women.
The DYW program, housed in the San Diego Woman’s Club, has been a tradition for high school girls since 1958. Every year, juniors gather to win scholarship money and move on to compete at state and national levels.
Among the 25 juniors from all across San Diego County, five came from MC: Lili Chen, Rucha Deshpande, Chloe Jiang, Jana Lee, and Amy Liu. The girls performed in three categories onstage, with a Jazzercise fitness routine, a talent of their choice, and a 90 second speaking portion responding to a prompt.
50% of the competition took place the day before the young women even took the stage, with 25% of the total score consisting of scholastics and another 25% for an interview with the judges.
“You walk in and there’s five strangers in front of you staring at you,” Liu said. “You’re standing right in the middle, and there’s nothing for you to hold on to to support yourself with except your own confidence.”
Each MC representative brought musical talent to the stage, with Deshpande, Jiang, and Liu’s flute solos; Chen’s piano piece; and Lee’s guitar and vocal performance. For their speeches, the girls responded to questions about technology’s impact and influential figures. In leggings and tank tops, they did crunches and push ups, all while maintaining bright smiles for the judges. Chen won $250 for her piano piece, Liu took home $250 for her speech on technology, and Lee also earned $250 for her energetic fitness routine.
These wins, all announced one after another, were exhilarating for the MC young women on their own. But even in addition to these exciting accomplishments, four of the five the most important awards ($750 and a chance to compete on a state level) went to MC girls. Chen (who also won a $250 prize for scholastics), Deshpande, Jiang, and Lee will all be moving on to perform in Bakersfield this July.
“I was definitely really shocked because out of the 25 girls who were there, everyone had an equal chance, and everyone was so well qualified to really be the best they could be,” Deshpande said. “I thought it was really amazing how everyone from MC won something, because it’s really representative of the student body and how good everyone’s character is.”
The young women follow in a legacy of MC’s Distinguished Young Women, including seniors Vicki Moran (who was at the event on Sunday to pass on the honor to her younger classmates) and Stephanie Chan. This year’s winners encourage future juniors to pursue the same goal.
“Definitely go out on a limb, even if you’re not comfortable with some of the stuff you’re doing, it’ll really help and pay off in the end,” Lee said. “The results can sometimes be unexpected, don’t count yourself out.”