DYW: Valenzuela, Fujioka Place in State Competition


Lauren Ramos

Left: Valenzuela Right: Fujioka

Chanelle Camero, Community Editor

     Distinguished Young Women (DYW) is a national program that offers teenage women the chance to win scholarships and learn skills through their Life Skills program and competitions. Seniors Kimie Fujioka and Amelie Valenzuela took part in the Distinguished Young Women of Hawai’i competition and placed third runner-up and second runner-up, respectively. 

     “My favorite part about Distinguished Young Women is the rewarding feeling of being able to improve myself and acquire new skills that can be utilized throughout the rest of my life. I believe this program has shaped me in a new way in which I’ve matured and grown in positive ways,” said Valenzuela. 

     Fujioka found out about the competition through her friends who have previously participated in the competition. Valenzuela found out through her mom who pushed her to apply. “I’d never heard of the program until then, but I was so glad to have been introduced to it through my mom,” said Valenzuela. Fujioka added, “It was a great scholarship opportunity and it seemed like an easy way to earn some money for college and meet new people.” 

     On their website, DYW has a free online application to enter. It asks the applicant a series of questions on current societal issues and how they would solve them. “From there, someone associated with the program will give you information on how to apply for the state program. The application is fairly quick and easy and I encourage future senior girls to apply,” said Valenzuela. 

     Over the course of two months, the girls rehearsed for the final competition. Their practices were typically on the weekends and lasted three to four hours. “We had a lot of mock practices to help us prepare for the ‘On Stage’ competition but more specifically, the interview. Whenever they were offered, I would try my best to go to them because I knew that I was going to have a hard time answering some of the questions — especially the political and current event questions without knowing much about those topics,” said Fujioka. Valenzuela added, “In addition, we held mock interviews as well as individual sessions to get help on things we feel could be improved.”

     There were a total of five categories in the competition. The categories were scholastics, fitness, talent, self-expression and the interview. “For fitness, we were taught this six minute routine that challenged our physical capabilities. Talent was the portion in which we were able to do one of our passions or something that displays our unique skills. For my talent, I sang a song called ‘Times Are Hard for Dreamers’ from the musical ‘Amelie,’” said Valenzuela. “The self expression part of the competition consisted of contestants being asked a question a few hours before the competition and answering it later on.”

     Both Valenzuela and Fujioka won $750 for the talent category. Like Valenzuela, Fujioka also sang a song on stage. “I sang a song called ‘Everything I Know’ from the musical ‘In the Heights’ which talks about thanking those who have supported you to where you are in your life today,” said Fujioka. 

     The interview allowed the contestants to have one on one time with the judges. The judges asked questions based on the biographies contestants were required to write. “As for other components of the competition, the day before the ‘On Stage’ competition, we had an interview, which was in a private room with the judges where they had 10 minutes to ask us questions about ourselves or current events or even politics and how we would make this world a better place as well as how to empower women and the next generation,” said Fujioka. 

     “When I got interviewed, they asked me questions about how to solve the issue with people living paycheck to paycheck and student debt as well as integrating the Arts into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). Questions like these are things that I am not used to having to answer so it really made me think about how I would solve these problems and the mock interviews really helped prepare me for getting asked questions like these.”

     For both of the girls, the interview was the most challenging process. However, in the end they were able to work on their public speaking skills. “Not only is the interview itself very nerve-racking, but having to figure out and word what you want to say about you to the judges was hard. This is especially hard for me because I oftentimes get so nervous that it is hard for me to formulate well-worded and sharp answers to questions.  In addition, being prompted with controversial questions was a difficult task because you don’t want to answer in ways that will offend someone else,” said Valenzuela. 

     Fujioka added, “I think the most challenging part was definitely the interview, because like I said, it was hard to prepare not knowing what questions the judges might ask. But at the same time, it made it very rewarding when I was able to finish the interview and leave that room knowing that I was able to gain a very valuable skill of thinking on your feet and answering questions about current situations that I am not totally familiar with.”

     The competition was not just about winning scholarship money for the girls. It also served as a way to meet and connect with other girls from various schools. “I learned a lot about different people and personalities as well as the idea of ‘empowering women.’ We had this one day where a bunch of women came in to talk to us about their lives and how what they do for a living changes people’s lives. It was really inspiring to listen to them and made me realize that I want to help make a difference in society,” said Fujioka. 

     Valenzuela added, “I believe that meeting all the girls from other schools and the mentors that helped us along the way was the most rewarding part of the experience because it gave me a chance to expand my horizons and meet people with different views and backgrounds. I learned so much from my mentors and fellow competitors which is something I’ll treasure for a long time.”

     From this experience, Valenzuela and Fujioka took away many life skills. Some of these skills include public speaking, interview strategies and leadership skills. “This program taught me the essential skills needed for college and beyond and with all of these skills, I can put it to use in the world and, in the future, my everyday job. I’m more comfortable, prepared and willing to speak my mind in front of others and I’ve gained a new outlook on what it means to be a leader,” said Valenzuela. 

     Fujioka added, “As much as I want to say it was the scholarship money, I think the best part was the skills I was able to take away from the program, like going through an interview and even the fitness routine and self expression — it was all so rewarding and I was so humbled to be able to receive the awards that I did.”

     Fujioka won $500 each in the fitness and self-expression category. For placing third runner-up, she won $1,500 as well as a $12,000 scholarship to Hawai’i Pacific University. For placing second runner-up, Valenzuela won a $2,500 cash scholarship as well as a $12,000 tuition scholarship to Hawai’i Pacific University. For more information or to apply, you can visit DYW’s website at http://distinguishedyw.org/.