A day of grace: Distinguished Young Women bond over outdoor fun

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MOBILE, Alabama — Camp Grace played host to this year’s Distinguished Young Women on Tuesday. Zip-lining, canoeing and working with children are just a few of the activities participants engaged in before a night of camping.


“Our sweat and our tears and our bodies really close together have definitely helped the bonding,” New Mexico representative Nicolette Noel Young said with a laugh. Participants were divided by their four color groups, and put on different activities around the camp, which they would rotate after each one finished. Young’s group had just finished the ropes course.


“My group – which was the pink group, the best one – we had to have a lot of teamwork. It was kind of like a puzzle, the way we went through the ropes course. We all had to work together and figure out the little things as we went along.”


While Young was navigating ropes and zip-lines, Jaylia Yan of Arizona was navigating a canoe for the first time in her life.


“I was with Makana Williams of Hawaii, and it was crazy – we ran into a couple things with the front of the canoe, but we got back, and I think that counts as success,” she said. “We didn’t fall in, which was amazing. Our entire goal was to make sure our hair did not get wet, and we achieved that!”


Yan also found the scenery a refreshing change from her native desert.


“I’m stunned still by how green everything is,” she said. “It’s quite a change, and even though it’s humid, it’s very welcome to have green in my world.”


But perhaps the most important thing the Distinguished Young Women got a chance to do at Camp Grace was help out with children with special needs.


“It’s fun getting to know each other, but when (the kids) come it’s just a totally different atmosphere,” said Abigail Cecelia Feldman of New York. “They get so, so excited, and that’s irreplaceable.”


Working with the children involves the Be Your Best Self program – a signature program of Distinguished Young Women – where the young ladies demonstrate the importance of community involvement and connections and encourage the children to reach their full potential.


To finish off the day, participants will gather around a campfire and share their greatest inspirations. For Melissa Whatley, camp director at Camp Grace, that’s the best part of the day.


“It’s become a really cool tradition,” she said. “(We) talk about the people that inspire them, and I love hearing that, because it shows me they all come from different places. They’re all inspired in different ways, and have this kind of determination. It’s the same determination these kids have, but in a different form.”


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