Distinguished Young Woman

Distinguished Young Woman
Distinguished Young Woman

            Kokomo High School Class of 2018 salutatorian Aaryan Morrison recently was named the 2018 Distinguished Young Woman of America, beating out 49 other U.S. participants and earning a total of more than $48,000 in cash scholarships. This marks the first time since the national scholarship program’s inception in 1958 that an Indiana teen has claimed the title.

            Julie Worland, Chair of the Distinguished Young Women of Indiana, noted: “I am excited that Aaryan has the opportunity to represent the United States of America in this prestigious program that values education, leadership, and talent. Aaryan is the complete package; she has achieved academic excellence, is a talented dancer, is highly involved in her community, is a great public speaker, and has traveled to other places throughout the world… giving her a global perspective. We, at the Distinguished Young Women of Indiana, are thrilled that Aaryan is able to embark on this life-changing experience. We know she will inspire and mentor many young ladies throughout this next year.”

            Aaryan, the daughter of Kismet and Bronwen Morrison, graduated from Kokomo High School in June, after earning a 13.429 GPA (on a 12-point scale). Aaryan is attending Harvard University to study government, with a focus on international relations. The National Merit Commended Scholar and Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction also plans to learn French and Swahili. After graduating from Harvard, Aaryan intends to work for the United Nations Development Program, where she hopes to initiate and lead programs to help women and children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

            In February, Aaryan became the first Howard County teen in more than two decades to earn the title of Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana, beating out 22 other Hoosier participants. Contestants in the state program were evaluated on scholastics, talent, fitness, self-expression, and interview. In addition to the state title, Aaryan was recognized for best overall scholastics and best self-expression, while earning preliminary awards in both fitness and interviews.

            During the following months, Aaryan spent time mentoring young students, and spreading the Distinguished Young Women’s message: “Be Your Best Self.” The organization encourages young people to “Be Studious”, “Be Healthy”, “Be Involved”, and “Be Responsible”.

            “As a self-titled nerd, I love the ‘Be Studious’ element because I believe it is the foundation to being your best self,” Aaryan explained recently. “Education is an incredible privilege that provides countless opportunities for exploration and growth. Staying committed to my studies in the International Baccalaureate Program afforded me the chance to study abroad in England, act as a student ambassador to China, and engage in dialogue about Sharia Law and human rights with students from South Africa and Iran. Most significantly, being studious has helped me realize my passion for the global classroom and advocate for more international initiatives within my own school. Being studious is more than just staying in school; it is shaping your education in order to discern that about which you are passionate.”

            Aaryan encouraged the youth in Kokomo to “Be Involved” by explaining her efforts to help her community and country. During the 2017-2018 school year, Aaryan organized a Spring Break service trip to the Navajo Nation. Aaryan and several of her Kokomo High School classmates traveled to the Navajo reservation, where they gardened at a Diné charter school, and restored hiking trails in New Mexico. The Kokomo students also spent time learning about the Navajo culture.

            “It was illuminating to see such a different culture without leaving the borders of the United States,” Aaryan noted. “People right here at home are waiting to be understood by Western culture and ideals.”

            On June 19th, Aaryan traveled to Mobile, Alabama for the Distinguished Young Women National Program. Aaryan spent two weeks in the Alabama Gulf Coast city where she learned about the other contestants, participated in fun events, volunteered in Mobile, learned life skills for college, and rehearsed for the final showcase.

            Aaryan had the opportunity to visit the USS Alabama and Bellingrath Gardens, participate in an Oyster eating contest, and take part in a Mayor’s Leadership Breakfast. Aaryan also spent time volunteering at a school in Mobile, performing for patients at the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital, and meeting Mobile-area Girl Scouts during an overnight party.

            Aaryan’s two weeks in Mobile culminated with the National Finals, where she performed on stage during this showcase. Like in the state program, contestants in the National Finals are evaluated on scholastics, talent, fitness, self-expression, and interview. In addition to the National title, Aaryan also earned category awards in scholastics, interview, and talent. For her talent, Aaryan performed a lyrical dance to the musical selection “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra.

            Aaryan will represent the National Distinguished Young Women program throughout the next year, while also representing the Indiana program. Mrs. Worland explained that Indiana’s program is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019, and program volunteers hope to celebrate by hosting 30 young women and giving away $30,000 in scholarships. Aaryan’s achievements will only help with that goal.

            “The outpouring from our state already has been amazing,” Mrs. Worland said. “We believe Aaryan winning the National title will only help us reach our goal of increasing Hoosier participation in the Distinguished Young Women program. Aaryan will be an outstanding representative for our nation, and we are thrilled to have a young lady from the City of Firsts become Indiana’s first national title winner!”

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