Dora Guo was named Distinguished Young Woman of America for 2019 during the 62nd Distinguished Young Women National Finals in Mobile, Ala. on June 29. She is the first national winner from Illinois since 1990.
“It was exciting to win the contest, but to me it was just part of a great two-week experience,” the 2019 SHS graduate said, citing community service work and leadership sessions led by successful women. “I’ve learned valuable interview and public speaking skills during my experience, in addition to forging friendships I will keep for a lifetime.”
Distinguished Young Women, formerly known as America's Junior Miss, is a national non-profit organization that provides scholarship opportunities to high school senior girls. The program is free to enter, and this year $2 million in cash scholarships was awarded to participants at the local, state and national levels. Guo earned $30,000 by winning the national competition, and also received an additional $2,000 for her performance in two of the categories, scholastics and interview. The other contest categories were self-expression, fitness and talent.
Guo qualified for the national finals by winning the Distinguished Young Woman of Illinois contest last year. Her involvement in the program was accidental.
“To be honest, it came up when I Googled ‘scholarships,’” she said. “I had a lot of preconceptions about (the competition), and I didn't let it feel like a pageant.”
During her year-long position as the national representative, Guo won’t be overloaded with responsibilities.
“(The Distinguished Young Woman of America leaders) prioritize scholarship over everything,” she said. “They want me to focus on being a college freshman. That’s something I really appreciate about the program.”
Guo said she will have to make two trips to Alabama, and one to New York or Washington, D.C., to give “Be Your Best Self” outreach presentations to youngsters. Her talks will focus on five areas: health, ambition, involvement, responsibility, and studiousness.
Before heading off to college, Guo will continue her volunteer work with the Boys and Girls Club of Lake County in Waukegan, which she has done the past two years. In college, Guo plans to major in education.
“I’m very passionate about education,” she said. “I want to have a better understanding of education, and would like to make it my career, whether it’s being involved with policy or as a teacher.”
Another SHS student will succeed Guo as the state representative. Senior Emily Kang claimed the 2019 title, winning the interview and talent categories, and also claimed $2,740 in college scholarships. Classmate Kaitlyn Lu was first runner-up and received a $750 scholarship, and fellow senior Christie Lee was named fourth runner-up and a $500 scholarship. Emily will represent Illinois at the national competition in July 2020.
Dora Guo photo credit: Distinguished Young Women/Photo: Ruby Media