By Kendra Evensen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pocatello teen Rachel Forest may have been following in the footsteps of her older sister, Nina, when she entered the Distinguished Young Women program and won the title for the Pocatello/Chubbuck area earlier this year. But now she appears to be blazing a trail of her own.
Rachel, age 17, won the Distinguished Young Woman of Idaho title during the state competition that took place at the Civic Auditorium in Idaho Falls over the weekend. Madeline Harker from Bonneville County was named First Alternate and Mia Toussaint from Blackfoot was named Second Alternate.
Rachel said she was honored and humbled to win the title, and she expressed her gratitude for the Alliance Academy of Dance, as well as the many people involved in the Distinguished Young Women program, and her family â€” all of whom she said helped her to achieve her goal.
â€śI wouldnâ€™t have won the title without them,â€ť Rachel said.
Her sister is among her biggest supporters. Nina is studying international relations at University of California, Davis, but she flew out to see Rachel perform during the competition this weekend.
And in a way, Rachelâ€™s win helped fulfill a dream for both of them.
Nina, too, held the Distinguished Young Woman title for the Pocatello/Chubbuck area in 2014, but she came shy of her goal of making it into the top 10 at the state competition. Rachel, who wore the same red dress Nina competed in, wanted to make her sister proud by finally achieving that goal.
But she not only made it into the top 10, she won.
â€śI am over the moon,â€ť Nina said, adding that sheâ€™s so proud of what her sister, who she describes as incredibly distinguished and talented, was able to achieve.
Rachel said she was inspired to get involved in the Distinguished Young Women program, which includes Scholastics, Interview, Talent, Fitness and Self-Expression categories, after seeing how much it helped her sister.
â€śI saw the transformation she went through in the program, and I wanted to go through that same transformation myself,â€ť she said.
Rachel noted that she didnâ€™t have much self-confidence before, and she was always shy and introverted. But thanks to the Distinguished Young Women program, which encourages teens to â€śBe Your Best Self,â€ť she said she is now speaking in front of large crowds and sheâ€™s doing it with confidence.
Rachel won not only the title this weekend, but she also took Overall Scholastics and honors in the Interview and Self-Expression categories, and won $7,150 in scholarship funds in the process. She also worked hard to improve her talent, a classical ballet routine she was able to perform on pointe for the first time.
Rachel, a senior at Century High School, is also a National Merit Scholarship Semifinalist and an award-winning tennis player, as well as the president of her schoolâ€™s Model United Nations Club, which she organized.
Nina said Rachel may have started out following in her footsteps, but sheâ€™s no longer simply known as her little sister.
â€śI saw Rachel really come into her own this year,â€ť Nina said, adding that her sister has transformed right before her eyes.
Rachel says the Distinguished Young Women program reminds teens that they shouldnâ€™t compare themselves to others, rather they should be true to who they are. She hopes to help spread that message while she holds the title this year.
Rachel is also looking forward to competing in the national event in Mobile, Alabama, in June. And sheâ€™s not just trying to make her sister proud this time.
â€śIâ€™m going to try my hardest to make Idaho proud,â€ť she said.
Several other top scholarships were awarded during the Distinguished Young Women of Idaho program last weekend:
Overall Fitness â€” Gracie Swainston, Franklin County.
Overall Self-Expression â€” Mia Toussaint, Blackfoot
Overall Talent â€” Kellie Andrews, Sugar/Salem
Overall Scholastics â€” Rachel Forest, Pocatello/Chubbuck
Overall Interview â€” Mia Toussaint, Blackfoot
Be Your Best Self â€” Madeline Harker, Bonneville County
Spirit â€” Mia Toussaint, Blackfoot