WASHINGTON — Distinguished Young Women of America has provided an opportunity for young ladies in their final years of high school to win merit-based college scholarship money, and for the first time in its nearly 60-year history, the national winner is a D.C. resident.
“I saw this really awesome organization committed to the empowerment of young women. And having gone to an all-girls school my entire life, I thought that it would be such a neat way to get involved,” 18-year-old Skye Bork tells WTOP.
She decided to look into the program after learning about it from a friend and role model who participated in Georgia.
“Then I found out that it was only D.C.’s second year participating and I thought it was a really special way for D.C. to be recognized and involved on the national level. So I was committed to this message of female empowerment and representing my city.”
Bork competed in the three-day Distinguished Young Women national contest in Mobile, Alabama. On July 1, she won a $30,000 scholarship as part of the national title as well as an additional $5,000 for placing in the top four of each of the competition’s five categories: scholastics, interview, fitness, talent and self-expression.
She also earned $1,500 for being named the Washington, D.C. representative.
A local chapter of Distinguished Young Women had been operating in D.C. but was discontinued during the 1980s. It started up again two years ago.
Mohra Gavankar, Distinguished Young Women D.C. Program Chair, said DYW scholarships go directly to the winner’s college of choice. If winners happen to earn a full ride to college, the funds remain in the bank to help pay for graduate school. Gavankar says this program places strong emphasis on academic achievement.
“Twenty-five percent of the overall score is academics. That’s why Skye did so well, because her talent is beautiful, but her academics are through the roof.”
Bork, a lover of science, technology, engineering and math, recently graduated from the National Cathedral School. Her passion for STEM subjects blossomed as she was starting high school. It was inspired by a math teacher who “really encouraged and inspired this love of learning, especially in terms of math and numbers.”
Her passion was fueled even more this summer as she worked to create a ballet curriculum for 7 and 8-year-olds that enabled her to combine math and performing arts. She worked in collaboration with faculty at the Washington Ballet at THEARC.
Bork used basic math concepts and “ideas like rhythm, numbers, counting, addition and subtraction to design a ballet class using ballet movements like jumps, spins and pliés, as we call just basic knee bends in the ballet world.”
It was her way to help introduce youngsters to a STEM subject in a fun way. But the task didn’t stop with curriculum creation.
“One of the biggest challenges was to get these ideas and concepts across while making sure that it’s still simple and really engaging, because the whole idea is to make math and numbers something fun and something to look forward to, she said. “So that was definitely a challenge, finding the balance between sharing new information and keeping students engaged.”
Bork said she’s also been receiving requests to introduce the program at other schools.
She plans to attend Columbia University in the fall.
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