Hart High School junior Gabriella Senyonjo was selected as a Distinguished Young Women of Los Angeles County participant for the class of 2024.
Distinguished Young Women was founded in 1958 with a mission to empower young women by providing over $1 billion in scholarship opportunities. Distinguished Young Women works in connecting a nationwide network of women, developing their self-confidence and participating in their life skills workshops that aim to prepare them for success after high school.
“At first, I was very intimidated by it and knew I had to see it through and sometimes the deadlines were a little hard to keep up with,” said Senyonjo.
Senyonjo was introduced to the scholarship program by her school counselor. Senyonjo said that this opportunity was unlike any of the others she applied for.
The “long” application process asked students questions about themselves, their hobbies and what they envisioned for their college career.
Those selected as participants, such as Senyonjo, competed for a spot to represent Los Angeles County for the Class of 2024 and college scholarships.
“This opportunity allowed me, in a more informal setting, to learn more about myself with a bunch of strangers the same day,” said Senyonjo. “I first met the girls for the first time at 9 a.m. on Saturday, and I left at 7 p.m.”
The young women were evaluated by a panel of five judges in the following categories: scholastics attributing to 25% of their score, interview attributing to 25% of their score, talent attributing to 20% of their score, fitness attributing to 15% of their score and self-expression attributing to 15% of their score.
“It was kind of intimidating, but it was really fun,” said Senyonjo. “We’re all very welcoming, and each girl brought something different. It felt like we knew each other longer than we actually had.”
Senyonjo’s talent was that of performing a traditional East Africa dance.
One of the questions that stuck with Senyonjo most was, “How would you change your high school?”
“I had never really thought about it on a social scale,” said Senyonjo. “With more, what can I do in this club that I’m in? What can I do in this class? And it’s never like, ‘Oh, here’s something that impacts the 2,000 or something students.’ It gave me a bit of a hard time.”
Senyonjo answered by saying more mental health resources need to be provided and made as accessible as possible on campus. She worries that students do not take advantage of resources until it is a last resort and her answer entailed that more resources would allow it to never get to that point.
Although Senyonjo was not selected as a finalist, she is grateful for all that the experience gave her and is still in touch with all of the participants.