“I love that it has a small-town feel, but you are not far from big cities.”

Photograph Contributed


One Shelby County student has shown other young women how to “be your best self.” Mary Grace Long, who first won the title of Shelby County Distinguished Young Woman in July 2015, went on to win at the state level in January. She will travel to Mobile to compete at the national program June 23-25, where all 50 states and the District of Columbia will be represented. A senior at Evangel Classical Christian School in Alabaster, Long is the daughter of Drew Ann and David Long and has a sister, Caroline, and brother, Matthew.WhyILoveSC

Why did you decide to compete in Distinguished Young Women?

Distinguished Young Women is a college scholarship organization, so I primarily decided to participate for the scholarship benefits. However, as I did more research on the program, I realized it was so much more and represents a lot of things that I stand for.

What’s been your favorite experience since winning?

I had the opportunity to speak to a Girl Scout troop about the Distinguished Young Women platform, “Be Your Best Self.” I got to do a presentation and talk with the girls about what it means to “be your best self” and teach them how easy it is to implement the five pillars: be healthy, ambitious, involved, responsible and studious. Other than that, the friendships I have made are ones that I know, without a doubt, will last a lifetime.

How are you preparing for the finals in June?

I have been working out every day and practicing my talent rigorously. On top of that, I’ve been keeping up with current events and watching the political race. I’m really just trying to get myself in the best shape mentally, physically and spiritually before I leave in June.

What do you love about Shelby County?

Shelby County is the only placed I have ever lived, so I love that it is my home, and I am proud to have my roots here. I love that it has a small-town feel, but you are not far from big cities.

What are your plans after you graduate high school?

I will be attending Auburn University in the fall to double major in broadcast journalism and political science, with plans to possibly attend law school. I want to go into political analysis.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I am a very busy person, so free time is rare, but I do love spending my free time hanging out with friends, going to the lake or watching the news or “Dancing with the Stars.”

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I love history: It’s my favorite subject and something I love to learn about. I love reading non-fiction history books on historical or American figures.

How has Distinguished Young Women affected or changed your life?

This is such a cliché, but I have to say it: It has made me such a better person. Being in this program has motivated me to excel in all areas of my life and has motivated me to put my 110 percent into school, dance and all other clubs and organizations I am involved in. The people I have met have also impacted my life significantly.

What would you say to other girls interested in competing in the program?

Do it! You will not regret it. You don’t have to be a “pageant girl” or have the best clothes or have the coolest talent to compete: This program is for all girls and is designed to be a celebration of each girl’s individuality and accomplishments, not a competition.