By JENNIFER MEIER
MIDDLEBURY — It wasn’t that long ago when Northridge senior Alexandra Hochstetler, now 2013 Distinguished Young Woman of Indiana, was a student at Orchardview Elementary in Middlebury.
On Monday, Hochstetler returned to Orchardview to inspire third-graders to set goals, and stay on track to reach those goals by being healthy, involved, studious, ambitious and responsible.
Those five principles are part of the official outreach program of Distinguished Young Women called “Be Your Best Self” celebrated across the country last week by the winners of the scholarship program in each state.
For Hochstetler, who was named DYW of Indiana in March by sweeping all the awards in all the categories, the Orchardview presentations felt like coming home.
“Well, I went there and I thought it was a great idea to give back to the kids,” Hochstetler said. “It felt comfortable — knowing some of the teachers and the kids.”
Hochstetler shared her experiences and talents to get her message across.
“These are all things that I’ve done to get where I am now and it is definitely a part of who we are at DYW,” Hochstetler said. “I feel like things went very well.”
Third-grade teacher Allyce Cripe couldn’t have agreed more.
“It was a great program — very engaging,” Cripe said. “The kids loved it. She really connected with them.”
Hochstetler shared her experiences with “Will Run For Food,” a program she founded that has raised more than $3,000 for the Middlebury food pantry.
“I shared how I ran four half marathons and one marathon and (how that involved volunteering) at the food pantry. I really want them to help others — in their homes, schools and communities.”
Hochstetler told them about her work to earn an International Baccalaureate diploma at Northridge High School.
“I love all subjects. I am a nerd,” Hochstetler said. “They all thought that was pretty funny.”
She also shared her desire to become a doctor and discussed with them the difference between right and wrong as well as the importance of being responsible.
Her talks included a PowerPoint presentation that illustrated how the students could be their best self through goal-setting.
“She gave the kids pledge cards,” Cripe said. “They will help them set goals and stay focused in the five areas. The students will sign and date them and we will hang them up around the school.”
During part of each program Hochstetler challenged a student to a one-legged push up contest.
“I totally got beat in one!” Hochstetler said. “But it was still a lot of fun.”
Each student left the presentation with a goodie bag designed by Hochstetler.
“I made it ‘bee’-themed for ‘Be Your Best Self,’” Hochstetler said. “I included the pledge card, a jump rope, a bee finger puppet, a bee pencil and three suckers.”
After the program, Hochstetler was pleased to have several girls interested in DYW.
“That just creates more interest in the program for the future and that is so great!” Hochstetler said. “I really enjoyed having the kids ask me questions. They were curious about everything from the national DYW competition to my favorite subject, my favorite food, how tall I was and who my teachers were at Orchardview.”
Hochstetler said she felt grateful to be a part of the outreach program.
“I was a fantastic experience to watch the message really inspire these students,” she said. “I think if every child got the opportunity to hear this type of presentation, the world would be a better place!”
In June of this year, Hochstetler will travel to Mobile, Ala., to vie for the 2013 national DYW title. DYW awarded more than $108 million in cash and college scholarships last year at the local, state and national level. The program was previously known as America’s Junior Miss.
“I am working on finishing up some requirements for several of the scholarships they offer,” Hochstetler said. “I can’t wait. It’s just seven weeks away!”