Nashua grad representing N.H. in competition

Courtesy photo Lidia Balanovich being named this year’s New Hampshire Distinguished Young Woman.

NASHUA – Lidia Balanovich had a busy week last week, and she’s about to have another.

Between writing her valedictory speech, walking across the stage at her graduation from Nashua High School North and preparing for a three-day national competition in which she will represent the state, the Dartmouth College-bound young woman has not seen much down time.

Balanovich boarded a flight across the country the morning after her graduation, and she will spend the next two weeks in Mobile, Alabama preparing for the Distinguished Young Women National Finals through community service projects, team-building activities, involvement with the local community and hours and hours of rehearsal.

Distinguished Young Women, Balanovich said, is not a beauty pageant, although it would be easy to mistake it for one at first glance.

This competition judges women based on scholastics, interviews, fitness, talent and self-expression. For the fitness category though, the teenagers will not be walking out in their bathing suits, but instead doing push-ups, sit-ups, squats and burpees on stage, exercises the varsity tennis and field hockey player said she is now “addicted” to doing.

Distinguished Young Women “celebrates being a well-rounded woman,” Balanovich said, and seeks to reveal the “quality of your answers and the confidence you bring to the stage.”

In its 61 years, DYW has awarded more than $108 million in scholarships and influenced hundreds of thousands of woman across the country.

Balanovich, of course, hopes to be one of those women, but not simply for the title.

If selected as the winner, she will spend the next year representing DYW across the country and promoting the program’s outreach initiative, Be Your Best Self. The program has five elements: be healthy, be involved, be studious, be ambitious and be responsible. For her project, Balanovich worked with students ages 4 through 7 to teach them about her passion for the outdoors and science.

“If I won, I would be so excited to have a platform or a voice to promote women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics),” she said, adding that she has given a TEDx Talk on the issue. TEDx Talks are a localized branch of the short, informational lectures focused on technology, entertainment and design.

“It would let me do that on a national level..” she said of promoting women in STEM.

She is also excited to meet the other “strong, inspiring, accomplished women” in the competition- people she is still surprised she is among.

“I was so shocked that I won,” Balanovich said. “Any one of (the competitors) could have been up there representing New Hampshire.”

Balanovich never did Girl Scouts, while her only sibling is a brother.

“I’ve always wanted that sisterhood,” she said, adding that as soon as she found DYW she was “hooked.” “I am beyond words excited,” she said. “It keeps hitting me over and over again.”

The national finals are set for June 28, 29 and 30.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.