Beautiful to the Core

An event I co-founded in 2013 continues to make a difference years later

When I was a senior in high school I had long, wavy brown hair. Then I cut it short the week before starting my freshman year of college. Now a senior at North Dakota State University, my hair is back to the same length it was in high school.

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With the 2016 BTTC speakers, from left to right: Emily Paulson, Dawn Gunderson, Jacky Arness, Bethany Peterson

The other night I introduced an event called “Beautiful to the Core,” which was inaugurated in the spring of 2013 by two of my dear friends, Ama Frederickson, Olivia Bergh and I. The name is a reflection of our mission to empower young women to embrace their inner beauty and channel their drive and determination into goals.

At the time of the first Beautiful to the Core, I had long hair and my future was uncertain. I knew that I would soon be off to college, carrying my hopes of making the NDSU equestrian team and aspirations of pursuing a career in the horse racing industry. I was determined to study abroad, probably in Costa Rica.

I stood behind a podium Monday night, looking over a small crowd of young women, high school and middle school aged, one or two young men and a handful of teachers and speakers. Nearly four years down the road – four years that really felt like four months – I was once again a senior and my hair was long. But a lot had changed, a few things I had anticipated, and other changes I had not.

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Ama, Olivia and I with the entire Student Council crew before BTTC 2013

In my introduction, I spoke about Ama, Olivia and I and our post-college aspirations. Ama will be studying abroad in London this fall before graduating from Cornell University in the spring with a major in Middle Eastern Studies and minors in Psychology and History. She’ll then pursue graduate school for Religious Studies, and eventually hopes to become a university Chaplain.

Olivia is in her final year in the Music Therapy program at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. President of the Music Therapy Student Association, she’ll be doing research this semester on the solid organ transplant unit at Fairview Hospital. After graduation, she’ll complete a music therapy internship before becoming a board certified music therapist.

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The stage set for BTTC 2013

And me? I got that spot I wanted on the NDSU hunt seat equestrian team. But I never foresaw myself taking a semester to move to Texas and intern with the American Quarter Horse Association. Nor could I have predicted that my semester abroad would be spent in Chile rather than Costa Rica. And I can tell you for certain that working at Saratoga Race Course for not just one but TWO consecutive summers wasn’t on my radar. If all goes according to plan, I’ll graduate in the spring with majors in Management Communication and International Studies with a minor in Spanish. Then I’ll continue pursuing my career goal of working in the international Thoroughbred racing industry. That hasn’t changed.

I didn’t share all of this with the audience. It’s irrelevant to the mission of the event, an idea that began with three very different young women – different styles, backgrounds and dreams, eating ice cream and talking about social issues.

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Ama (center), Olivia and I during one of our yearly get-togethers (when we all happen to be home at once!)

By the three of us putting our heads and ideas together, the help of student council members and a number of teachers who did all they could to facilitate our vision (not to mention the incredible support and guidance from our moms!), “Beautiful to the Core” came together like the pieces of a puzzle. Speakers, sponsors, door prizes, posters, T-shirts, cookies and lemonade and around 300 young women in attendance. The event was a source of inspiration for us, a leadership opportunity and a learning experience at the same time. Not just a line on each of our resumes, but a building block in our character.

As I stood before the crowd at the 2016 Beautiful to the Core – not as big and fancy as the first year, but still making a difference – I thought about Ama and Olivia. I thought about my own future. I thought about the futures of the young women and men who will hopefully embrace the message of the event and allow it to impact their lives as it impacted mine.

(Top photo: 2013 Beautiful to the Core speakers from left to right, Dawn Gunderson, Me, Dr. Susan Matheson, Ama, Ajit Berg, Olivia, Chris Linnares)
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