One Day in Dallas

“One Day in Dallas,” New Era, May 1986, 20

One Day in Dallas

Excited voices rise and fall in a jumbled cadence that resembles a symphony tuning up. There’s a vibrant current flowing, and the ground almost rumbles underfoot. Everyone waits with nervous anticipation as another Texas well is about to burst forth.

All who are involved with the well will immediately strike it rich, but not in a monetary sense. Instead of the black gold Texas is so famous for, this well is spewing talent—talent in all shapes and forms, drilled from the young women of the Richardson Stake in Dallas Texas.

Nearly 100 girls are waiting for the concert portion of the day-long Young Women conference to begin. And this is no ordinary Young Women conference. It’s one that advisers and girls have been working on for two years.

The theme of the conference is “Follow Your Dreams … and Pay the Price,” and the advisers have come up with an interesting way to develop that topic. The conference is divided into two parts. One part is educational—the adults in the stake teach the girls just what price they’ll have to pay to realize their dreams.

Mothers, of course, are invited to share the day, so they can better help their daughters reach their goals.

During the other half of the conference, the girls give something back to the adults of the stake by putting on a talent “concert,” in which each girl has the chance to demonstrate some of the skills she’s working on.

Concerted Efforts

Right now, just as the concert is about to begin, the young women are anxiously tying white ribbons and straightening white skirts. Everyone is decked out in sparkling white, but the color of their clothes is where the similarity ends. The styles, lengths, and details of the dresses are as individual as the girls who wear them. The symbolism is obvious; the whiteness stands for the purity that they all possess, and although they share the same virtues, they are anything but carbon copies of each other.

They’re a lively group. The same energy that pulses through downtown Dallas sparks from these girls. They’re quick with their laughter, yet quicker with concern for each other. Some speak with heavy Texan drawls, and others sound like they just came from Ohio. Dallas, after all, is a city that draws people from all over the country.

At last the cue is given, and they explode on stage singing the lyrics “Someday just began.” They sing with conviction because they know that someday is now. Instead of waiting to “someday” refine their talents, when they have the time; and to “someday” share them with others, when they’re good enough; or to “someday” use their talents to help those in need, when they have the inclination—the young women of the Richardson Stake are using their talents now.

The talent concert gave them the perfect opportunity to prove that. Take Amy Ravsten, a 17-year-old from Garland Third Ward, for example. When she heard that the young women in her stake would be performing, she offered to teach the girls in her ward a jazz routine she’d learned at cheerleading camp. A real sense of camaraderie developed as six girls of varying aptitudes worked together to perfect the dance.

For gymnast Kim McCauley, a 14-year-old from the Rockwall Ward, “someday” began when she was a toddler. She was walking at six months, running at eight months, and by the time she hit three, her parents decided they’d better find a way to channel her energy, or they’d be exhausted in the chase. They enrolled her in gymnastics classes, and today, she not only is a top competitor on her high school team, but she also uses her talent in her spare time to teach gymnastics classes for small children.

Instead of waiting for “someday” to take time to really get to know and enjoy the rest of her family, 12-year-old Stephanie Smith of the Dallas Fourth Ward learned a family talent that would send them touring the state and the country. The family took up clogging, a misleading term for a high-energy form of tap dance. Through it, she learned all about keeping in step with the rest of the family. “It’s really helped us with our unity,” she says. “Although it’s sometimes hard to get everyone together to practice, we feel a real closeness when we perform.”

“Someday I’ll be a great piano player … when I have time to practice,” is a foreign phrase to Susanna Olsen, who proved that she already has mastered the instrument. She dashed off a Rachmaninoff opus as if she’d written it herself. Members of the Richardson First Ward know that they can come to Susanna whenever they need an accompanist. She’s more than willing to oblige them.

Sherry Blanpied, a 13-year-old from the Richardson Second Ward, had no intention of waiting for “someday, when I’m good enough,” to display her dramatic talents. She performed a monologue right after winning first place with the same piece in a school competition held earlier that day.

These girls and many more were able to shower the stake with their talents. And for those who had talents that were not easily displayed on stage, such as soccer finesse or computer programming, their “someday” in the limelight came when they performed in one of three song and dance routines choreographed to include every girl who wanted to join in.

The conference theme came to life as the girls prepared for the concert. The price they paid to realize their dream of a successful show was a lot of time and effort. They passed up parties and various other school activities to meet a grueling rehearsal schedule, and some even missed going to their high school football games. That’s practically unheard of in Texas, where school spirit is as high as a lone star in the sky.

The girls in Dallas are just like most young women everywhere. In their spare time, they like to get together to talk and watch video movies, they like to go to dances, eat Mexican food, and go horseback riding. They’re especially proud of their new temple, and they go to the visitors’ center frequently. But in preparation for the conference, they put most of their other activities on the back burner and concentrated on “paying the price” to make it a dream come true.

Michelle DeMarco, 13, of the Richardson First Ward, even gave up a part in a school play to participate in the conference. Michelle, who lives and breathes theater, insisted “it was worth missing the school play to come to this. I’ve really enjoyed being together with everyone here.”

Their Mothers’ Daughters

Michelle’s mother was right there supporting her from the rehearsals through to the actual production. “My mom has helped me with everything,” said Michelle. “She’s always making me feel good about what I’m doing, and she’s always there to lift me up.” That’s the way it is with many of the mothers in the Richardson Stake.

“We just can’t stand by on the side of the river and watch these young women try to maneuver the rapids by themselves,” said Linda McCauley, who spearheaded the conference. Sister McCauley had three daughters involved in the day and feels that she needs to “jump on the raft with them … to share their experiences so they don’t float so far away and become strangers.”

Some mothers and daughters in the stake are so close it’s even hard to tell them apart. They share jokes, clothes, and friendships. They were more than willing to help with the other parts of the conference by spending long hours decorating for the elaborate luncheon and pulling together the programs, speakers, and handouts for the educational part of the day.

Priceless Information

The informative portion’s purpose, according to Sister McCauley, was to “provide the girls with a positive, uplifting experience where they learned about their responsibilities to Heavenly Father, to themselves, and to others.”

These responsibilities were brought home to the girls during a multimedia presentation starring many familiar faces. Advisers had taken the time to interview some of the girls and discuss how they could pump the most from their talents.

A video clip was shown of Rebecca Duehring, a 15-year-old from the Rockwall Ward, gliding across the ice during one of her many intense ice skating competitions. Rebecca’s struggle to be a competitive skater hasn’t been easy. She was born with brain damage that limited her coordination and space perception. She could barely walk, was constantly falling, and had broken nearly every bone in her body. Then she took up ice skating, which, for some reason she can’t explain, helped her gain her coordination.

Although it takes more time and concentration for Rebecca to perfect her routines, she’s right up there with the best in town and dreams of one day going to the Olympics. “Sometimes I can feel that Heavenly Father is behind me, and I go for the top,” says Rebecca.

The girls were also treated to talks, workshops, and presentations by people who had paid the price to reach excellence. “Commitment is more than desire,” stake president Larry Gibbons told them in his speech. “Commitment implies action.” And in other workshops, the girls learned just what kind of actions they’d have to take to be successful in different aspects of their lives.

They were shown the literal prices they’ll have to pay when the time comes to support themselves. They shuddered as they saw just how far an average, 40-hour a week job paying $5 an hour would take them. After paying tithing, taxes, rent, food, gas, transportation, insurance, and utility bills, they’d be in the hole about $2,000 per year.

“This has really started me thinking about what I want to do,” said Ruth Vigil, 16, of the Richardson Third Ward. “I hadn’t really set any goals for my future occupation, but now I realize that I’ll have to.” Ruth is musically talented. She sings and plays the piano and is now thinking about ways to incorporate those talents in a future occupation.

“We wanted to help the girls change their lives and get moving into some sort of direction,” said Connie Riska, stake Young Women president. “They need to make some of their decisions now and not wait until they graduate from high school.”

The girls realize that not all of them will go on to become working women. “My ambition is to have ten kids. six cats, and five gerbils,” jokes 16-year-old Tami McCauley of the Rockwall Ward. Just in case her dream comes true, the conference helped her to realize that the experience she’s gaining now by helping her mother take care of her nine brothers and sisters is invaluable.

Tracy Rico, 17, of the Garland Third Ward, had her feeling reaffirmed that if she’s going to meet her goal of entering into the medical profession, it can’t hurt to start learning now. That’s why she’s working as a “sports medicine trainer” at her high school.

Going for the Goals

The girls were encouraged to think about their future goals in preparation for a very special fashion show that was also part of the conference. Each young woman either made or coordinated an outfit to wear, and as they were escorted down the runway, their achievements and dreams were capsulized by the emcee.

Amanda Wilson, 15, of the Richardson First Ward, was right in her element during this part of the day. Her mother began teaching her to sew when she was seven years old, and now you might wonder who is teaching whom. Not only did Amanda sew several outfits for the fashion show, but she designed them as well, making her own patterns.

Amanda is refining her talents now so that one day she can major in fashion merchandising and hopefully have her own designing business. But in the meantime, she uses her abilities by sewing for ward members.

Short-term goals were also met via the fashion show. “It was great because my mom and I worked together on my outfit,” said Jennifer Beckham, 15, of the Rockwall Ward. “We took a whole day to go pick out the material, and as we cut it out and worked on it, we just talked about all sorts of things. It was really nice.”

That feeling of unity and understanding seemed to characterize the day. Most people were a bit surprised when Melissa Lane, 13, modeled her outfit as it was announced that one of her major goals was to become a member of the Church.

Melissa later explained, “My aunt is a member of the Church and I live with her now. She lets me go to church, and it really makes me feel good. I’m starting to read the Book of Mormon, and my aunt is letting me subscribe to the New Era. My special friends here have helped me with my testimony, and this conference has too.”

Most of the girls agreed that the friendship they cultivated by sharing their talents with each other was one of the best parts of the conference. Many of the girls go to different schools and don’t have the opportunity to get together often. “I’ve grown so close to the people here,” said Tova Carter, 14, of the Garland Fourth Ward. “We learned that if we put our minds to something, we really can accomplish it.”

An elaborate luncheon, a fashion show presented by a local designer, and minimusical concerts performed by local professionals and local Suzuki violin students all added to the day as the young women struck it rich in Dallas.

The girls might not be able to buy expensive sports cars and luxurious wardrobes with the wealth they gained by tapping the well at their conference, but deep in the hearts of the young women in Texas, they know they struck something far more valuable.

Photos by Don Heit

The oil that made Dallas such a vibrant city has nothing on the natural resources possessed by the young women of the Richardson Stake. They tapped their talents to produce everything from concert piano music to haute couture.

Mothers and daughters worked together on the conference, taking their cue from director Linda McCauley, who said, “We wanted to provide a positive, uplifting experience where the girls would learn about their responsibilities to themselves and to others.”

No bushel could have hidden the light that radiated when “everybody cut footloose” in the combined dance numbers. Some even flipped when they realized their dream of putting on a successful show.

“Doing your best really makes you happy,” discovered Tracy Rico. Whether it’s making beautiful music with your friends or just sharing a burger and talking, “you get a lot out when you put a lot in.”