“The Point,” New Era, Mar. 2008, 24–29
What’s the reason for Personal Progress? These young women in North and South Carolina know it’s to help both you and those around you.
“Make it work for you.” That’s how Mia Maid Megan Ross sums up her advice about participating in Personal Progress.
But her mother, Deborah, the Young Women president of the Colfax Ward, Greensboro North Carolina Stake, adds this additional suggestion, which makes Personal Progress even more meaningful: “Use it to help those around you.”
The point is that Personal Progress can be a blessing both to you and to others. By working on six Value Experiences (three required and three elective) and one 10-hour project in each of the seven Young Women values, you can strengthen yourself as well as those around you. (See Young Women Personal Progress .)
Rachel’s Good Works
Megan and her mother point to another family member, Rachel, as an example of what that means. Rachel has already completed her Young Womanhood Recognition. She has enjoyed the self-improvement and the service to others so much that now she’s setting additional goals, mentoring others in the program (including her mother), and constantly looking for ways to help other people.
For example, one of her Value Projects was about modesty, and the ward young women all worked together on a modest fashion show. Then Rachel put together her own modest fashion magazine, using photos and ideas from the event. After that, she and her mother went to a fabric store, picked out fabric, cut it, pinned it, and sewed a modest dress.
Another time, Rachel worked with all of the young women as well as the adults in the ward to put together a cookbook. Everyone learned about cooking, shared recipes, and the adults noticed that the youth took an interest in them, too. That prompted her mother to work on a book of her own, what she calls an “heirloom” cookbook. “It includes recipes like my grandma’s recipe for rolls,” Sister Ross explains. “But it includes her photo next to the recipe so you get a feeling for her as a person.”
Megan remembers that for one of her projects, she did research on her ancestors and focused on their faith. “Before I started, I thought I realized what a blessing it has been for our family to be members of the Church for several generations,” she says. “But when I started reading my ancestors’ testimonies, that was really something. I saw how strong their faith in Jesus Christ was, right from the time they joined the Church.”
“Rachel has been a great example to me even though I’m her older sister,” Megan says. “She took the time to get her projects finished, and that’s made me work to get mine done too. But even more important is that we have two younger sisters, Allison and Sarah, and when they see how hard we’re working on Personal Progress, they know it’s important too.”
In fact, all of the young women of the Colfax Ward help each other as they work on Personal Progress. They offer encouragement and suggestions when a project is best done alone but join in when participation is a plus. Older girls and those who have finished serve as mentors for those who are younger or who haven’t finished.
“One of the best things we do,” Megan explains, “is that whenever someone receives their Young Womanhood Recognition, at an Evening of Excellence or at New Beginnings we have them show what they’ve done for their projects. But they don’t just talk about the projects. They tell how much the projects have helped them, and they usually bear their testimony. It gives the other girls lots of ideas, but it also shows them that the point of it all is to become closer to Heavenly Father and more like the Savior.”
The Most Important Point
That most important point is also clear for young women in the Lexington Ward, West Columbia South Carolina Stake. They are particularly grateful for the spiritual goals in Personal Progress. Meilian Campbell explains that there are opportunities to study scriptures, read general conference talks, and follow a pattern of prayer to see how their faith in Jesus Christ grows. Sandra Campbell says that because of those experiences, she now thinks about the Savior whenever she is sad, and that makes her feel better. Macy Adams says Personal Progress “has helped me form the habit of prayer,” and Meilian agrees. “Now I can’t go to sleep without saying my prayers. It instilled that habit in me.”
Rasha Stacey, a Laurel, sees how Personal Progress translates easily into opportunities to serve. She often helps other young women work on their Value Experiences. For example, another Laurel, Rachel Odom, set a goal of learning how to cut hair. “She cuts her own but had never done it on anyone else,” Rasha says. “So twice last year, my family invited her over. She cut all of the girls’ hair, including my mom’s. I really loved what she did, and we all had fun. It was a great learning experience—for me and for her.”
Rasha helped Macy put together a cookbook. “No one was giving her recipes,” Rasha says, “so I gave her several from our family and asked the other youth in the ward to bring some to church. Pretty soon everyone was helping her.”
When Rasha found out that Malina Tracy, a Beehive, would be the only one to move up from Primary that year, she came to her aid. “I know what it’s like to feel left out, and I didn’t want her to go through that,” Rasha says. “So I talked about Personal Progress, and I told her what I loved when I was a Beehive, and how much the other young women love her.”
Rasha also helped her sister Karen, a Mia Maid, to memorize her Scripture Mastery verses for seminary and worked with their mother to help Karen put together a memory book.
Meilian, a Laurel, was having a hard time thinking of projects, so Rasha invited her over to cook meals and desserts every Saturday for a month. “I did it for my Knowledge project,” Meilian says. “I learned to make food for my family. And now when I go to college I’ll be able to cook for myself. That helps me be self-reliant, because take-outs get expensive.”
Meilian says that Value Experiences are great because they carry over into everyday life. “At school I’m in a fashion merchandising class, and for one of our big projects we produced a fashion show,” she says. “Because we’d already talked about modesty as part of Personal Progress, I chose to wear modest clothes for the whole thing. The experiences that go with each value help you have a better understanding of how to turn values into actions.”
Macy says Personal Progress is meant “to prepare you for life through personal experiences, and to build self-confidence through preparation and spirituality.” Rasha agrees. “Take scripture study, for example,” she says. “It builds you up for when you have trials, so you know where to find answers.”
In another part of the West Columbia Stake, Sarah Shurtleff, of the Irmo Ward, also recognizes that Personal Progress encourages personal growth as well as service to others. “When we have the Evening of Excellence and the New Beginnings programs, we talk about what we’ve done throughout the year,” she says. “If I find out that other girls need help, I help them. I’m not assigned to or anything, I just help where people need it.”
She likes to brainstorm ideas with girls, leaders, and parents to come up with meaningful projects. Once she helped her mother complete a quilt for her niece and then used what she had learned to make another quilt on her own. “I’m going to save it for my own children someday,” she says. Sarah taught a friend how to play hymns on the piano, and they performed “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” (Hymns, No. 26) at a stake talent show.
But one of the most meaningful parts of Personal Progress for Sarah is that “they have you read scriptures and write in your journal about what they mean to you. Personal Progress is about who you are—a daughter of God. I’ve learned that I can do anything I put my mind to, as long as I work hard and don’t quit.”
Sarah’s mother Catherine, the ward Young Women president, sums it up this way: “Personal Progress builds their testimonies, helps them set goals and work to achieve them, and then to feel that sense of accomplishment as they finish what they set out to do. It’s exciting to see what they are able to do. It builds faith and strengthens testimonies.”
Perhaps it all comes back to what Rachel Ross says. “Personal Progress teaches us things we need, and it builds our testimonies along the way. It’s spiritual improvement, but it’s also emotional, physical, and mental improvement. The point is it’s really well rounded if you let it be.”