Shining in the spotlight
ebecca Yeh didn’t really expect to join a sorority at Ohio Northern University in the fall of 2012. But one small, simple message sparked her interest in the Gamma Tau Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. “It was actually the autism facts that were chalked on the sidewalk by Alpha Xi that initially caught my eye,” says Rebecca. “After learning more about the chapter and feeling welcomed by the Sisters, I decided that it would be a great opportunity for me to use my own experience with autism to contribute to our chapter.” Rebecca’s older brother Phil has a moderately severe form of autism called pervasive developmental disorder. “He has a difficult time understanding body language, humor and communicating his thoughts with others,” says Rebecca. Phil now has his driver’s license, a job and relationships with his peers and adults. “As his sister, I realize that his successes wouldn’t be the magnitude they are without his family, educators and a diagnosis when he was four years old,” says Rebecca. “I saw this realization as an opportunity to educate our students, teachers and families on autism and to increase funding for autism research and education.” After Rebecca was initiated into the Gamma Tau Chapter, she served as Philanthropy Chair and organized events like Puzzlepalooza and the Blue Dinner that raised money for Autism Speaks. She also gave presentations on autism to her chapter and created information brochures for her community. But Rebecca got to promote autism awareness on a much bigger stage when she won the title of Miss Minnesota in 2013. “By the time I graduated high school, I was an accomplished violinist, straight-A student, AllState cross country runner and had been accepted into Ohio Northern University’s selective Doctorate of Pharmacy program,” says Rebecca. “I realized that competing in the Miss America Organization would help me integrate these different areas of my life and magnify the influence I could have on other people.” Besides her assigned duties as the official spokesperson for Children’s Miracle Network, Rebecca serves as the Autism Speaks honorary community ambassador in Minnesota and as the spokesperson for Walk Now for Autism Speaks at the Mall of America. “There are
/ SPRING 2014
so many pieces to the autism puzzle that are still missing: the cure, the cause and to some extent, the best treatment,” says Rebecca. “If I can help put just one piece of the puzzle together, why not?” As Rebecca prepared for the Miss America pageant, she spent time polishing her public speaking skills, working out in the gym perfecting her swimsuit physique and increasing her awareness of current events. “My Sisters were there to support me, whether lending an ear or joining me in the gym,” says Rebecca. Rebecca received accolades at the Miss America pageant for her violin performance. She started playing violin when she was four years old. By the time she was in sixth grade, Rebecca was taking lessons three hours away from her hometown of Nisswa at the University of Minnesota.