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May 01, 2024

Distinguished Young Woman Speaks

Elise Tao, an Academy of the Holy Angels senior and 2024 Distinguished Young Woman of New Jersey, sets and achieves goals others may think are out of reach. During National Be Your Best Self Week (April 22-26), Tao shared her top tips for success with AHA’s seventh graders.


“I am honored to be representing New Jersey on behalf of the Distinguished Young Women program, and the ability for me to share the ways young girls can be their best selves is a gift I will never take for granted,” Tao shared after the event.

Elise Tao, Distinguished Young Woman of NJ, speaking at AHA.


Tao readily connected with her audience through her visually compelling slide presentation, which was adorned with photos, artistic graphics, and fun facts. She expressed her love for the written word, Taylor Swift’s music, nacho bowls, and mathematics.


She shared the BYBS pillars, which include taking care of one’s physical and mental health, serving the community, being a lifelong learner, living by moral and ethical principles, and setting and achieving goals. Launched by the Distinguished Young Women program in 1987, BYBS is a national outreach that aims to inspire young people to lead successful and productive lives.


This year, Tao realized her personal dream when she earned acceptance to Harvard.


In 2023, she participated in JCamp, a prestigious journalism program for students from across the country, and became one of just 100 young people to be named a Disney Dreamer. As a Dreamer, she attended a star-studded leadership workshop.


Tao urged the seventh graders to find solutions to issues in their own communities.


This Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, resident is involved with Students Demand Action, an anti-gun violence organization; Synthesis Publications, the literary magazine she founded before she entered AHA; Mathletes; DECA; Poetry Out Loud; and much more.


During her presentation at AHA, Tao outlined her own tips, which include: Learn for yourself (not others), take risks and have fun, start studying early, and go above and beyond. She also spoke about the importance of being responsible and trustworthy, and being prepared to take a stand.


At the state-level DYW event, Tao pledged to use her status as NJ’s Distinguished Young Woman to speak up for those who are unable to do so.


In June, she will travel to Mobile, Alabama, to participate in the national DYW competition.

Elise talks with a group of seventh graders during National Be Your Best Self Week.

She also advanced to the national level of the 2024 Scholastic Art & Writing Competition, thanks to the five Gold Keys she earned for in the regional event. Tao was recognized for her poetry, critical essay, and journalistic entries, and is now eligible for a national medal. Tao’s regional honors include six Silver Keys in poetry, and 10 Honorable Mentions in art and writing. Her Honorable Mentions in writing portfolio are especially noteworthy, since this highly competitive category invites judges to evaluate an entire body of work.


Founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame in 1879, the Academy of the Holy Angels is the oldest private girls’ school in Bergen County. While AHA is steeped in Catholic tradition, this prestigious school serves young women from many backgrounds. Visit to learn more.