“It is not a competition. It is a showcase,” Shin said after placing first. “[Youth of the Year] is here to highlight, and let other people see, the great things we are doing everyday and bring people to the club.”
Shin was sixth runner up at state two years ago while still a sophomore at Walker Valley High School. She said she feels more prepared this year. She started a speech club and said she feels more articulate now.
“It was a lot of fun,” Shin said. “These [contestants] were wonderful and I know they are going to be amazing next year and in years to come.”
Clifton Biddwell and Richard Burke were named first and second runner-up respectively. The two will travel with Shin to the first round of the state competition as alternates. Biddwell will step in for Shin in the event of an illness or emergency.
A list of interviews has been lined up for Shin. She will speak at several companies and radio stations to fine tune her speech and ability to answer interview questions.
Seven contestants in all competed in the Youth of the Year contest Tuesday night at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. The contestants included Teyahna Woods, Nathan Pfisterer, Burke, Matthew Pell, Ryan Goodner, Biddwell and Shin. Judges included George Gray, Ross Tarver, Dina Moran, Johnny Smith, Debbie Melton, Martin Ringstaff, Tom Johnson, Bill Varnell, Duane Parker and Buster Stuart.
Contestants greeted each judge with a firm handshake prior to their presentations. They then each delivered a speech ranging from two to four minutes. These speeches explained the impact the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland have had on their lives. A five- to 10-minute question-and-answer session followed each speech.
Stuart said choosing first was not difficult.
“Meeri did rise above the rest. It was kind of like she rose above, and the rest tied for second place,” Stuart said. “It was not difficult to choose her, although it was hard choosing second and third place.”
Judging challenged Stuart.
“It was very difficult,” Stuart said. “I almost wish it was one of those situations where everyone could get a trophy, because they all did very well.”
Wyatt Bevis, teen center director, said the event went very well.
“Once the kids got here and I saw they were very composed, it made me feel better,” Bevis said.
According to Bevis, Tuesday night’s contest was three to four months in the making. Students began by writing an outline months ago. They wrote two essays and received supporting letters in five categories: community, church, school, life goals and home and family.
Bevis said one addition to the program would be extra practice.
“I would love to see it grow to the point where the kids would get a lot of practice in the community before presenting [at Youth of the Year],” Bevis said.
Burke is excited at placing third in the competition.
“It is an honor. I didn’t deserve this. I didn’t think I was good enough to make it,” Burke said. “It is so exciting — I placed. ... I love telling others what the club has done for me and the difference it has made in my life.”
He is already pumped about next year’s competition.
“They told me what I did wrong. I can give them examples of how the club has helped me and why they helped me,” Burke said. “I will be in second or first place.”
Shin received a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the Elks Club of Cleveland for placing first as Youth of the Year. The award can be used within 24-27 months of her high school graduation. Tupperware sponsored the event.