Meeri Shin is SE Region Youth of Year
by DELANEY WALKER, Banner Staff Writer
Jun 21, 2013 | 1178 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Southeast Regional Youth of the Year
Meeri Shin
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Meeri Shin, representing the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, won the Southeast Region Youth of the Year competition Wednesday night to become one of six headed to Washington, D.C., in September.

The recent Walker Valley High School graduate said she was not expecting the win.

According to Shin, the competition was fierce.

One competitor was headed to Harvard with a 4.7 GPA and a full-ride football scholarship.

Another girl was training to go to the Olympics.

Everyone deserved to be there, according to Shin

“I knew that whoever won, I would be completely fine even if it wasn’t me,” Shin said. “... They are really great and I knew no matter the outcome for this competition, it wasn’t going to define who I am.”

Shin’s win in Atlanta ensured her a place in Washington among the nation’s top six Youth of the Year competitors. She also received $10,000 in scholarship money.

The first two days of the competition allowed the participants to more or less be themselves. A service project was completed on the first day and etiquette training was provided before the judges’ question-and-answer session.

The third day was the time for worries. Except, Shin said she was not overly nervous.

“There is always going to be nerves, but I felt prepared and very well organized in my thoughts,” Shin said. “I felt very confident.” 

Charles Sutton, BGCC director, explained local leaders helped prepare Shin for the competition. She was invited to speak at meetings like Rotary, United Way and the Cleveland City Council among other venues.

“The last visit was with Debbie Melton, Steve Hixson and Mike Linden,” Sutton said. “They just asked her a number of questions, so she would get very, very comfortable with responding.”

Shin said the practice paid off when she was questioned by the judges in Atlanta.

However, she was unprepared for her name being called as overall regional winner.

“It was weird. They announced I was in the top three and I gave my speech,” Shin said. “One of the judges looked at me, pointed and said, ‘I think you got it.’ I was trying to digest it when they said my name.”

Shin said she was so shocked she accepted the award without saying a word.

“They wanted me to say thank you, but I was so in shock I just kind of walked away,” Shin said laughing.

She returned to say her thanks to the judges and the BGC.

Shin’s next leg in the Youth of the Year competition will find her in Washington meeting President Barack Obama, senators, representatives and Hollywood superstars.

She admitted she is particularly keen to meet BGCA representative and multiple Olympic swimming gold medal winner Michael Phelps.

Sutton said the competition does more than build confidence, it allows Shin to make connections.

“The list goes on in the creation of these huge opportunities,” Sutton explained. “Choice increases in an incremental way [with each stage of competition]. It is unbelieveable.”

He said this opportunity is open to any of the clubs’ members.

“The opportunity for the children in Bradley County to have the same kind of experience is here at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland,” Sutton said. “They can come and join any of our locations. They can become a part of the program and have an opportunity to be the Youth of the Year and get a chance to have their education paid for.”

Shin’s reflections brought her back to where it all began.

“[The Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland] is just a great place to go to volunteer and help out. The staff there are the most humble, down-to-earth people you will ever meet,” Shin said. “It’s just good. Life is good right now.”