MILL CREEK — Leah Shin, 18, recently was given a Prudential Spirit of Community Award for her work at the school establishing Literacy for Love, which collects books for children in need.
Question: What sparked your interest in volunteer work?
Answer: I used to be really quiet, but my 7th grade English teacher told me to apply for the Mill Creek Youth Advisory Board. I meet with other teens and people who are interested in volunteering. I’ve been on the board for six years and worked on a Kids’ Fun Run, the Mill Creek Festival, teen egg hunts, we bought toys for Swedish Hospital for children, and I testified before the Parks and Recreation Board on where to build a new park.
Q: How did this turn into your drive to lead projects?
A: I think the realization was when I became an officer. I got to see when senior high school cool kids led us. Being able to switch seats and lead a meeting, and talk about ideas, and see things actually get done.
That’s when I realized I wanted to get more involved in the community.
Q: How did the Spirit of Community award come about?
A: I ran for Associated Student Body all four years of high school, but in my freshman and sophomore years I wasn’t elected. I needed to do something to take my mind off it. My sophomore year I came up with this idea for Literacy for Love (literacyforlove.weebly.com). I had an older friend, kind of like my mentor . She was a junior. When I became a junior I established Literacy for Love as an official club. And then I was elected to ASB as secretary.
Q: Where did the idea come from?
A: When I was an ESL student I was put in English Language Learner classes. It was a requirement for all students who spoke a second language at home. For me that was Korean. I could speak English pretty fluently, but in the class I could see a need to be addressed. We had 80 students join Literacy for Love in the very first meeting.
Q: Did that take a lot of organization to get off the ground?
A: I used my marketing skills and conducted outreach to seven different schools and collected $50,000 worth of books, about 6,000 books, and we got them into kids’ hands who needed them most. We only expected to gather 3,000 books. I actually was very worried that we were not going to get enough. I made a website that had a lot of information about what we were looking for. I made flyers, posters, and we decorated boxes with bright paper so that it’s fun for kids to donate. We had a pizza competition for the classroom that collected the most books.
Q: Do you have much time for other activities?
A: I like being busy. Right now I’m senior class president, which is fun because I get to plan prom. Also I’m on the Technology Students Association. I did the Project Green Challenge, collecting cans and composting. I did Model UN. I’m also varsity captain of the golf team. I try practicing six hours every day.
Q: How do you have time for school work then?
A: I do homework there at the Columbia Super Range.
Q: What do you like about golf?
A: I realized that golf is really a fun sport and underrated. It’s kind of soothing because you concentrate. My dad plays golf so it’s kind of been with me since I was younger. I also volunteer with Special Olympics of golf, so that was kind of neat, helping other kids with their swing and putt.
Q: Do all your activities overwhelm you a bit?
A: I just made myself be positive, be practical about it. It’s my goal in senior year, to try everything. You have to fail to succeed.
Q: What are your college plans?
A: I want to go to the UW’s Foster School of Business to pursue a degree in marketing or consulting, maybe with a minor like nonprofit management. I go there once a month for Young Executives of Color. We get to learn business skills and meet CEOs and managers of companies like Amazon and Ernst &Young.
Q: What draws you to business?
A: I’m not really into the sciences. I’m more into being creative, technology, STEM subjects and business. It’s like finding creative solutions for real-world problems, that’s how I see it.