Related: Local teen goes the distance
She might not have taken out the top gong, but a local Lions representative says Youth of the Year national finalist Kelly Phan did herself and the Bendigo area proud at the awards ceremony in Echuca on Monday.
Kelly represented Victoria in the competition, which was won by Western Australia teenager Riley Faulds.
The Bendigo Senior Secondary College year 12 student delivered a speech on the need to revolutionise education to match the 21st century to the judges and hundreds of spectators at the ceremony.
“It’s a really excellent, original speech,” local Youth of the Year co-ordinator Ross Wood said.
In addition to delivering the speech, Kelly was also interviewed by the judges and had to answer two impromptu questions on stage.
Kelly said judges had told her the winner was decided by only a few points, and she felt proud to have contested the title in a group of “such amazing young people”.
She was among six finalists in the competition, who Mr Wood said formed a “fairly classy sort of a field”.
It was the first time Kelly had entered Youth of the Year, doing so because she wanted the experience of such a competition.
“It’s been really enlightening and I’ve been really humbled, because so many Lions give up their time and their weekends to support this because they want to see young people do well,” Kelly said.
She said she had been inspired to have been involved with other young people with similar interests and felt she had made some lifelong friends as a result of the experience.
Kelly told the Bendigo Advertiser that she also believed she had met the future leaders of Australia.
She encouraged other young people to have a go at the competition, even those who did not feel they fit the stereotypical image of a young leader.
Kelly said she did not fit that image, but had made it as far as she had by remaining authentic and sticking to her passions.
Youth of the Year aims to encourage interest in leadership and other citizenship qualities in youth.
To reach the national final, Kelly had to win four other stages, from club level to state level.
Kelly and her fellow national finalists will visit a Lions International Youth Camp at Rotorua, New Zealand, and will also embark on a tour to the national winner’s home state.
After completing her VCE later this year, Kelly wants to study law and international relations at either Monash University or the Australian National University, with a view to one day work in diplomacy for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.