When Neriah Owens won the George M. Soper Student Athlete of the Year Award this year she became the youngest student in our program to ever do so. Read her story below about how she prepared to give a speech in front of 400 people and what this award means to her!
I was speechless and really surprised when I first got this award, but I was also proud. I didn’t think it was real because I was in the 5th grade not the older grades like all the previous winners. After that day, people started thinking highly of me and I was a little overwhelmed. It finally became real when I was called up to the front office to put my name plaque up on the board where all the other former student athlete’s names are. Shortly after that, it was time to start working on my speech (a lot of people kept asking me about it) for the gala. When doing my speech, I got help from others and I am grateful for all that help and support. I even asked the former student athletes questions to help ease my nerves. Every day leading up to the gala I had to say my speech out loud to people to practice.
On the day of the gala, I was quite nervous and a little stressed. I was really confused what to do and where to go. Sadly, when I had to go up and talk I had to stop eating my food so I never finished eating. As I was waiting to do my speech I was so scared, my knees were shaking a little, but once I started talking I felt a lot more calm. Then, I was done and I got a huge standing ovation and I felt so proud. After, we played a short little game where I helped on stage. I was so tired at the end but I had an amazing night.
Being Student Athlete of the Year has filled me with a lot of determination. From the start, I felt as if I had a great amount of responsibility held over my head, but I was fine with it because I knew that’s what it takes to receive this award along with other scholarships. To me, this scholarship is a great achievement. Out of all other students, I proved myself to be good enough, even though no one as young as me has ever won before. I want the next person that receives this scholarship to be able to learn and grown on the tennis court, in the classroom, and all around the world—no matter what gets in their way.
With my scholarship, I’d like to attend North Carolina State University and get my bachelor’s degree, although I am not sure what I want to study yet. NC State is a great school that has multiple programs for me to get involved in and sports teams to cheer for. It’s where my father went to school and I hope to make my parents proud!