Visalia student takes home grand-prize scholarship

Megan Shin receives a $10,000 scholarship from California Water Service Group for academic achievement and community service

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Visalia student Megan Shin is one of four grand-prize winners of California Water Service Group’s college scholarship program that received $10,000.

California Water Service Group (CalWater) awarded $80,000 in scholarships to students living within its California, Washington, Hawaii and New Mexico service areas this year. Megan Shin, a graduate of Redwood High School in Visalia, is one of only four students who received the grand prize scholarship of $10,000. Shin’s middle school English teacher, Jessica Malmsten, told Shin about the scholarship and encouraged her to apply. 

“Megan is one of those rare gems that stands out even among a powerhouse group of kids,” Malmsten said. “She has an incredible work ethic. She’s already at the top of the class, but she still wanted to improve and felt like she could do better.”

Shin was one of more than 300 applicants from across four states. Winners are selected based on academic achievement, community service and financial need. Applications opened in January and closed in March. Students wrote two essays, one detailing their goals for the future and the other demonstrating special circumstances in their lives.

Shin was valedictorian of her class at Redwood High School. She received the Visalia Unified Civic Engagement Seal in 2022 for her involvement in improving the community while in high school. Her hobbies include studying philosophy, painting and playing tennis. She doesn’t have a favorite philosopher, because she doesn’t agree completely with any philosopher, but likes one or two theories from each one she studies.

Activism is important to Shin. In high school, she set up a website to help connect local students to scholarships and internships that included information on how to land an internship. She also pushed for more resources for students in the area. 

“I wanted to introduce more diverse literature that includes more works by minorities sharing their culture and experiences,” Shin said. 

Beginning in the fall, Shin will attend the University of California, Los Angeles to study physiological science. She hopes to become a surgeon one day, but is open to other paths in the medical field. Both of Shin’s parents work in healthcare, so for her it has always been intriguing.

“Whenever I got sick I could just go to my parents,” Shin said. “I think being able to take care of my own family when I get older gives me a sense of security. I also just want to help people.”

Malmsten was the California Junior Scholastic Federation advisor when Shin was in middle school. In eighth grade, the program, including Shin, took a tour of UCLA. “I actually didn’t like UCLA after that tour because it was so hot,” Shin said. “I wanted to go to Berkeley.” Shin eventually changed her mind during her junior year of high school after researching UCLA and realizing it was a better fit for her goals to attend medical school.

“The scholarship money can be used to cover any school expenses they have,” CalWater communications director Yvonne Kingman said. “We want to support the families who are in our service area.”

Shin is passionate about how race and culture influence healthcare. She plans to use part of the scholarship to study abroad in East Asia and connect with her Chinese and Korean roots. “I also want to see how medical facilities work in those countries compared to here and how they treat various illnesses,” Shin said.

According to Malmsten, Shin’s passion comes out in her technical writing. “Her technical writing has a degree of creativity. There’s a literary element to it,” Malmsten said. “She’s able to connect to science in a human way.”

For Shin, that human connection in science comes from looking at the world through multiple perspectives. “I wrote my college essay about sunglasses,” Shin said. “I collected weird sunglasses as a kid and I tied that hobby to how I try to look through different lenses, or perspectives and see other people’s points of view.” She hopes to advocate for patients who may be overlooked in healthcare, such as those with disabilities or who do not speak English as their first language.

“She’s one of those students you have to keep your eye on,” Malmsten said. “She’s going to do great things and everybody will always remember her.”

CalWater awarded 12 scholarships this year, four of which received $10,000, and the additional eight students received $5,000. The program has awarded $600,000 over the course of the nine years of the program. CalWater employs an organization called Scholarship America to choose the winners of the scholarships. According to Kingman, they outsource to a third party that is experienced in evaluating scholarship applications in order to keep the selection process objective and straightforward. 

“We don’t get involved in the decision process,” Kingman said, “because of course we think everyone is deserving of the scholarship.”

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