June 27, 2012 - Matt Wright was honored as he was recognized for being Youth of the Year on May 17 at the 27th Annual Clarkston Community Awards.
Matt Wright, center, celebrates with his family, from left, Renee Weaver-Wright, Alison Wright, Matt, Evey Wright, and Larry Wright. Photo provided (click for larger version)
"It was more of an honor to be up there and share it with people like Charles Griffin and those different people," he said. "It didn't feel like I belonged."
Wright has known Griffin, recepient of Citizen of the Year, for a few years and said he has done a lot of great things.
"I think that is what sets the bar for me to live up to the expectation," he added.
Wright was chosen for his involvement in school and in the community. During his senior year at Clarkston High School he was involved with peer listening, A World of Difference, coaching youth sports and various activities at Clarkston United Methodist Church.
"Peer listening was my favorite one," he said.
Wright and 12 other students trained once a week with Katie French, a support counselor at the high school. They learned how to deal with different scenarios students are going through. Then would meet with fellow students once or twice a week who needed someone to talk.
He started peer listening in tenth grade.
"I knew I wanted to do something with counseling because that's where I feel like I can help people on a personal level," Wright said. "I heard about peer listening. I thought it would be a good experience for me to get in a room and develop those skills and see if it is something I would be good at doing. It encouraged me even more."
He was also on the varsity track team for four years, and he coached soccer for kids 6- to 8-years-old and coached basketball to third and fourth graders.
It was while coaching he realized he had a valuable role and the kids looked up to him. When he said he was going to be late for his Pony basketball game, their eyes lit up.
"I realized this is a powerful position I have and I need to make the most of it," he said. "I need to make it a positive experience for them."
When he saw one of the boys at Dairy Dream, he knew he made a difference when the boy excitedly told him how he just struck out three hitters during his baseball game.
He is also staying busy during the summer. He went down to the Covenant House in Detroit a few weeks ago where they did a lot of landscaping and rebuilding.
Last week he went with the middle school group on their mission trip as a junior counselor. He will volunteer with SCAMP during the summer before he heads to Joplin, Missouri to help with recovery.
Wright is also using his extra time to help Disaster Relief at Work.
Last August, he went on a trip through his church to Pleasant Grove, Alabama after they were struck by a tornado in the spring.
He was amazed with what he saw.
"It was basically standing at Clarkston Junior High School and being able to see the high school," he explained about the devastation.
"It was just wiped out. It was crazy," Wright remembered. "Even to see months later they were still struggling. They still needed people down there. Everytime you see something on the news it is real people going through that. We are helping people get back to their everyday routine. They wouldn't be able to do that without us. It is one of the most gratifying things I have done."
Wright is going to Hope College in the fall to study psychology.
"Then maybe hopefully go into counseling," he said, adding he is keeping his options open as he contemplates becoming a high school counselor, school psychologist or psychologist.
He received two nominations, from his Principal Gary Kaul and a parent of one of his basketball players.
"Larry and I have been blessed to grow up in Clarkston and raise our children here," said mom, Renee Weaver-Wright. "We have tried to show our kids through our actions and words how important it is to do for others as a way of life. Thankfully, they have all learned that and found different ways to give back to the community to continue to make Clarkston a great place to live.
"Matt has a passion for giving back," she added. "Hopefully he will inspire others to do the same."
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.