Q & A: Merritt Redden
May 17, 2020
Tell me a little bit about your background:
I was born in Charleston and have never moved, so I’ve been here my whole life. I grew up loving reading and writing, so I was thrilled when I found yearbook and got to use some of those skills. I’ve been at Wando for all four years of high school, and I have absolutely loved all of the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve been able to have.
What is your favorite memory from your childhood?
It’s kind of hard to narrow it down to one, but if I had to choose it would be when my parents took me and my brother to Turks and Caicos when I was 10. It was so incredible because it was one of the first times I had been out of the country, and I remember so much time sitting by the pool or the ocean and just spending time together as a family. Most of my favorite memories go back to times when I was laughing with people I love.
If you could time travel to any place/time period where would you go and why?
It sounds silly, but I would probably go back to the 1970s or 1980s. Music has been such a huge part of my life, and I love the music from that time period. Most of my favorite bands and musicians were booming during those years, so it would be really cool to be a teenager while they were still making new music and touring.
How was high school for you overall and why? Who/What made it special?
I loved high school! I really think it was the people who made it special. I took journalism my freshman year with Caston and then joined yearbook my sophomore year. I was the editor in chief this past year, and it was definitely my greatest accomplishment in high school. Being part of an incredible staff full of people who were accepting and fun to be around was so special, and it was the highlight of my high school experience. People complain about Wando’s size, but the size is what allows the school to offer so many different opportunities that have helped me grow and prepare for the next stages of life.
What do you think had the largest impact on you in school? What gave you a drive?
The teachers are what really pushed me to strive for success. Teachers like Watkins and Caston and Brisini encourage you to be your best, and they give you the tools to do it too. They are the best kind of teachers because they truly made me feel like I could achieve anything I set my mind to, and I owe them so much for that.
If you could do one thing differently at the start of your high school years what would you do and why?
I would do more research about what Wando has to offer. I didn’t know much about the Program of Studies coming in and what kind of classes were required, so there are some logistical things that I would do differently like loading up on language classes at the beginning of high school. I would have put more strategy into choosing my classes so I could have more freedom later on to take electives that I’m interested in.
What is one thing that helped you tremendously? Share some tips!
Finding a community was huge for me. Wando is such a big school, so it’s really easy to get lost in the crowd if you don’t find a group of people that know and love you. Finding a community also helped me find something to be passionate about, which gave me a purpose besides studying and classes. It made high school a lot more fun that it would have been otherwise. Find something you enjoy doing and join that club to find other people that you have that interest in common with! If there isn’t a club for your interest, start one!
What do you think you will be remembered for?
I think I’ll be remembered within the yearbook room as the mom who tried to take care of everyone, even if she looked kinda silly doing it. Outside of that though, I hope I’ll be remembered as someone who tried to be kind to everyone.
Have you changed through the years? If so, why?
I was definitely super nervous when I came into high school because I didn’t know many people at Wando. I was pretty shy and kind of wanted to keep to myself. As I’ve gotten older and gained leadership positions in different clubs and organizations though, I have definitely figured out who I want to be along the way. A lot of faith in myself has come with that.
What were some of your highlights through the years?
Some of the top highlights are junior prom, all of the yearbook conferences I have been to, winning yearbook awards, and just when I’ll be sitting with friends and will realize how lucky I am, even if that sounds kind of cheesy.
Leaving high school is overwhelming for some… are you nervous, excited, sad? What are you going to miss? What are you glad to leave behind?
I’m sad to leave behind friends, family, and the great teachers I’ve had, but I’m so excited to see what the future holds in college and beyond. I’ll miss everything I’ve gotten to be a part of because it has all been so special. There isn’t really anything I’m glad to leave behind, but it will be kind of cool to get a fresh start in a new place.
What is your plan moving on? What are you going to do? Where are you going to college?
I’m going to the Clemson Honors College in the fall to study sports marketing. I have to start out as a general business major, but I hope to zero in on sports marketing because I have always been passionate about sports, and I would love to turn that into a career. I hope to get involved with things like FCA and eventually internships and stuff like that, so I’m excited to see where it takes me!
What was it like winning the Constitutional Essay for the very first time? Walk me through the moment, how were you feeling?
I was a sophomore, and I had entered the contest on a whim. I wrote my essay the night before it was due because I had some free time, and I wasn’t really expecting anything to come of it. I was on the way to a lake up by Clemson for spring break when I got the email that I won, and I was so thrilled! I was right next to my mom so I told her and she was really excited too, so it was a really cool moment.
You ended up winning the essay competition three years in a row! How did you do it? Did it take a lot of dedication and time or does it just come naturally to you? How did you do it?
I definitely wasn’t expecting to win the second or third year, so that was really cool. I was a lot more intentional about the contest after submitting an essay spontaneously the first year. I put more time into those essays and I got English teachers to proofread them for me. I have always loved writing, so it was really cool to hear back from the judges that they enjoyed reading what I had to say.