A St. John's teenager was named Canada's top sea cadet during a change of command ceremony in the city on Saturday.

Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Dinn, 17, was chosen from about 12,000 other cadets across the country.

The annual award recognizes a cadet that displays the highest level of leadership, positive attitude, enthusiasm and dedication to the sea cadet corps.

Caught off guard

Dinn, initially at a loss for words, said her selection came as a complete surprise.

"This is my sixth year in it, and I try to be as dedicated and involved as I can," she said. "I've been a part of every team that I could be a part of. I've done everything I can to be involved in cadets and to give back to the program that has given so much to me."

The nation's top cadet is selected by a national panel which reviews applications from across Canada.

Donald Peckham, who sits on the national board for the Navy League of Canada, said the winner is chosen based on all around achievement from the first day they become a cadet.

"What they do in the corps, in the community, in school .... everything that young person does toward becoming a leader," said Peckham"And Melissa definitely deserves it. She's the epitome of what cadets are all about. She puts everything into it and has achieved every award available in this corps and nationally. She's a credit to her community, her family, and to the corps."

To lead training

Dinn recently completed specialty training in marine engineering in British Columbia. And this summer she will be the chief cadet at HMCS Acadia in Cornwallis, N.S. That will put her in charge of almost 10,000 other cadets and their training.

"All senior cadets would go to her for advice or anything else they might need," said Lt. Georgina Bishop, adding that Dinn also had perfect attendance for all six years she's been a cadet.

"And that's not easy. She is the role model for all sea cadets, not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but in Canada."

Dinn was asked if she had any advice for other teenagers seeking to make a difference.

"Join cadets. Do it today," she said.