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Weekly Column: The Congressional Award--Challenging Youth

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Young people throughout our communities working to earn the Congressional Award are challenging themselves, learning from their achievements and inspiring their peers to contribute to community and national efforts.  I had the opportunity recently to congratulate four young Idahoans, who are 2020 Congressional Award Gold Medal recipients, for the time they are spending bettering themselves and our communities. 

In order to earn Congressional Award Gold Medals, youth dedicate more than 800 hours to voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and exploration activities.  Four Idaho students earned 2020 Congressional Award Gold Medals:

  • Benjamin Levi, formerly of Nampa;
  • Katelyn Oliverson, of Franklin;
  • Michael Strong, of Meridian; and
  • Beth Wegener, of Cascade.

This year’s Gold Medal recipients identified helping the community, meeting others also striving for a better community, traveling around the state and country, the opportunity to grow personal leadership skills and the contacts, mentors and friends made among the highlights in the process of achieving this recognition. 

Additionally, Idaho youth can also earn recognition for their achievements through Silver and Bronze Congressional Awards, and these levels of recognition are approved on a rolling basis. 

Congress established the Congressional Award 41 years ago to recognize the achievements of American youth.  According the program’s 2017-2018 report to Congress, more than 8.5 million hours of public service have been contributed to communities nationwide due to the program.  Youth 14 to 23 years of age earn Congressional Award recognition for achieving personally challenging goals.  Program administrators describe the process as “non-partisan, voluntary, and non-competitive.”  Achieving the honor is intended to be an engaging way for young people to get more involved in activities they enjoy or would like to try.  As explained on the program’s website, “You move at your own pace – on your own or with your friends. This is not an award for past accomplishments. Instead, you are honored for achieving your own challenging goals after registering for the program.” 

Idaho has had 833 total medalists since the program’s inception in 1979.  In past years, I have had the opportunity to join my Idaho Congressional Delegation colleagues in presenting Congressional Awards to young Idahoans.  This year, more than 450 young Americans from across the country are being honored virtually, and they have collectively dedicated more than 395,000 hours to public service, personal development, physical fitness and exploration activities in communities across our nation.  I was honored to have the opportunity to recognize Idaho’s Congressional Award Gold Medal recipients though a congratulations video.

I commend all of Idaho’s youth who help others and engage in community and national efforts.  You set lasting examples as you learn from your experiences and achieve your goals.  Your involvement in our communities not only expands your experience and understanding, but also strengthens other youth and our communities, state and nation.   

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