December 05, 2011

Idaho's Example-Setting Youth

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

America's future relies on the productivity and achievement of America's youth.  Their ingenuity and public involvement power our country's future success.  Too much attention cannot be given to ensuring our youth have the tools needed to excel and challenging them to be their best.  Young people throughout our communities are helping others, engaging in community and national efforts, learning from their achievements and motivating their peers. 

Thirty-two years ago, Congress created the Congressional Award to recognize and promote achievement, initiative and service in America's youth.  Through the program, youth 14 to 23 years of age, earn Bronze, Silver and Gold Congressional Award Medals for achieving personally-established goals.  Congressional awards focus on four areas:  voluntary public service; personal development; physical fitness; and expedition/exploration activities. 

Since the award's inception, communities nationwide have benefited from the more than 3.5 million hours of public service attributed to the program.  Idaho has one of the highest participation rates in this program.  Idaho has remained one of the top five most active states.  Idaho's youth have earned 662 Bronze, 348 Silver and 208 Gold Medals, and nearly 200,000 hours of service have been provided to communities throughout the state. 

This year alone, fourteen Idahoans traveled to Washington, DC to accept Gold Medals for their achievements.  I was honored to join my Idaho congressional delegation colleagues, Senator Jim Risch and Representatives Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador, in presenting their awards.  For example, last year, Steven Boomhower of Twin Falls earned a Congressional Award Gold Medal.  He completed more than 400 hours of public service at the Twin Falls Public Library, where he fixed audio and video materials and inventoried artwork.  For personal development and physical fitness, he learned how to play the violin and improved his tennis serve as part of the Twin Falls High School varsity tennis team.  He also explored San Francisco as part of the program's exploration focus.

Additionally, each year, Idaho youth are presented Bronze and Silver Medals in a statewide ceremony hosted in the Idaho Capitol.  For example, Steven Price of Dalton Gardens earned a Congressional Award Silver Medal this year after spending more than 200 hours volunteering at Kootenai Medical Center in the runner's office, where he supported staff and patients.  Steven served as an active Eagle Scout member, through which he taught scout members various skills, placed at the regional and state levels as part of his high school varsity wrestling team and planned and executed a 50-mile backpack trip in the Yellowstone National Park area.

In earning a Congressional Award Bronze Medal, Hannah Cross of Meridian spent more than 160 hours as a junior volunteer at St. Luke's Hospital, where she discovered a personal interest in pursuing a career in the medical field.  Hannah also increased her literacy skills, participated in basketball and volleyball teams and planned a family camping trip to a remote, forest location.  A full list of Idaho's fifty-three 2011 Congressional Award recipients can be accessed through my website at:   http://crapo.senate.gov/services/congress_awards.cfm

While established by Congress, the Congressional Award Program is coordinated and administered by the Congressional Award Program's national office.  Those who would like additional information or wish to participate can get details directly through the Congressional Award Program's website at:  http://www.congressionalaward.org

I congratulate Idaho's Congressional Award recipients for setting strong goals, working hard to achieve them and encouraging other youths through their examples.  Their involvement in our communities is not only expanding their experience and understanding, but also strengthening our youth, communities, state and nation.    

# # #

Word Count:  580