The Congressional Award

Congress' Only Award for Youth

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Consider Me a Role Model: 2012 Gold Medalist Darryl Edward Gray

I have always been interested in bettering my community and being engaged with service, that is why prior to participating in the Congressional Award I completed 500 hours of service, by volunteering in my community and working with several local and national political campaigns since I was 10 years old. When I enrolled in the Congressional Award program I started working towards the required 400 hours to get the Congressional Award Gold Medal.

I volunteered for the local community by visiting the homeless shelter, senior home, working at the American Red Cross, and in my church. I am a person with a disability and I want people to know that with hard work anyone can be successful. I have become more confident and interested in learning new things and helping people. During the summers I volunteered to work at the American Red Cross for people with disabilities. I volunteered at the American Red Cross of Northern Virginia and was selected to participate in the Virginia State Steering Committee, Self-Advocacy Mobilization, and Partnership for People with Disabilities, in Richmond, Virginia. In addition, I was selected to give a speech about my life, at The American Red Cross of Virginia State Convention, in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2009.

I graduated from Potomac High School in 2007 and worked at the Pentagon for one year after high school. I was accepted into the George Mason University in the Mason Life program for students with Intellectual Disabilities. I have served my community by letting people know and see that anything is possible for people with disabilities. I will graduate in May 2012. I also work part time at the Library of Congress, and hope to get a full time job there. My family is very proud of me and my accomplishments. My family and community consider me a role model. They know that anybody can be successful in life if they work hard with the right support. I have come a long way from being the boy who some people said would not do well in life because of my disability. I am very proud to be getting the Congressional Gold Medal this year. I hope to inspire other people with disabilities to participate in the program.

~Darryl Edward Gray
2012 Gold Medalist

Filed under VA11 Rep. Connolly theaward The Congressional Award gold medal volunteerism service American Red Cross Virginia George Mason University GMU ARC

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Setting Goals: Words of Encouragement from the National Office

From time to time, we at the National Office will ‘blog’ about various portions of the program that can be a bit challenging. Whether you’re a current participant, a long-time Advisor, or someone new to the program, we hope you’ll find the following information helpful!

Perhaps the most unique part of the Congressional Award program is the fact that you set your own goals for each of the four program areas. Yes, you have your adult mentors and the Program Book to help guide you along the way, but outside of the program guidelines, it is entirely up to you to take the initiative in deciding how to earn your Award.

This is no mistake; Congress has designed the program so that you can get as much out of it as possible. By setting your own goals, you learn more about your interests, your limits (and how to surpass them!) and most importantly, you set a precedent for the rest of your life. As you continue on to your profession or higher education, you will have the skill and know-how to achieve the results you want— all because you know how to set goals. Goals are the secret to a successful future.

So here’s how to get started. After registering, you set your goals and have them approved by your Advisor and Validators. Your goals should demonstrate initiative and forethought. Think ahead— what would you like to accomplish?

It can help to ask the following questions while setting goals:

Is my goal…

…achievable? Try to plan ahead and set goals that are doable in the several months or years that you’ll be working toward your Award. “I will learn more about space by becoming and astronaut” may be a good life goal, but it’s probably not a realistic goal during your time in the Congressional Award program.

…challenging? While you should be sure to set achievable goals, be extra sure that your goals challenge you. Go ahead and push yourself—this is your chance to test your limits and explore your interests!

…worthwhile? Be sure that your goal offers a benefit of some kind to someone. If you and/or the people you’re serving aren’t getting anything out of your activity, it might be time to rethink your goal.

…measureable? Not everything can be measured in numbers, but your goal should provide some way for you to track your progress and improvement.

…fulfilling? Take some time to think about all that you will accomplish. Medalists who have gone before you will tell you, it’s a good feeling to look back and say “I did that!”

If your answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, it’s time to re-think your goal. If the answer to is ‘yes’, then it’s time to get to work! You should write your goal in the Record Book and start working on your activities.

As you work toward your goals, sometimes it becomes apparent that a goal needs to be re-worked. The great part about setting your own goals is that you get to learn about yourself and what interests you, as an individual. If you need to drop, add or revise a goal, simply talk with your Advisor and Validator at any time, and begin working toward a revised goal. Simple as that! Don’t worry, the time you spent on your previous goal, prior to revision, can still be counted toward the total hours for that program area (assuming, of course, that the activity itself is still unchanged). On a related note, goals and activities can change for each level of the Award. Again, it’s entirely up to you!

One of the more common questions we receive is, “Can I set more than one goal in a program area?” And the answer is yes. For each level of the Award, you can set several goals in each program area. For Voluntary Public Service, you can set up to four different goals, for Personal Development and Physical Fitness you can set two each, and for Expedition/Exploration you can set one new goal per level. Just be sure that a new Record Book page is used for each goal (please make copies as needed!).

When setting goals, there may be some cases where several, similar activities fit the same goal. These activities can be recorded on the same record book sheet. This is called an “Umbrella Goal”. Here’s an example:

“I will provide a minimum of 200 hours of service activities under the direction of the Pleasantville Office for Volunteer Service.”

Umbrella Goals are useful when your activities have a clear, underlying connection or similarity that helps achieve your goal. Please note, however, that broad collections of unrelated Voluntary Public Service activities would not be acceptable. The following, for example, would not be an acceptable Umbrella Goal:

“I will help people by working at the nursing home on weekends, tutoring younger students after school on Tuesdays, picking up trash on my daily morning walk along the trail and also starting my own non-profit to provide clothing to those in need.”

While Umbrella Goals should be broad enough to include multiple activities, they should not be so overly-broad that they no longer hold a real value— remember: achievable, worthwhile, measureable, challenging and fulfilling. A good goal should be all of these.

For more information on goal-setting, please see page five of the Program Book, available here.

In 2011, approximately 1,500 young people earned a Congressional Award. Just think— each of those young people had the creativity to set their own goals and the drive to achieve them. If you or someone you know has the ability to do the same (and we know you do!!), click here!

~Don Stein
North Program Manager
The Congressional Award Foundation

Filed under Goals Goal-setting goal setting theaward The Congressional Award Award Medal

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Time, Perseverance and Patience: 2012 Gold Medal Candidate Mary Cate Muschett

Mrs. Mary Rodgers and Mary Cate Muschett. In addition to serving as an Advisor, Mrs. Rodgers also serves on the National Board of Directors for the Congressional Award Foundation. Mary Cate has recently finished her activities toward the Gold Medal, joining the ranks of the nearly 400 students who have pursued a Congressional Award under Mrs. Rodgers’ Advisorship.

After my final day of junior high school, I was taken to the senior high school to meet my extraordinary Congressional Award advisor, Mrs. Mary Rodgers. I had been involved with many service and athletic activities before, but when I saw the requirements for the Congressional Award, I was frightened, thinking there was no possibility of me ever completing them. At that time I did not realize this award was a journey. It takes time, perseverance and patience. And so I elected to begin this daunting task.

What appealed to me most about this challenge was the exploration component. I had never heard of an award which prompted youth to travel, and I was most excited to choose new places and plan my trips. On my trip to the Adirondacks and to Washington D.C., I encountered nature, historical surroundings, and new and interesting people which only furthered my development as a cultured young American as well as a Congressional Award participant.

I was one of the lucky recipients of the James and Eunice Doty/Congressional Award/People-to-People Scholarship, which enabled me to attend the recent 10th Anniversary Global Youth Forum held last November in Kansas City. This was an awesome experience for me since I got to interact with other teenage participants from all over the world. My roommate was a girl from Albania who spoke nearly perfect English. While there, we broke into groups for discussions and also completed a service project. I learned so much that by the time the forum ended, I easily understood why so many of the participants returned year after year.

My advisor, Mrs. Rodgers, has been an incredible role model for me. A few weeks ago we met as I turned in my Gold Record Book, which at last has been completed. For the opportunities she has shown me, and the successful path upon which she has guided me, I am eternally grateful.

For three years, I have volunteered at places such as orphanages and soup kitchens, completed personal development goals in gymnastics and flute classes, and sweated and smiled at every cheerleading practice and improved my swimming endurance. Although I’ve been doing these various things, I know that my desire to serve, stay athletically fit, develop personal skills, and travel the world is unwavering and will remain a facet of who I am forever. I can easily attest that the Congressional Award has been one of the most influential experiences of my life.

~Mary Cate Muschett
2012 Gold Medal Candidate

Filed under Pennsylvania PA PA13 Rep. Allyson Schwartz Abington Abington Senior High School serv perseverance patience gold medal James and Eunice Doty People to People Global Youth Forum Scholarship theaward The Congressional Award The Congressional Award Foundation

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Congressional Award Advisor and Maverick Foundation Co-Founder Bob Gullickson

Chief James Boylan and Fireman Chris Quin of the Fire Department of New York join (from left to right) Maverick Foundation founders Jim McGuire and Robert Gullickson in honoring their program’s scholarship recipients: 2011 Gold Medalist Joseph Plescia, 2012 Gold Medal Candidate Michelle De Tomaso, 2011 Bronze Medalist Victoria Vega, as well as Congressional Award participants Jessica Halter and Jordan Marino. Lauren Gullickson and Michael Byrne will soon register for the Congressional Award.

The Maverick Foundation was co-founded by Jim McGuire and Bob Gullickson in 2002 to honor the memory and legacy of two very special people, Lt. Joe Gullickson with the Fire Department of New York, who made the ultimate sacrifice on September 11, 2001, and Dan McGuire, who tragically lost his life in an automobile accident on September 1976. We decided to provide a scholarship to Moore Catholic High School, where Dan would have graduated from in 1977 and Joe did graduate from in 1982. We also wanted to do something more than provide a scholarship. We were not necessarily looking for the brightest kids with the highest grades or the all star athletes, but for special young adults who were willing to realize their full potential in all areas and had a passion for helping others and making a difference in their community. Once we were set on this idea, we began researching and developing a program tailor-made for our scholarship to capture the essence of personal development including academics and volunteer work. It was during this process that we discovered the Congressional Award Foundation. The program turned out to be the perfect complement to the scholarship.

The Congressional Award Foundation laid out specific requirements in the areas of Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, and Physical Fitness, but was also general enough in each area that anybody who was determined to succeed could find a way to do so. For example, you could use yoga or dance for a Physical Fitness activity or art and music for Personal Development. We tell our kids to follow their hearts they will find a way to accomplish their goals. We liked the concept of benchmarks because it required each young person to plan and execute on a specific schedule. Lastly, we appreciated that their accomplishments could be recognized nationally in a presentation ceremony by their Member of Congress.

The Maverick Foundation provides high school scholarships to eighth graders who are then required to participate in The Congressional Award Foundation. They are required to apply for the Bronze Medal by December of their sophomore year, the Silver Medal by December of their junior year, and the Gold Medal by December of their senior year.

The Maverick Foundation has, through the efforts and dedication of our scholarship recipients, realized five Congressional Award Gold Medals in our first ten years. As they receive their medals and grow in the program, we see young adults become future leaders before our eyes. Their confidence grows in leaps and bounds. They reach out for opportunities rather than wait for them to come to them; they are not afraid of a challenge. Officials at Moore Catholic High School have told us how proud they are of the accomplishments of these kids and the work The Maverick Foundation does to promote The Congressional Award Foundation. We believe we have better prepared our kids to not only succeed in the world with full potential, but to continue their mission of helping others and making a difference in the community.

~Robert Gullickson
Congressional Award Advisor and co-founder of the Maverick Foundation

For more information on the Maverick Foundation, click here.

Filed under Scholarship maverick foundation The Congressional Award congressional award theaward New York FDNY Moore Catholic High School Medal medalist staten island NY13

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Young American Non-Profit Leader: Kaitlyn Chana

Kaitlyn Chana, 2010 Gold Medalist and Founder and President of Love Letter: Random Cards of Kindness

Having the honor of earning the Congressional Gold Medal is extremely rewarding. The Gold Nation Experience was full of wonderful memories that brought smiles, laughter, and pure happiness to my heart. Each visit to the different museums, touring the monuments, and learning about our rich history gave me more insight on why I’m extremely proud to be an American.

My non-profit organization, Love Letters: Random Cards of Kindness, Inc., was chosen as a service project for the other Gold Medalists to take part in during the Gold Nation Experience. Having the opportunity to share my ultimate passion for my national non-profit organization with these elite Gold Medalists was such an honor. Watching them build relationships with others while contributing from their hearts for children with life-threatening illnesses was a magical moment! Many of the medalists shared a personal story of how this activity touched them and I feel extremely fortunate they were able to join our Love Letters family.

On Wednesday, June 23, my heart was beating rapidly as the time neared for me to receive my Gold Medal from Congress. As we walked into the ceremony the cheers and flashes of cameras were surreal because family, friends, and government officials were celebrating outstanding teenagers for making a difference. Each one of us is unique and as the medals were placed around our necks you could see the excitement pour over our faces. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about other medalists accomplishments, learning how they overcame obstacles, and finding out about their ambitions.

Kaitlyn Chana, center, is presented with her Gold Medal by Congressman John Mica (FL07) and Vice Chairwoman of the CAF National Board of Directors Linda Mitchell.

As I wore the medal it navigated its way through my bloodstream and entered my heart with the message “the impossible is possible.”

I will always treasure the week through memories, pictures, and friendships.

~Kaitlyn Chana

Filed under Florida Love Letters The Congressional Award TheAward University of Florida Volunteerism gold medal random acts of kindness Gold Nation Experience Congressman John Mica FL07