The Congressional Award serves as motivation for young people to get involved in public service. It was established by Congress in 1979, as a public-private partnership that recognizes initiative, service and achievement. It is also the highest honor presented by Congress to America’s youth. Participants in this program earn this distinction by completing self-selected goals. Bronze, silver and gold certificates and medals are awarded to individuals who meet their objectives.
I’ve been honored to meet many of the award recipients over the years and believe the program creates valuable opportunities for our youth. Each award level requires setting goals in four areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition and exploration. This structure encourages young people to explore new skills and discover their talents, all while creating a foundation for future success.
In early December the Senate, with my support, passed the bipartisan Congressional Award Program Reauthorization Act of 2023. This legislation ensures the program will continue and inspire generations of Americans to serve others.
One of my favorite aspects of this program is that it is open to all young people in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 24, regardless of differing abilities, circumstances or socioeconomic status. It truly represents our American values of providing opportunities for people to grow and achieve. Every year, participants set ambitious goals while learning valuable skills and making a difference in their communities as they meet the requirements for the award. Currently, more than 50,000 people across the country are enrolled in the program and challenging themselves to achieve goals, strengthen their community and make their future better.
We can be proud of the young Arkansans who have taken on this challenge. Our state is home to a number of Congressional Award recipients who have demonstrated their ambition, dedication, character and aptitude while serving their communities. This year, four Arkansans earned the prestigious honor of the Congressional Award Gold Medal for completing 400 hours of voluntary public service, 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical fitness and completion of an exploration trip.
In recent years, the Congressional Award partnered with 4-H and other youth organizations to encourage involvement and setting challenging goals. I’ve been honored to participate in events to promote this worthwhile program and the unique opportunities it offers young people.
I encourage young Arkansans to learn more about this program and the positive impact it has made on individuals and communities and explore how to get involved. It’s likely that many youths are already participating in activities that can be used to meet the requirements of a Congressional Award.
Every summer the Congressional Gold Medal Summit is hosted in Washington, D.C., bringing together individuals from across the country who earned the top award. I am hopeful more Arkansans will be part of the next event so we can celebrate their accomplishment together.