To promote and recognize acts of achievement, initiative, and service in America’s youth, the U.S. Congress offers the Congressional Award to young people between the ages of 14-23 years old. In order to qualify for the award, contestants may register here, submitting a signed waiver and one-time $15 registration fee to accompany the application.

“It is an excellent opportunity for students to build character and participate in community service,” Community Partnership Coordinator Craig Statucki said. “In addition to the personal growth, students will be able to improve the local community through volunteering and establish a network of contacts that will be helpful as they apply for colleges, scholarships and future employment.”

To earn any tier of the award’s certificate or medal levels, participants must fulfill the requirements of the following four Program Areas: Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness and Expedition/Exploration.

“It’s important to do community service because it’s a way to show that you actually care,” junior Amanda Galvan said. “Showing support through text or speech is one thing, but doing community service means going out in the world and interacting with people who need help and appreciate anything. It’s nice to be able to get recognition for spending the time to do nice things for others.”

After registering, participants must select an advisor and/or validator to certify their completed work in a Record Book. The only requirement is that they cannot be relatives or peers.

“In college, I will try to study abroad to immerse myself in a new culture and work on my major,” senior Neil Montemayor said. “Ideally, I want to travel to Europe, so that will be a good opportunity to fulfill the requirements of the Expedition/Exploration category.”

Although contestants may submit their Record Books during any time of the year, they must meet the deadline of the year to receive their Gold Medal and attend the ceremony in Washington D.C. Contestants may earn their Gold Medal during any year but must complete all goals by their 24th birthday.

“People who participate in community service take time out of their schedule to help out others and it’s important to recognize that because it benefits the people in need,” sophomore Sofia Islam said.

Because Congress strives to promote goal setting and fulfilling tasks to achieve those goals, participants may not submit work or hours accomplished prior to their registration date.

“I think that any student who is interested would do well in earning any of the levels of the Congressional Award,” Statucki said. “Those students who are already engaged in clubs that have a focus on community service may have a slight advantage.”

Contestants do not need to meet a minimum grade point average. In addition, the award accommodates young people with physical or mental disabilities, adjusting the requirements to meet the individual needs of the participants.

“It’s a good feeling to see people spending their own time to work together for something they care or are passionate about, and it shows that they care about their community and the people in it instead of just themselves.” senior Antonio Garcia said.

In addition to the Congressional Award, participants and recipients may qualify for many scholarships and opportunities provided by national partners, schools and universities.

“I would love to win the Congressional Award because it is a prestigious award that recognizes hard work, initiative and perseverance,” senior Gillian Galinato said.