Q&A with Program Manager Makaila

We sat down with the newest member of our team, Makaila Davenport, to learn more about what motivates her and why she chose The Congressional Award.

Prior to joining our team, Makaila held congressional experience in the offices of U.S. Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Scott Rigell (VA-02), focusing on legislative affairs and constituent relations. Ms. Davenport also served as Assistant to the Director of Congressional Relations for the Peace Corps.

Makaila holds a B.A. from Hampton University and has commissioned as an Army Reserves 2nd Lieutenant. She is a proud member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Why did you choose The Congressional Award as the next step in your professional career?
I was introduced to The Congressional Award while working at Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee’s office and I admired the mission to encourage youth to make a more positive impact in their community while also improving their lives by accomplishing their own personal goals. I wanted to work for an organization that held the same passion I do for youth and community.

What’s trending in your life?
My favorite show is Grey’s Anatomy. One of my sorority sisters made me watch it a couple of years ago and I have been hooked since. Waiting for the rest of the season to air in January is killing me! Also, my newfound hobby is painting. I went to a paint night with my mom a couple of weeks ago and I am actually pretty good at it!

Is there a moment from your childhood that you use as inspiration in adulthood?
My parents always stressed the importance of honesty and integrity. I think having integrity is one of the most important traits a person should possess. It is always important to me to make sure that my integrity is never compromised regardless of the circumstances.

How do you adapt The Congressional Award program areas to your life?
Voluntary Public Service: I am currently working on starting a non-profit called NextStep. It is a program geared towards helping youth and young adults that have been diagnosed with a blood disorder. We give back by donating to local hospitals and charities as well as donating money to help lift some of the financial pressures that many families experience in order to give their child the best treatment possible.

Personal Development: I love music and have always been avid about learning about different languages and cultures. I play the piano and the violin and I am currently working on learning Spanish!

Physical Fitness: I am in the United States Army and because of this it is very important to stay fit and healthy. I enjoy running and competing in races with my family as well as doing any fun physical activities.

Expedition/Exploration: I have always loved to travel and have been to many different countries over the years but my new goal for 2020 is to explore and visit all 50 states. There is so much culture and history that can be found within the United States borders and I want to experience it with my friends and family.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?
My biggest accomplishment so far has been joining the military and commissioning as an Army Reserves 2nd Lieutenant. I am very passionate about my country and it is a great honor to serve. There is a long line of army officers in my family and I am proud to carry on such a profound and rewarding legacy.

What advice would you give newly registered Congressional Award participants?
To work hard and make sure that your hours are completed by doing something you are passionate about. The goal is to continue your service far beyond earning the Gold Medal and to continue making a difference.


As Central Program Manager, Makaila is your contact if you reside in the following states:
Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, or Wyoming.

SEND A MESSAGE TO MAKAILA

People to People International Offers STEM Focused Iceland Trip to Congressional Award Participants

Washington, DC (December 10, 2019) — The Congressional Award Foundation and People to People International have partnered to send participants on the adventure of a lifetime next summer.

The Congressional Award Foundation has worked with partners like People to People International through the STEM Stars Initiative to make STEM more accessible to students. This effort has resulted in 84,103 hours of STEM activities among Congressional Award participants, and has doubled in participation in the last 12 months.

This student travel program is offered exclusively for youth who are registered for The Congressional Award and at least 16 years of age on the date of departure.

The trip will take place from July 28 – August 04, 2020 and will be anchored in the capital city of Reykjavik, visiting exciting destinations like the Fridheimar Greenhouse, Eyjafjallajökull volcano, Deildartunguhver thermal spring, Blue Lagoon, and whale and puffin watching along the Icelandic shore.

View the itinerary and book your trip through People to People International. Direct questions to Nicole Randall at (816) 531-4701 or nicolerandall@ptpi.org.

About The Congressional Award
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

About People to People International
In 1956, the People to People International Foundation was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower with a mission to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural, and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences between people of diverse cultures. Learn more at www.ptpi.org.

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My STEM Story: Aman Shaik

Aman used his ability and passion for robotics to teach workshops and bridge cultural gaps.


Malala Yousafzai once stated, “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” It is said that once you teach someone a concept you tend to learn the concept better.

My robotics journey started when I was a 3rd grader. I have loved building Legos as a child but watching my Legos come to life was astounding. I started to get involved in multiple robotics Lego league teams through a program called FLL (FirstLego League). Each robotic season we had a new robot with a new name and built it depending on the certain theme.

After all those many years of building robots with Legos it was time to move on to more complex robots. When I became a 7th grader, I began to build robots out of metal pieces and enrolled in First Tech Challenge.

I volunteered at the Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville, Florida showcasing these Lego robots. Children were baffled when they saw these objects driving on the floor. At this time, I realized it was time to teach robotics in underprivileged areas.

India, a developing country, is a beautiful place. It’s a place like no other. For someone traveling there every year since a toddler it’s a place you can’t miss. I decided to serve as a youth ambassador for the North South Foundation’s APNA program. My mom is from Hyderabad, so I decided to volunteer at the Vidyaniketan School. I remember walking into the classroom and everyone standing upright as if they were soldiers and stated, “Good morning, brother!” I found this very surprising since they were relatively the same age as me.

I first began teaching 8th graders the robotics workshop. The first day they built the robots and found it fun. The boys and girls were split into separate groups and the girls built the robots faster due to their organization and cooperation. The boys group had some commotion because they were deeply engaged. The next day we programmed the robots using the software on the computers I had brought.

One thing that stood out to me was the pride they showed when they finished. It was such a great thing to see. The boys and girls individually showed the principal their robot and how it moved.

Word about the workshop grew quickly. The 9th graders saw the robots and wanted to participate. They individually talked to the academic director and stated that they wanted to experience this workshop. They were given the chance and I did the same workshop for the 9th graders.

They asked me if I knew Hindi and Urdu. It was a big deal for them to see someone their age but from a different country. I felt great that I had helped some kids that did not have the learning experiences I had as a child.

Overall, The Congressional Award has motivated me to give back to the global community. It is a humbling experience to have the opportunity to help others and to make a difference. The Congressional Award opened my eyes regarding time management and tracking. I now keep track of not just my volunteer, personal development, and physical fitness but also time spent on academics, with friends and family, etc.

I made new friends overseas and made an impact on over 50 kids the same age as me. What I did was a simple thing that anyone can do. Anyone can change someone’s life for good.

Learn more about The Congressional Award STEM Stars program.

Southern California Student Leaders Earn Congress’ Award for Youth

Yorba Linda, CA (November 14, 2019) — On Saturday, November 9, 2019, The Congressional Award Southern California Ceremony presented by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc. recognized nearly 200 student leaders for personal goal-setting and acts of citizenship.

U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (CA-27), Gil Cisneros (CA-39), and Katie Porter (CA-45) presented the awards on behalf of the United States Congress at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California.

U.S. Representatives Chu and Porter present The Congressional Award Silver Medal to Thomas Williamson of Anaheim Hills.

“It is my privilege to honor these incredible youth with The Congressional Award, the highest award for youth legislated and presented by the United States Congress,” said Congresswoman Judy Chu. “In order to qualify, these honorees have volunteered their time to achieve goals in public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration. I have been so impressed by the creativity and care demonstrated by these young people. Their devotion to success is a benefit to our entire area, and an example to others. Congratulations!”

The event was made possible by Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc., who served as the Title Sponsor. On a journey of creativity and innovation for more than 95 years, the San Francisco based global pharmaceutical business has not only discovered and developed treatments for complex medical conditions – but made a deliberate effort to engage youth in local communities.

Congressman Cisneros delivers remarks the recipients and guests.

Congressman Cisneros delivers remarks the recipients and guests.“I want to congratulate all 22 recipients of The Congressional Award for California’s 39th district,” said Congressman Gil Cisneros. “I am constantly impressed by the abundance of talented youth in our community. Their unwavering commitment to improving themselves and others around them is truly inspiring. The Congressional Award program has challenged our youth, and it is great to see CA-39 students answering the call and not only exceeding, but demonstrating that they will be future leaders. It was a privilege to recognize each of the awardees accomplishments and join their families in celebration.”

The ceremony also borrowed the talents of FOX 5 San Diego’s Chris Murphy as master of ceremonies.

After the ceremony, recipients and guests were able to tour the presidential library and museum.

“As a UC Irvine professor, I’ve witnessed up close and personal the tenacity and compassion of young people in our community,” Congresswoman Katie Porter said. “I was proud to recognize the accomplishments of the 187 Congressional Award recipients from Southern California, and I look forward to seeing what they’ll accomplish in the future.”

Congressional Awardees receive recognition for their accomplishment.

Congressional Awardees receive recognition for their accomplishment.California ranks number one in both the number of enrolled participants and Congressional Awards earned annually. The Golden State’s 24th-53rd congressional districts have produced 7,431 awardees all-time. There are currently 6,535 participants pursuing the award in the region. The 187 Congressional Award Medalists honored this year contributed 38,749 hours of voluntary public service to their communities.

Download the program for event details and full recipient list.

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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Atrium Health’s Jim Dunn Brings Expertise in Culture, Diversity and Inclusion to Congressional Award Board of Directors

Washington, DC (November 5, 2019) — Elected to The Congressional Award Foundation’s National Board of Directors in June 2019, Jim Dunn has since helped steer the organization’s recruitment strategy and participant engagement by focusing on inclusion and creating content that inspires.

Jim Dunn, PhD, DHA, DAST, FACHE, currently serves as Executive Vice President and System Chief Human Resources Officer for Atrium Health, one of the most comprehensive and highly integrated not-for-profit healthcare systems in the nation. As a member of the executive leadership team, Dunn leads teams that focus on the engagement of Atrium Health teammates – from recruitment through retirement.

“I am thrilled and honored to have been selected to serve on The Congressional Award Foundation Board as the U.S. Congress’ only charity and award program for youth,” said Dunn. “Its mission of recognizing initiative, service, and overall achievement aligns with both Atrium Health’s mission of health, hope and healing for all but also my own personal passion of developing future generations of workforce leaders.”

Dunn is revered as a national expert in culture, diversity and inclusion, and the employee experience.

Prior to joining Atrium Health in April 2018, Jim served as Executive Vice President and Chief Talent Officer for Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas, Texas, Human Resources and Learning Executive for the Cleveland Clinic, Chief Learning Officer for Texas Health Resources, and National Vice President of Human Resources and Talent Retention Strategies for the American Cancer Society.

His work history also includes progressively responsible roles as a research scientist with the Georgia Tech Research Institute and leading the global human resources operations for former President Jimmy Carter at the Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta.

Among his notable achievements, Dunn has received the Outstanding Business Leader Award from the Dallas Business Journal, the South Dallas Outstanding Leader Award, and the Global Strategic HR and OD Award from the Organizational Development Institute for his work on informal cultures. He also was named among the 2018 Most Influential African-Americans in Corporate America by Savoy Magazine.

Dunn holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and macro-environmental science from Howard University, a master’s degree in business administration from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a Master of Public Health degree in occupational health from Emory University. Additionally, he holds multiple doctoral degrees in education, organizational development, and healthcare administration from Emory University, Benedictine University, and the Medical University of South Carolina, respectively.

He has served as adjunct and distinguished faculty for multiple universities including the Harvard School of Public Health, MIT Sloan School of Management, Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory University, University of Chicago and the University of Texas at Dallas.

He is also a state registered professional mediator, specializing in workplace conflict resolution strategies, and a fellow (FACHE) and faculty member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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Merrill Eisenhower Atwater, Vanessa Green Sinders Elected to Congressional Award Board of Directors

Washington, DC (October 24, 2019) —The Congressional Award Foundation announces the election of Merrill Eisenhower Atwater and Vanessa Green Sinders to the National Board of Directors, effective immediately.

“These additions to the Board of Directors truly bolster our already impressive team,” said Paxton K. Baker, Chairman of The Congressional Award National Board of Directors. “Merrill and Vanessa each bring unique skill sets from their respective industries and will play a vital role in shaping the future and direction of our organization.”

Merrill Eisenhower Atwater is the Chief Executive Officer of People to People International. Since assuming this role in 2018, he has conducted a campaign of global partnership and understanding.

As both a globally and locally recognized influential leader, Merrill has been recognized with numerous honors and awards. He was recently chosen as the Honorary Ambassador to Chuncheon City in South Korea, was recognized nationally by the Federal Aviation Administration for his work in Kansas Aviation with the Impact Award, and was also included in Business Magazine, Ingram’s 40 Under 40.

Before joining People to People International, he served as the Director of Aviation for the state of Kansas and held numerous successful positions conducting international business and relations for global companies.

Merrill is the great-grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and has been a long-term ambassador for The Congressional Award Foundation.

Vanessa Green Sinders is the Senior Vice President for Federal Legislative Affairs at Charter Communications.

In this role, she is responsible for directing the company’s strategic policy and political engagement with Congress and the Administration.

Previously, Vanessa served as the Senior Vice President and Department Head for Government Affairs at the American Hotel and Lodging Association and Chief of Staff for the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

Additionally, Vanessa spent almost ten years working in the U.S. Senate where she served as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Scott Brown and Policy Director for U.S. Senator Judd Gregg.

Learn more about Merrill and Vanessa here.

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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Remembering Elijah Cummings

October 17, 2019 (Washington, DC) – Today we mourn the loss of an American patriot, long term Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings.

A Baltimore native, Congressman Cummings was an attorney and civil rights advocate who served in Maryland’s state legislature before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996. Most recently, Cummings served as Chairman of the powerful House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Left to Right: Chairman Paxton Baker, Gold Medalist Veronica Wheelan, Congressman Elijah Cummings. June 2013

Rep. Cummings will forever be remembered as a model public servant. He dedicated his life to uplifting and empowering the community he represented.

It was our privilege to work with Congressman Cummings in recognizing Maryland youth with The Congressional Award for several decades. As his official biography stated, “Congressman Cummings often says that our children are the living messages that we send to a future we will never see.”

Congressman Cummings entertains the crowd before he presents the Horizon Award to fellow Baltimore native and American record executive Kevin Liles. June 2014

Our condolences are with the Cummings family and his wide-reaching band of supporters during this time of grieving.

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Reps. Malinowski, Payne, Jr. Honor New Jersey Youth with The Congressional Award

Summit, NJ (September 26, 2019) — Nearly 100 New Jersey student leaders were recognized by Congress for their personal goal setting and community service at a statewide Congressional Award ceremony held on Saturday, September 21, 2019.

U.S. Representatives Tom Malinowski (NJ-07) and Donald Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) presented the awards on behalf of Congress.

“I want to congratulate all 98 recipients of The Congressional Award for New Jersey,” said Congressman Payne, Jr. “I was excited to give our youth such a prestigious honor. I know it was not easy to earn. But they showed tremendous character in their commitment to the goals they set for the program. I am very proud of them and look forward to being part of the ceremony again next year.”

Congressman Malinowksi assured guests that the future was in good hands with these students assuming leadership roles. “This country belongs to you, the young people. And it’s up to you to make it better. And that’s what you all have done – you’ve decided you must step up and do something.”

Anesha Santhanam of Edison, NJ receives the Silver Medal from U.S. Representatives Payne, Jr. and Malinowski and Celgene’s Patrick Gliha and Rich Bagger.

The event was made possible by Celgene Corporation, who once again served as the Title Sponsor and host venue. The global biopharmaceutical company has become a perennial partner of Congress’ award program for youth by supporting the development of the program both locally and nationally.

Celgene’s Rich Bagger, Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs & Market Access, and Patrick Gliha, Senior Director of State Government Relations and a member of The Congressional Award’s Board of Directors, were on hand to congratulate this year’s honorees.

The ceremony borrowed the talents of WABC-TV journalist Anthony Johnson as master of ceremonies.

Attendees look on as Congressman Payne, Jr. delivers his remarks.

New Jersey remains one of the most active states in The Congressional Award’s national portfolio, ranking within the top ten states in both the number of enrolled participants and number of awards earned. The Garden State has produced 6,622 awardees all-time. There are currently 4,563 participants pursuing the award. The 98 New Jersey Congressional Award Medalists being honored this year have contributed 22,634 hours of voluntary public service to their communities.

Learn more about this year’s recipients with the ceremony program and photo gallery.

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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Gary Payton Selected as Horizon Award Recipient

Washington, DC (September 17, 2019) — Congress will honor former NBA player Gary Payton with the Horizon Award at The Congressional Award Foundation’s 25th Annual Golf Classic on September 23, 2019.


Embraced as one of the most prolific point guards of all time, Gary Payton played 17 seasons in the NBA for the Seattle Super Sonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat. Nicknamed “The Glove,” Payton remains the only point guard to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Payton is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (1996, 2000), NBA Champion (2006), nine-time NBA All-Star, NBA Defensive Player of the Year (1996), and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2013.

While his accolades on the court are enough to cement a storied legacy, Payton believes his biggest accomplishment is yet to come.

A passion and responsibility for helping at-risk youth reach their potential is what now drives Payton. Through several charitable contributions, Gary has become a force for good for the people in the very streets where his humble beginnings began. He has made it his mission to help every child receive the equal access to education and opportunity.

Much of Gary’s humanitarian efforts have been rooted in his native Oakland, California.

He set up The Gary Payton Foundation in 1996 to provide safe places for recreational activity, and to help underprivileged youth stay in school. In 2001, Mr. Payton made a personal commitment to renovate the gym of the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), a youth center he attended as a child. And most recently he has given back to his high school alma mater’s basketball program.

As an active player, Gary made an impact in each community where he resided. He has volunteered and offered financial support to important youth service organizations like the Ronald McDonald House, Boys & Girls Club of America and the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

He authored Confidence Counts in 1999, an autobiographical children’s book illustrating the importance of self-confidence through events in his own life.

“Gary will forever be known as one of the most complete guards the game of basketball has ever seen. After hanging up his jersey he has since made the case that he is an even more complete man – one of character, integrity, and altruism. On behalf of The Congressional Award Foundation, I am proud to recognize Mr. Payton’s community involvement and creation of opportunities for our nation’s youth to thrive,” said Paxton Baker, Chairman of The Congressional Award National Board of Directors.


The Horizon Award
A special recognition from the Joint Leadership Commission of The Congressional Award Foundation and its Board of Directors, the Horizon Award recognizes individuals from the private sector who have worked to expand opportunities for all Americans through their own personal contributions.

Previous recipients include personalities like Drew Brees, America Ferrera, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bob Lanier, Wynton Marsalis, Curtis Martin, Gail Miller, Cal Ripken, Jr., Pat and Emmitt Smith, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

About
The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a youth civilian through the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, the program recognizes initiative, service, and achievement in youth ages 13 ½ – 23.

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My STEM Story: Luke Jankowski

Luke harnessed his environmental science studies to provide disaster relief and build stronger communities.


Many of my Voluntary Public Service activities involved STEM. Volunteering as a hurricane relief worker in New Orleans through Camp Restore serves as an example. I used carpentry and engineering to rebuild and provide maintenance of homes for under-served people who suffered severe damage to their homes due to Hurricane Katrina.

One homeowner had been the victim of a contractor who had been paid to re-build her home but had re-used wet, ruined insulation resulting in severe mold growth throughout her house. Working with others, I demolished the interior walls and ceiling of her four-room, one-story house, removed the offensive insulation and then installed clean, dry insulation, carried, placed, and nailed new dry-wall, and then taped and plastered the walls and ceilings.

Through this experience, I learned not only carpentry and engineering skills but also how to work safely on a construction site.

In Puerto Rico, my group partnered with a local grassroots organization named CAMBU to work on projects designed to aid the local community as it struggled to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

In particular, CAMBU acquired an abandoned school and surrounding land with the goal of turning it into a multi-purpose community center with a kitchen, garden, and meeting center for the people of Las Marias. One of my projects included making the empty kitchen utilitarian by constructing shelving units through cutting planks, assembling them into shelves and painting them.

In creating a community garden with the people of Las Marias for the purpose of providing fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables and a meeting location, I weeded, tilled, terraced, and fertilized the soil on a hillside with others and was then tasked with determining the best lay-out for the fruit trees, vegetables, and sitting areas. I dug holes for and planted numerous banana trees to provide shade as well as fruit. I then established, leveled, and stabilized the area for the sitting benches and finally placed the benches.

During this process I learned a farming technique known as the “crescent moon” where a hole in the shape of a crescent moon is dug for the plant to be placed because, when rainwater falls, the design of the hole makes it so that the soil around the base of the plant does not flood and creates soil stability, especially on a hillside.

Most recently, I volunteered at Third Street Elementary School in Los Angeles to help educate students on environmental science by applying concepts I learned in my high school class. I created a fun, informative PowerPoint for the third-grade students and, with them, assembled a self-sustaining Eco-Zone System to demonstrate how the three primary environments interact with each other.

Furthermore, I helped reclaim lost garden space and created an eco-friendly area that utilizes rainwater capture systems to water vegetation and serves as an outdoor learning area. I learned how to better apply STEM concepts I learned in my environmental science course, such as how to retain and reuse rainwater, to real life situations.

Learn more about The Congressional Award STEM Stars program.