538 Students Presented with Congress’ Most Prestigious Honor for Youth

June 28, 2019
Washington, DC

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Humbling. Inspirational. Optimistic. These are words not always found buzzing around Capitol Hill. But the 2019 Congressional Award Gold Medal Ceremony & Events held on June 19-21 in Washington, D.C. sparked enthusiasm for our nation’s future and ushered in the next generation of servant leaders.

Congress presented The Congressional Award Gold Medal to 538 youth this year, the largest class in the program’s 40-year history. Spanning 42 U.S. states and territories and 181 congressional districts, Gold Medalists contributed 295,206 volunteer hours to their communities, an average of 548 hours per medalist.

The Gold Medal represents the pinnacle of Congress’ award program for youth. The honor requires that each recipient embark on a two year goal-setting journey, logging a minimum of 400 hours of Voluntary Public Service, 200 hours of Personal Development and Physical Fitness, respectively, and a 5 day, 4-night Expedition/Exploration.

Gold Medalist Kamin Bond sports his newly minted Gold Medal.

The multi-day celebration kicked off on Wednesday, June 19th with an early check-in and networking event in the Rayburn House Office Building. Gold Medalists were encouraged to interact with and learn more about their peers through enrichment activities.

Three award ceremonies were held throughout the day on Thursday, June 20th in the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center Congressional Auditorium. ABC News Congressional correspondent Mary Bruce, POLITICO senior Washington correspondent Anna Palmer, and CBS News national correspondent Chip Reid each served as Masters of Ceremonies.

The Presentation of Colors and National Anthem were given by the United States Capitol Police Ceremonial Unit. Invocations were provided by Reverend Patrick Conroy, Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives, and Dr. Barry Black, Chaplain of the United States Senate.

U.S. Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee present the Horizon Award to Gail Miller.

The Congressional Award Foundation recognized Gail Miller, Owner of the Utah Jazz and Chairwoman of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, with the Horizon Award. The award recognizes humanitarian leaders in the private sector who have worked to expand opportunities for all Americans through their own personal contributions.

U.S. Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney presented the special recognition. “Gail is not only a pillar in our community, [but she is also] an example who serves with grace, and with commitment, and with personal strength,” stated Romney.

Miller issued inspiring remarks to this year’s youth recipients. “These experiences that you’ve had, coupled with your hard work, will serve you well for the rest of your life. The work you have done has provided you with opportunities to shape your own actions and determine your purpose in life.”

U.S. Representative Brian Mast with Inspiration Awardee Lynn Lyons and South Florida Gold Medalists.

Florida mentor and former Congressional Award Board Member Lynn Lyons was recognized with the Inspiration Award for her exemplary service in advising Congressional Award participants. Mrs. Lyons is a retired educator and has guided over 500 youth in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.

Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) presented the award and commended Lynn for her unparalleled mentorship. “We’re proud of these young men and women because they have already learned one of the most important lessons through this program [The Congressional Award] – how to live your life without regret. And Lynn gives them the drive to achieve and pursue something bigger and more important than themselves.”

Paxton Baker, Congressional Award Chairman; U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18); Gold Medalist Jana Sabri of Irving, TX; U.S. Representative John Carter (TX-31); U.S. Representative Bill Flores (TX-17).

Congressional Award Board Member Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) captured the selfless achievement of the Gold Medalists by saying, “The values of this organization emphasize that Americans can serve anywhere and everywhere. And all Americans can serve regardless of race, religion, or viewpoint.”

Over 70 Members of Congress attended the ceremony to present their constituents with the Gold Medal. Other Congressional speakers included Senator Richard Burr (NC), Senator Mike Enzi (WY), and Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-08).

U.S. Representative Ami Bera (CA-07) provides guidance and inspiration to students with ambitions of landing a career in a STEM field.

STEM Stars Reception
Following the Gold Medal Ceremony, guests made their way to the second annual STEM Stars Reception presented by Bayer in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building. The event honored the 196 youth who logged science, technology, engineering, and math activities in pursuit of their Gold Medal.

Bayer, the life science industry leader with more than 150 years of experience, was presented with the Corporate Commitment to America’s Youth Award for advancing STEM literacy among youth.

U.S. Representatives with a background in related fields presented the STEM Stars, including Senator Ron Wyden (OR) and Congressman Ami Bera (CA-07).

Bayer’s Ray Kerins emphasized the importance of educating and preparing students to become tomorrow’s leaders and innovators. “STEM continues to play a vital role in our nation’s economy and prosperity. We need to continue to inspire current and future youth generations to pursue STEM careers by helping them get access to the best resources and programs to succeed.”

Panel Discussions
The Congressional Award organized a series of expert panels on June 21st to compliment this year’s ceremony. Gold Medalists and guests heard from industry leaders on the most relevant and pressing issues facing society today. Each of the five panels offered not only valuable insight and inspiration but provided youth with an avenue to engage with their peers and ask questions from experienced professionals.

Set in the Member’s Room of the Library of Congress, A Lifetime of Service focused on the importance of extending volunteerism past the Gold Medal. The panel showcased non-profit organizations, national partners, professionals who have service-focused careers, and alumni who are making a difference in their communities.

Moderator: Jevin Hodge – LINK Strategic Partners
Gina Cross – AmeriCorps NCCC
Steve Culbertson – Youth Service America
Maura Fulton – Peace Corps
Javier LaFianza – HOBY

The Entrepreneurship panel took place in the Rayburn House Office Building. This discussion shared origin stories of business owners, investors, and executives.

Moderator: Sanyin Siang – COLE, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business
Michael Akin – LINK Strategic Partners
Mark Ein – Entrepreneur & Investor
Sandra Evers-Manly – Northrop Grumman
Cece Morken – Intuit
U.S. Representative Nydia Velazquez (NY-07)

Hosted at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Empowering Women conversation illustrated how girls have the power to transform themselves, their communities, and the world around them.

Moderator: Jessica Grounds – Mine the Gap
Gina Adams – FedEx
U.S. Representative Abby Finkenauer (IA-01)
Susan Fisher Sterling – NMWA
Gail Miller – Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, Utah Jazz

The Travel with Purpose panel took place in the Rayburn House Office Building and challenged attendees to ignite their inner explorer. Conversation points ranged from traveling ethically to packing efficiently for long international trips.

Moderator: Angie Ange – Angie Ange in the Morning, College is Cool Inc.
Merrill Eisenhower Atwater – People to People International
Dr. Alex Cromwell – George Washington University
George Stone – National Geographic Travel

The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy served as the host venue for the Sports, Health, and Wellness panel. This conversation illustrated the variety of careers in the world of sports.

Moderators: Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis – The Tommy Show
John Bramlette – Washington Nationals Dream Foundation
Derrick Dockery – Former NFL Player
Pops Mensah-Bonsu – Capital City Go-Go
Tanya Vogel – George Washington University – Athletics

Day at the Ballpark
Capping off the celebration, the Washington Nationals hosted Congressional Award Gold Medalists at Nationals Park on June 21st for a memorable day.

Gold Medalists took a photo on the diamond at midday and were invited to the Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves game that evening. The group was even recognized during the 2nd inning.

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The Congressional Award is the U.S. Congress’ only charity and award program for youth. 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.

View the complete list of 2019 Gold Medalists.

Download a PDF copy of the 2019 Gold Medal Ceremony Program Book.

View the Gold Medal Ceremony & Events photo gallery.

Visit the 2019 Gold Medal Ceremony press kit.

Learn more about the panel discussions.