Cara Elzie

How did you earn your Congressional Award?

 I completed my Congressional Award Gold Medal in March of 2022, after beginning my journey in 2017. The two areas where I accumulated the most hours were in voluntary public service and personal development. For voluntary public service, I volunteered with Washington State University’s Youth Advocates for Health (YA4-H!) program. With Youth Advocates for Health, I volunteered as a teen teacher, leading activities centered around healthy lifestyle choices, including food choice, mindfulness, youth drug abuse, and physical education. We also organized and led a variety of community events focusing on youth outreach and health education, as well as helping families access services. For my personal development I had two goals. First, I wanted to become a better musician. I created subgoals relating to music theory, piano, guitar, and ukulele. My other goal was to improve both my writing and photography skills, with subgoals such as practicing my photography at least once a month and writing a minimum of one story a month for the Yakima Herald-Republic’s teen journalism program. In total, I spent over 1,000 hours on my personal development goals. 

What you did in each of your goal areas that helped you earn your Award?

For Voluntary Public Service, I focused on my work with Youth Advocates for Health (YA4-H!), which is a 4-H program run through Washington State University. With YA4-H!, I was a teen teacher. As a team, we reached over 2,000 Yakima County youth through structured programming and over 1,700 more local youth and families through community events with positive change evidenced in all program years. Our events focused on teaching about healthy
lifestyle choices, including food choice, mindfulness, youth drug abuse, and physical education.

For my personal development I had two goals. My first goal was to become a better musician and my second goal was to improve my writing and photography skills. I achieved these goals by continuing to practice the piano, guitar, and ukulele, as well as writing stories for my local newspaper and continuously practicing my photography skills. While working towards the Congressional Award, I also entered my photography in three art exhibits, and was accepted into all three.

For my personal fitness goals I continued to expand on my yoga skills and deepened my yoga practice. I set myself a variety of goals related to different poses and different time

I completed a variety of different explorations over my time in the Congressional Award, including visiting Boston, Spain, and Italy. The expedition for my Gold Medal was a virtual exploration of Madagascar. For my virtual expedition, I researched and cooked two traditional recipes: malagasy style fried rice and mofo gasy, the latter of which is a popular style of pancake in Madagascar. I also researched the main attractions in Madagascar, including Ankarana National Park, the Queen’s Palace, and the unique types of wildlife. To do this I watched a variety of documentaries and read books about the history, cultures and wildlife of the

What are your current ambitions?

I am currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in History with a double minor in Justice Studies and Sustainable Food Systems. After graduation, I plan to get a Master’s degree and then
attend law school. After law school I want to become a lawyer and work in criminal defense, international humanitarian law, and disability civil rights law. Currently, I work on the Washington
State Department of Health’s Youth Advisory Council, on the American Red Cross’s National Collegiate Assembly, and as a ROOT Fellowship intern for The Farmlink Project. These experiences are helping me to hone new skills that I can carry with me into future ambitions and endeavors. My other ambitions include volunteering with the American Red Cross’s International
Humanitarian Law and Service to the Armed Forces programs, volunteering with my church’s Sharing the Harvest program, and pursuing a variety of hobbies in my free time.

Where do you find your motivation?

I am motivated by my desire to make a difference and have a positive impact on people’s lives and communities. I am dedicated to working towards a more compassionate, educated, and just world and this goal continues to motivate me. Completing the Congressional award helped me to develop my motivation and taught me the importance of dedication while pursuing goals.
Without the Congressional Award, I do not know if I would have been as motivated to pursue the goals that I set for myself. Knowing I was working towards this award pushed me to stick with all my goals and has made goal setting a habit. Before this award, I would sometimes begin to doubt myself and give up on goals I had wanted to achieve, however, setting and achieving goals as part of the Congressional Award has given me the confidence I needed to continue working towards my personal and professional goals. Additionally, I feel that my time volunteering has made me more empathetic and understanding. I would not have been as vigilant with my volunteering if I was not working towards this award, however, now it is a habit that I will continue to engage in for the rest of my life. I believe the perspectives I have gained
from goal setting and volunteering, as well as the value of learning how to be an engaged member of my community are attributes that will motivate me for the rest of my life.