Washington Nationals Minority Owner, Paxton Baker, Talks Baseball and The Congressional Award

By Anna Laible

Anna Laible is a 15-year old Congressional Award participant from Leighton, PA who is a Kid Reporter for Sports Illustrated Kids. She has covered professional and local events like the NASCAR Pocono 400, MLB Little League Classic, Little League World Series, US Women’s Soccer National Team, USA Luge, UNC – Duke basketball, a Ninja event for a local non-profit, a PA State Football championship, and more!

Check out more of Anna’s stories here.


When do you first remember loving baseball?

I was probably 6 or 7 years old when I fell in love with baseball and started collecting baseball cards. I went away to an academy and my father moved my collection and they were lost. I used to memorize the names and capacities of all the stadiums in the league. I never knew that something like this, that I was passionate about, would end up being very, very helpful to me throughout the course of my career. I was a concert promoter, promoting concerts first at Temple University, and then overseas music festivals in the islands of Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Aruba, Trinidad, Turks and Caicos, Cayman Islands, Barbados, and Bermuda. I later organized shows in Europe, like Amsterdam, Holland, Reykjavík, Iceland and Jakarta, Indonesia. At each venue I would go to I would have to know the capacity in order to sell tickets and know how to move equipment to maximize capacity. So something like baseball, something as simple as remembering statistics and tidbits, ended up helping me in my career.

Did you play baseball as a kid?

I played shortstop and second base. I still love baseball and I play pick up softball every now and then.

What was your favorite baseball team growing up?

The Oakland Athletics. I was born in Los Angeles and my brother was a fan of the Rams and Dodgers. For some reason I liked the Oakland teams, the A’s for baseball and the Raiders for football. They had some great teams in the early 1970s that won multiple World Series championships.

Have you ever owned part of a professional team before the Nationals?

Not prior to the Nationals. Since the Nationals, I joined a partnership with Mark Ein who owns the Washington Kastles of the World TeamTennis league. Not a lot of people necessarily know about the franchise, but it was founded in 1973 by Billy Jean King and it hosts both women and men’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. The format is unique because the individual match total counts towards a collective number. You could win one match 5-2 and another 1-5 and the numbers can tilt against you depending on how many you win. Then at the end there may be a runoff for the team that has the most points and they pick which [type of match] they want to do. If they have a really good men’s singles player, they will say they want a men’s single or women’s, they will say women’s single. Now I have the bug, and I’ve been looking at sports opportunities and ownership in other countries as well as teams in other leagues.

What would you say the differences are between minority and majority owners?

Minority owners, in my opinion, kind of add extra sauce and extra energy to our ownership group. The majority owners get the chance to make the final decision because they have the most stock and shares of the team but minority owners add energy, they add relationships. When I first came aboard the Lerner group and we were vying to buy the team from Major League Baseball, they told me I could be as involved or uninvolved as I wanted to be. Originally, when we bought the team from Major League Baseball, I was General Manager of a TV channel and President of a production company called BET (Black Entertainment Television). I traveled 40-42 weeks out of the year so I didn’t have a lot of time to put into the baseball group but I contributed to different components of the operation, helping vendors come into the park and then also forming relationships with City Hall and politicians. Outside of baseball, you may know that I am Chairman of The Congressional Award Foundation, so I have built a lot of relationships with members of Congress. I would say adding my relationships, my ideas, my energy, and my input was what I brought to the ownership team. I think that through these partnerships, even though you have a majority owner, everybody has a chance to give input. And fortunately, my partners [the Lerner family] value our input.

What would you say your favorite part about owning the Nationals is?

Probably living out something that I couldn’t even dream of in my childhood. I am living a dream. I love being able to interface with the Washington, D.C. metropolitan community. I have built a lot of friendships and relationships over the years because of my participation in baseball, so it’s given me a lot of opportunities in other fields.

How did you first get connected with The Congressional Award?

I was General Manager of a company called BET Jazz, and there was a person who worked at the Award as the Development Director. I had known her from when she worked for American Airlines, an airline I still fly with frequently. They originally asked me to run a public service announcement, which are like 30 second TV spots. I produced a public service announcement for them. After that, they asked me if I would join the board of directors, After about a year of service to the board I was voted Vice Chairman and 2 years later, Chairman. I’ve been Chairman for the past 13 years! I really like volunteerism. Throughout the course of my career, I’ve been a volunteer on multiple occasions. I think volunteerism is something that is very important, something that is near and dear to my heart. When I’m asked to volunteer, the answer is generally always, “Yes.” The Congressional Award gives me a good opportunity to participate with youth, engage in volunteerism, and be a good, positive civic servant. To me, the leader is someone who actually serves the organization and that’s something I really appreciate doing.

What do you think is the most important aspect of The Congressional Award?

Giving volunteerism a direction. The components of Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration weaves it all together in a quality program that young people can participate in and grow with. They can have check marks, like all those really good questions that you have on your list. Your work gives you a good stature on how to direct and put things together.

What would you say to kids who are interested in starting The Congressional Award?

I think it’s a wonderful program and it requires a lot of discipline as you know. Discipline, sticking with your goals, and follow through are vital to completing the program. It’s a hard program, so it’s not something that you can just buzz and whizz through. You have to be focused on it, very directed. If you can get into it and stick with it, it will be a meaningful experience in your life and you will know that you have accomplished something special.

478 Youth Presented with Congressional Award Gold Medal

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – written by Jordan Lindsey
September 28, 2020
Washington, DC

For a condensed PDF press release, click here.

The program’s first-ever virtual event took time this past Saturday to recognize students for their dedication to initiative, achievement, and service.


WASHINGTON, D.C., September 26, 2020 — Last Saturday, the United States Congress honored 478 incredible young leaders with The Congressional Award Gold Medal in the program’s first-ever virtual Gold Medal Ceremony.  Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this is the first year the Gold Medal Ceremony has been held virtually,  providing a unique opportunity to celebrate the efforts made by some of America’s most exceptional youth.

The Congressional Award Gold Medal is the highest honor that a Member of Congress can bestow upon a youth civilian. This year’s Gold Medalists are the most recent addition to an exceptional group of individuals who have received the prestigious award throughout the program’s 41-year history. Each Gold Medalist has completed at least 400 hours of Voluntary Public Service, 200 hours of Personal Development and Physical Fitness, respectively, and a 5 day, 4-night Expedition/Exploration over the span of a minimum two years.

Hosted by the Chairman of The Congressional Award, Paxton Baker, the ceremony began with an inspiring video message from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi congratulated the medalists and encouraged their continued commitment amidst the pandemic:

“Our nation is at a pivotal moment, as our communities confront the unprecedented coronavirus crisis and fight the systemic injustices that continue to undermine the strength of our democracy. If we are to meet these enormous challenges, we need your leadership, your imagination, and your commitment to serving others.”

Throughout the ceremony video, Chairman Baker took viewers to several of Washington, D.C.’s landmarks including the Capitol Building, Nationals Park, the Washington Monument, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  Chairman Baker also interviewed each of the ceremony’s special guests: Wolf Blitzer, Senator Mike Enzi, and Emmitt Smith.

Speaking from his experience in becoming a journalist and CNN’s Lead Anchor, Wolf Blitzer encouraged the medalists,

“Find what you really, really love doing and see if there’s a good career path you can take, that will enable you to do that on a day-to-day basis. You’ll do it well—if you love what you’re doing.”

United States Senator from Wyoming, Mike Enzi humbly told Chairman Baker,

“My reward is watching the youth respond to Congressional Awards, and develop through Congressional Awards, and then do things after the Congressional Awards.”

NFL Hall of Famer and businessman Emmitt Smith shared the wisdom he had gained from his family and throughout his career,

“We all have a responsibility to each other, not only to earn the right to be respected and give respect, but to take the opportunity to help another person in need.”

Videos and photos submitted by the Gold Medalists were shown with participants highlighting aspects of the program that meant most to them. Medalist Abhinav Krishnan from North Carolina said,

“The Congressional Award program has given me the ability to see past my social circles in my everyday life and see the true challenges that my real community faces.”

Carson Beck of Arizona commented on some of his Voluntary Public Service work:

“I was able to learn about giving back to my community through raising money for wounded veterans, and redoing a rock wall for a youth outreach center in my community.”

Lavanya Neti from California told viewers how the program

“inspired me to start my own non-profit, Schools for Success, where I guide and motivate other young people to complete their own charitable projects.”

Among other medalists’ videos, special remarks were given by Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-8), and Congresswoman Liz Cheney (WY-0).

“I hope you all will join me in congratulating these young people for all their hard work in making our community a better place,” said Congresswoman Porter, who’s district had the most Gold Medalists this year, with 42 awardees.

Also giving special remarks was Senator for New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, who told the medalists

“Your dedication and service to your communities is needed now more than ever. You’ve shown you not only have what it takes to lead the next generation, but to lead our country into the future.”

As the ceremony video came to a close, viewers were shown a message from Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell:

“I’m proud of the bright young people in Kentucky, and around the country, who have committed time and talent to serving their communities. I’m excited to see all the good that you’ll continue to do.”

Following the ceremony video, Gold Medalists tuned in for a Keynote Address from Congressional Award Board Member and past Gold Medalist (class of ’04) Mateo Magdaleno. Magdaleno is an internationally known, community servant leader and professional empowerment speaker with an inspiring story that stresses the importance of never giving up on the pursuit of an education despite the challenges involved.

Focus on the things you do have, and not the things you don’t have. Work with what you’ve got! We can change our attitudes towards our circumstances. Choose happiness. Choose gratitude.”

Following the Keynote, National Director of The Congressional Award, Erica Heyse made a few exciting announcements and conducted live giveaways for Washington Nationals merch.

Among the announcements was The Congressional Award’s latest partnership in coordination with the program’s Diversity & Inclusion initiative, with Intuit.

Check out The Congressional Award’s Personal Finance Program, powered by Intuit, here.

The medalists then joined virtual break-out networking sessions with The Congressional Award Board Members, sharing their experiences with the program, their interests, and taking advantage of the opportunity to connect with their peers.

Four afternoon panels on topics of interests to the medalists included discussions around nonprofit leadership, race relations and social justice, women in leadership, and entrepreneurship. Panelists featured an array of social, government, and industry leaders committed to work in each area of focus.


Panel #1 | Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers and Shattering Glass Ceilings

  • Keira Lombardo (Executive Vice President, Corporate Affairs and Compliance, Smithfield Foods)
  • Kerry McClean (Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Intuit)
  • Karen Gally (Vice President & General Counsel, Otsuka)
  • Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas’ 18th Congressional District)

Moderator:

  • Sanyin Siang (Founding Executive Director, COLE, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business)

Panel #2 | Nonprofit Leadership: Where Business and Social Change Intersect

  • Merrill Eisenhower Atwater (CEO, People to People International)
  • Adan Gonzalez (Founder & Executive Director, Puede Network)
  • Deborah Rutter (President, The Kennedy Center)
  • Depelsha McGruder (COO & Treasurer, Ford Foundation)
  • Congressman David Cicilline (Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District)

Moderator:

  • Ray Kerins (Senior Vice President and Head of Communications, Government Relations & Policy, Bayer)

Panel #3 | Entrepreneurship: Betting on Yourself

  • Brian K. Johnson (President & CEO, Advance Higher Ed LLC)
  • Brad Knox (Senior Vice President & Counsel, Aflac)
  • Chiling Tong (President & CEO, National ACE)
  • Kirk Spahn (Founder & President, Institute for Civic Leadership)
  • Congressman Jim Himes (Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District)

Moderator:

  • Romero Brown (CEO, Romero Brown Consulting)

Panel #4 | Race Relations & Social Justice: Not a Trend, but a Lifelong Commitment to Progress

  • Dr. Hakim J. Lucas (President & CEO, Virginia Union University)
  • Councilmember Will Jawando (Montgomery County Council, Attorney, Activist)
  • Courtney Christian (Senior Director of Policy and Research, PhRMA)
  • Jodie Geddes (Co-Manager, Coming to the Table)

Moderator:

  • David Osman (Clinical Quality Program Administrator, Anthem)

The virtual ceremony, usually held in person at The Capitol Visitor Center, is one of several steps taken by The Congressional Award Foundation to support and celebrate America’s youth during the pandemic. To learn about some of the ways The Congressional Award has responded to the pandemic and upcoming programs and updates visit us at our website.

The Gold Medalist Class of 2020 come from 41 states, contributing a combined total of over 226,000 hours of Voluntary Public Service to their communities – the states with the highest number of awardees being California, Wyoming, Texas, New Jersey, and New York. See our fact sheet for our full list of medalists from this year and other interesting facts.


For reporters working on national stories and/or members of TV, radio, new media broadcasting:
Bethie Woodall
woodall@congressionalaward.org

Erica Heyse
heyse@congressionalaward.org

For reporters working on local stories, partner organization/congressional staff inquiries, or general information:
Matt Tick
tick@congressionalaward.org

U.S. Congress to Honor Youth Nationwide with Congressional Award Gold Medal in First-Ever Virtual Ceremony

MEDIA ADVISORY
Contact: Bethie Woodall | woodall@congressionalaward.org
Download PDF Version


What
The Congressional Award Gold Medal Ceremony will recognize 478 Congressional Award recipients across the nation for their goal-setting achievements in voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration.

When
Saturday, September 26, 2020
1:00 p.m. ET

1:00 p.m. | Ceremony Opening & Medalist Recognition
2:00 p.m. | Keynote & Giveaways
2:15 p.m. | Medalist Break-Out Groups & Networking
3:00 p.m. | Panel Discussions

 

Where
The ceremony, which is traditionally held in the Congressional Auditorium at the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center, will take place virtually this year.

Who
The Gold Medalists, their families, as well as loved ones will virtually attend. The Gold Medal Ceremony will include video messages from various Members of both the House and the Senate as well as influential speakers including messages from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and interviews with guests Wolf Blitzer, Emmitt Smith, and Senator Mike Enzi.

Media Information
View a list of this year’s 478 awardees (including hometowns).
Download a copy of the ceremony program.
Full event info, as well as the full list of panelists and moderators, can be found here on our website.


The Congressional Award is the U.S. Congress’ only charity and the highest honor bestowed upon a young person through the Senate and House. 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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The Foundation Announces Task Force on Curriculum and Virtual Programming

Education Leaders Unite to Develop Emotional and Mental Health Summer Programs for Students


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 19, 2020 — Today, The Congressional Award Foundation (CAF), the United States Congress’ public-private partnership for young Americans, created the Task Force on Curriculum and Virtual Programming, following the suspension of its annual Gold Medal Ceremony. The task force will provide middle, high school, and college students with at-home resources for emotional and mental health, STEM education, and opportunities to remain engaged in community service. The group is chaired by CAF board member Dr. Linda Mitchell, extension professor and regional extension coordinator, Mississippi State University.

The Congressional Award Foundation Task Force on Curriculum and Virtual Programming is developing content for students and educators alike within virtual learning platforms. The task force recently released opportunities for Congressional Award participants to complete their goals from the safety of their homes with the introduction of Tools and Tips in the Age of Coronavirus and Feel Good News: Participants Answering the Call to Service. Guest speakers, lecturers, Congressional Award presentations, guidance for effective goal-setting, and opportunities to meet immediate needs through volunteerism are among the programs that will soon be available.

“We are excited to bring together an alliance of exceptional leaders in education to assist in the evolution of The Congressional Award Foundation and how it serves America’s youngest constituents during these challenging times,” said Paxton Baker, Chairman of the Board of The Congressional Award Foundation. “Many of our teens are withdrawing and finding it difficult to navigate through this period of isolation away from friends, sports, and hobbies. There is concern from parents and teachers that students do not have the experience with self-care and methodology to bring joy and passion back into their lives. We are committed to filling that void.”

Among the committee, members include Congressional Award Foundation board of directors and alumni in the education and non-profit sectors: Dr. Brian Johnson, president & CEO, Advance Higher Ed, LLC (Washington, D.C.); Kathryn Weeden, former principal, United States Senate Page School (Washington, D.C.); Laura O’Connor, registrar, Cedar Valley High School (Eagle Mountain, Utah); Mateo Magdaleno, chief education officer, IDQ Group, Inc. (Dallas, Texas); Mitch Draizin, president, CUNY LGBT Advisory Council (New York, New York); and Romero Brown, chief professional officer, Romero Brown Consulting (Acworth, Georgia).

The committee formed in response to the suspension of The Congressional Award Gold Medal Ceremony, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, originally scheduled to take place June 15-17, 2020 at the United States Capitol. The Ceremony traditionally welcomes members of the United States Congress, public and private partners, and industry and civic leaders to recognize gold medalists before an audience of their families and peers in a multi-day event. Last year’s ceremony recognized 538 youth across 42 states and territories who logged at least 800 hours of voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration activities.

To learn more about The Congressional Award or to support the mission during this transition, including donations, please visit www.congressionalward.org.

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.

# # #
Download PDF Version

Contact:
Kyle Rosenbaum, for The Congressional Award
(212) 266-0222
krosenbaum@kylearnett.com

6 ways to be a good virtual neighbor

Daily life has changed. Times are tough. But this isn’t insurmountable and we can all show a little compassion to ease the burdens of our community members. Here are a few reminders to trigger our neighborly duties:

Give

Make a donation to non-profits, who despite this crisis are still providing much needed services to local communities. Or donate goods and PPE supplies to those on the front lines fighting this pandemic.

Thank

Show some love to our healthcare workers, delivery drivers, and other essential workers. Write thank you cards, post on social media, and share your appreciation for the people and organizations who keep our nation functioning.

Volunteer

You can volunteer virtually from the safety and comfort of your home. Give your voice to help raise awareness, lend your talents to a nonprofit who needs your skills, or take half an hour to call a senior who may be alone.

Support

Buy and order from small businesses and local restaurants and raise awareness for organizations that are getting hit the hardest by this pandemic. Celebrate members of your community who are giving back.

Be Kind

Kindness is contagious. Buy flowers or groceries for a neighbor, send someone a gift card or meal, message an old friend, or hang an inspiring message from your window.

Respond

Help with response efforts by searching for ways to help at-risk or vulnerable individuals, sewing masks for nurses and doctors, donating excess food items to shelters and food banks, or giving blood the safe way.


(Click the image below to download PDF resource)

 

Tricks of the trade: Working (or schooling) from home

Teams and classrooms across the world have entered a new normal – trying to find productivity and comfort in their remote environment. Being stuck at home 24/7 is difficult. Luckily, we have a few tools and tips to ease the transition.

Set up your workspace

Find an area in your home that’s conducive to working. It can be a desk or the couch, just make sure it’s separate from your non-work space and allows you to focus.

Stick to your routine

If you typically wake up early, take a shower, have breakfast or a cup of coffee, continue to do so in your new normal. This will prepare your mind and body for a productive day.

Have a to-do list

Before you start each day, list down your priorities the evening before. Set specific windows of time to complete your projects (uninterrupted) and stick to your schedule.

Communicate

Check-in with your employer/teacher and colleagues/classmates from time to time. Update them on your schedule and deliverables, especially if there are any changes.

Take breaks

The key to a productive day (and your sanity) is balance. Give yourself enough time to walk away from your computer screen and phone. Move around, take a water break, work on a personal hobby, find a 15 minute reward.

Socialize

When the entire office or class is working from home, you’re not exchanging the same pleasantries as a normal in-person day. You may go hours without a real conversation. Take time to call, text, or FaceTime important people in your life.

Curate your work from home media

Create a playlist or listen to a podcast while you work. Share it with your colleagues and classmates too to share the vibe.

Align work schedules with your family/roommates

Working from home is an adjustment. Coordinate with your parents, partner, children, or roommate so you’re not in each other’s way and can help one another throughout the day.


(Click the image below to download PDF resource)

Feel Good News: COVID-19 Edition

Have your own Feel Good News story to share? Submit here.


Gold Medalist shrinks the PPE deficit by hand-making over 600 masks

Eunice Lee, a high school junior from Reseda, California, is addressing the global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) one stitch at a time.

She assembled and mailed an initial 235 kits, each containing 2 masks, disposable gloves, sanitizing wipes, and a heartfelt letter. Eunice soon found herself out of money and materials to continue so she set up a GoFundMe for her cause. Within a matter of weeks the project was revitalized by generous donors.

“I studied in the morning and spent my afternoons and many nights making masks. The process was undoubtedly tedious but it was worth every minute.” Eunice’s masks have been sent to pandemic epicenters all around the world like California, Germany, Italy, Korea, and New York.

 


16-year-old pilot flies medical supplies to rural hospitals

TJ Kim has turned his flying lessons into missions of mercy, bringing desperately needed supplies to rural communities in need. Dubbed “Operation SOS — Supplies Over Skies, TJ carries gloves, masks, gowns, and other equipment to small hospitals. “Every hospital is hurting for supplies, but it’s the rural hospitals that really feel forgotten.” TJ has been featured on AP News, NBC Nightly News: Kids Edition, and WSLS.


Siblings create non-profit to raise funds and support for local organizations

Annie and Jaime Wang moved from Texas to Hawaii in 2018. They were shocked to see how prevalent the homeless population was in Honolulu. To address the issue, the siblings established Support Hawaii Keiki, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on bringing help, hope, and happiness to homeless families.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Wangs launched a fundraising campaign to purchase over 400 medical masks and make a donation to Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children to show their support to health professionals working on the front line.


Teen delivers surprise gift bags to local doctors & nurses

13-year-old Charles Hoppe delivered gift bags to Advent Health doctors and nurses in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Each bag included a drink, snacks, and a special letter of encouragement. “I’d been reading about COVID-19 and I know that everybody here is at a great risk and I wanted to do this to show my appreciation.” Read more.


Silver Medalist creates non-contact food and essentials delivery service

“Teens Helping Seniors” is an organization that aims to provide no-contact grocery deliveries to senior citizens and other vulnerable populations. Dhruv Pai of Potomac, Maryland says he started the organization when he saw a need that hit close to home. His grandparents were scared to leave their home to go grocery shopping, so he offered to help. That’s when he realized other people might be in a similar situation. Learn more about Dhruv’s work.


‘Performing a civic duty’

Simoni Mishra works with children from other schools in Montgomery County, Maryland to create Personal Protective Equipment to deliver to the county office. She makes and delivers 25 masks in each batch. “The email from county officials shows the desperate need for PPE. And emergency workers do so much for us…this is a tiny contribution from my part to do my civic duty.” In addition, Simoni also sends inspirational video messages to nearby seniors and the elderly care center where she volunteers.


Zachery deploys traveling library service for COVID-19 relief

Through his own service project, Gustine Traveling Library, Zachery Ramos is distributing free vegetables to those in need, free water to a local elderly home, and making masks to give out to fieldworkers and first responders to keep them safe. Zachery’s team has provided 100 gallons of water, 30+ plus bags of vegetables, and 50 masks already!


Song = Therapy

The world around us is changing every second. Anjali Sanghavi of Fairfax, Virginia felt that as a high school student there was only so much she could do to help others while staying safe at the same time. So she decided to do the thing she loves the most…sing! Anjali assembled a group of singer friends and called all of her family and friends to put together a message for those on the frontline fighting the coronavirus. She has shared her message of hope with hospitals, medical professionals, senior homes, and those who are alone during this crisis in hopes that it “makes them feel not so alone!”


Teen shares science lessons online

Before the quarantine, Dhruv Balaji created an organization called Spectrum Robotics to teach robotics to children with autism through in-person sessions. He brought together a group of high school students interested in robotics to teach the classes.

Now that everyone is stuck at home, Dhruv is trying to make an impact digitally by making videos about simple computer science to educate children who are interested. “I really enjoy educating people and knowing that I made a difference in their life, whether I am physically there with them or not.”


‘A beautiful gesture from today’s youth’

15-year-old Ayush Desai felt compelled to help first responders in his Woodbridge and Edison, New Jersey. He contacted local businesses asking for either monetary donations or supplies to benefit the Avenel Fire Department and Woodbridge Police Department. Ayush was humbled by the generosity of community members who helped him raise nearly $1,000 ($400 of his own money) and materialize 400 masks, 50 boxes of gloves, and several boxes of sanitizer. “Hopefully this will be the start of something that can change many more lives.”


New Jersey teen launches 24-hour mask-a-thon

On Sunday, April 5th, Isaac Buckman of Manapalan, New Jersey constructed face masks and face shields for 24 hours straight, without any extended breaks. He streamed the entire process live on Twitch. In the end, Isaac was able to make over 200 face masks and 5 face shields that he donated to his local hospital.

“My goal was to motivate others to help out in the effort against COVID-19, whether this be by making masks or by getting groceries for those who are more at risk.” Learn more about Isaac’s project at App.com, New Jersey News Network, and The Two River Times.


Silver Medalist prepares neighbors for the fight

“This pandemic has affected everyone’s life in different ways and I wanted to provide people with a little relief and ease the stress for attaining the necessary equipment to fight the virus.” Before the demand for masks went high, Runfei (Ray) Zhou of Temecula, California was already advocating the need to wear protective masks on his social media platforms. After finding suppliers, he collected and received donations from friends and family to purchase an initial box of masks. Ray then went to grocery stores and big box stores to hand out masks to employees and residents. He later posted on the neighborhood app Nextdoor to garner more attention from his community. Before his state’s stay-at-home order, Ray even delivered masks to seniors and residents with pre-existing health conditions as well as his local park.


Helping the community through ‘dignified service’

With help from Hearts for the Homeless International, Valory Anne Vailoces of Lakeland, Florida created portable hand-washing stations for the homeless at food shares in Orlando and Tallahassee, Florida. She also helped educate food share volunteers about social distancing and personal hygiene measures in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “Without the foods shares, hundreds of homeless people would go hungry. We want to show volunteers and the homeless that they are not forgotten and that someone cares enough to keep them healthy.”


Sibling Gold Medalists turn frustration into action

Caroline and Ian Bonner were both notified that they had each earned The Congressional Award Gold Medal earlier this year. Fast forward a few months: The coronavirus hits and their plans to travel to Washington, D.C. this summer for the Gold Medal Ceremony came to a sudden halt. Instead of planning their trip to the nation’s capital, they decided to put the spirit of The Congressional Award into action in their community by packing and distributing food through a local non-profit. “We’re grateful for this opportunity to serve.”


Leadership grows in times of crisis

As news of the coronavirus first broke several months ago, Eric Chang of Johns Creek, Georgia sought to find a way to help those in China who had been affected. Of course, the disease soon made its way to the United States. From this point, Eric understood that it was but a matter of time before it would impact his own community, so he began to assemble a team and develop an idea to combat the issue locally. Within the first few weeks, he was able to create a base for his newly founded nonprofit, Covid Care, establishing that their mission would be to use our actions to encourage more students to act out. Erica was able to partner with OurHouse Atlanta, Caringworks, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and several more, spending weeks just collecting supplies and materials from drives and donations.

Since Eric’s team knew that many materials, such as face masks and hand sanitizer, were limited and highly expensive, they decided to construct their own. Following their first distribution, Covid Care released a documentary outlining their work, launched a website, and secured a sponsor – multiplying their impact to hundreds of individuals across the state.

“We are now looking to expand upon the student network that we had originally conceived, and we want to build a channel across the country with branches led by student nonprofits and organizations.”


Non-profit founder rises to the occasion

In 2018, Srilaasya Yenduri of Portland, Oregon established the student-led non-profit organization CyberBORN to help impoverished children gain better access to education, food, and shelter in places like India, Guatemala, and Ethiopia. Since the coronavirus outbreak, CyberBORN has delivered over 200 masks to senior homes and a local children’s hospital. “We are also in the process of establishing digital classrooms in orphanages so that remote learning can finally be a reality in rural parts of India. Additionally, we will be sponsoring meals for doctors and nurses in the coming weeks.”


Teen connects organizations with youth volunteers

Volunteers are needed now more than ever to combat the spread of the coronavirus and provide relief to community members. Students are out of school with many looking for purposeful ways to fill their days. But Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania teen Nicholas Zonarich noticed one piece was missing – connecting organizations in need with volunteers in a simple and efficient way. “This is where I realized that I could help.”

In summer 2019, Nicholas created a website, jrvolunteer.org, to promote youth volunteer opportunities in his community. He has since connected 100 organizations with 20,000 local students. Jrvolunteer.org is now providing the link between local youth and organizations in need of volunteers to support many needs in the community due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many benefits come from volunteering for youth: improvement and/or development of new skills, decreased stress, and a sense of purpose. In some way, if many can find a way to contribute to the common good, our communities will remain strong. I challenge all youth to find a way to add value to their community by getting involved now or in the future.”


Middle school student 3D prints ‘Ear Savers’ for medical professionals

Krishna Venugopal of The Woodlands, Texas wanted to help his area medical community. He came across an idea for ‘Ear Savers,’ a product designed to alleviate the pressure and irritation caused by the bands of face masks when worn for extended periods of time.

Having never even seen a 3D printer before, Krishna felt compelled to borrow one from a friend to create his own ear savers. He spent a week researching the technology and resources for beginners then built his first prototype in about 5 hours. Krishna has now made a total of 30 ear savers and distributed to three doctors/practitioners for use in their practices. “The experience has been very uplifting and satisfying for me in that I have been able to contribute my little bit to our community and have learned that every small bit counts.”


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Voluntary Public Service Requirement Leniency

The Foundation lifts restrictions of direct vs. indirect service requirements through June 2021


We understand that this is a trying time for participants and their families, especially when it comes to completing Voluntary Public Service activities while quarantined. The Foundation wants to ensure that we are supporting youth and providing avenues for success in our program during this unprecedented time.

Our current guidelines require that at least 75% of Voluntary Public Service activities be direct service hours in which participants are interacting with and providing a direct service to the community they are serving. No more than 25% of Voluntary Public Service should be indirect service like planning, training, fundraising, etc.

However, given the current circumstances of COVID-19 and in order to ensure the safety of participants, The Congressional Award will lift the restrictions of direct vs. indirect service requirements for the foreseeable future, enabling participants to complete their activities from their homes.

We encourage participants to change or adjust their goals to conform to social distancing/stay at home practices and advise that participants discuss these challenges and how they overcame them on their Record Book submissions.

Additionally, our team has been working to identify new and creative ways that participants might be able to complete Voluntary Public Service hours in the age of coronavirus.

The following are projects worth considering:

  • Meeting immediate needs: Making and/or securing PPE (personal protective equipment) like masks, face shields, isolation gowns, disposable gloves to be donated to health workers.
  • Volunteering remotely for non-profit organizations
  • Assisting public schools with the implementation of remote learning and/or helping educators with grading/administrative work
  • Virtual tutoring/mentoring
  • Packaging and delivering essential supplies to the elderly or home-bound or to students who rely on meals from their schools
  • Organizing digital fundraisers for non-profits or crisis response groups
  • Writing letters to those serving in the armed forces abroad, children in medical isolation, or persons under quarantine
  • Making articles of clothing for hospital patients
  • Donating blood the safe way
  • Making signs and writing thank you notes for first responders, hospital staff, and medical workers.

Safety is paramount. Participants should remember to always protect themselves and follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state/local officials when setting their goals.

Find additional tools and tips for completing The Congressional Award from home here.

Our team remains a resource as we all navigate this ever-evolving situation. Participants that want feedback on their service ideas should contact their program manager.

Ford’s Pamela Alexander, Larry H. Miller’s Amanda Covington Join Congressional Award Board of Directors

Washington, DC (March 10, 2020) — The Congressional Award Foundation announces the election of Pamela Alexander and Amanda Covington to the National Board of Directors, effective immediately.

“We’re privileged to welcome Amanda and Pamela to our team during a time of growth and innovation for our organization. Each bring unique talents and perspectives that will strengthen our leadership and tighten our focus on the future of Congress’ award program for youth,” said Paxton K. Baker, Chairman of The Congressional Award Board of Directors.

Pamela Alexander is Director of Community Development for Ford Motor Company Fund, the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company.

In this position she is responsible for leading Ford Fund’s community engagement and outreach initiatives with key non-profit organizations throughout the U.S. These include Ford Fund’s nationally recognized teen driving program, Driving Skills for Life, multicultural and women’s initiatives, and community development programs.

Prior to her appointment in the Ford Fund, Pamela held a variety of positions in the Ford Motor Company Governmental Affairs office, ranging from policy development on strategic issues and manager of the Company’s PAC and grassroots activities.

Ms. Alexander dedicates her time and has served on various nonprofit boards including the GRAMMY Museum Foundation, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the NAACP Foundation, the Memorial Foundation, the National Civil Rights Museum, and the Dean’s Advisory Committee of the University of Michigan School of Dentistry.

Recognized as one of Ebony Magazines 2020 Power 100, Ms. Alexander has also been honored with a “High Heels in High Places” award by the Trumpet Foundation, a “Corporate Trailblazer” award from Rainbow PUSH, the Community Service award from the Arab American and Chaldean Council, and was in African Americans on Wheels as one of the auto industry’s most influential African-American women.

Amanda Covington is Chief Communications & Government Relations Officer for the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.

She recently served as Senior Vice President, Communications and Government Relations for Vista Outdoor Inc. Covington has more than 20 years of experience leading corporate communications and government relations strategies impacting financial communications, crisis communications, domestic and international media/public relations, corporate branding and advertising, digital media, employee relations, public policy and legislation, industry associations, and community relations.

Covington serves as both a trustee and a board member for the Walker Institute of Politics and Public Service for Weber State University, an advisory board member for the Utah Women’s Leadership Institute, a member of the University of Utah College of Social and Behavioral Science Advancement Board, and a board member of the Utah chapter of National Association of Corporate Directors.

Learn more about Pamela and Amanda 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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Call for 2020 Gold Medal Record Books

Going for Gold this year?

In order to be eligible for the 2020 Gold Medal class, participants must meet two deadlines:
Record Books are due no later than February 1, 2020
Revisions are due no later than March 15, 2020


Are you planning to be part of the annual Gold Medal Ceremony in Washington, D.C. this summer? Be sure to submit your Gold Medal Record Book to the national office no later than February 1, 2020 at 11:59 p.m ET. This is a postmark, email, and fax deadline.

Submissions made after February 1st will be grouped with the 2021 Gold Medal class.

If you currently have a submission in review or pending, you have until March 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. ET to submit any revisions.

Unsure about your status?
Contact your state’s program manager with your question.

Meet the 2020 Gold Medal class:
Once again, this year’s class is on pace to be the largest in program history. See where each hail from.