“Find Your Why”: Congressional Award Foundation Hosts Entrepreneurship Panel for Gold Medalists

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Rachel Mallory, Manager of Corporate Partnerships

mallory@congressionalaward.org


October 7, 2020

Washington, DC

Last Saturday, The Congressional Award Foundation hosted an interactive “Entrepreneurship” Panel as part of the first-ever virtual Gold Medal Ceremony, which honored 478 incredible young leaders with the highest recognition bestowed by Congress.

The panel was moderated by Romero Brown, of Romero Brown Consulting, who led a thoughtful discussion with experienced government and industry leaders, including:

  • Congressman Jim Himes, Represents Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District
  • Brad Knox, Aflac
  • Chiling Tong, National Asian American Chamber of Commerce (ACE)
  • Dr. Brian K. Johnson, Advance Higher Education, LLC
  • Kirk Spahn, Institute for Civic Leadership

Panelists shared valuable life skills and strategies for success in the business world. Attendees were also given the opportunity to ask their own questions related to entrepreneurship and their personal goals.

Finding purpose, networking and learning, and promoting a diverse workplace were highlights of the discussion.

“Find your why,” shares Dr. Brian K. Johnson (Advance Higher Education, LLC), referring to the importance of understanding your purpose for going into business. Dr. Johnson is a seasoned educational administrator and entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience in higher education, as a professor, consultant, and business owner.

“Be curious and stay curious – always learn,” was advice given by Brad Knox, who joined Aflac in 2006 and is responsible for leading Aflac’s Federal Relations team.

Panelists discussed the value of developing marketing skills and finding opportunities to network with others. Congressman Jim Himes shared how business prepared him for politics, “In business, learn how to communicate and market.”

How can young people explore entrepreneurship? Kirk Spahn of the Institute for Civic Leadership is a fourth-generation educator with more than two decades in the field. To foster creativity, Spahn shares the importance of giving students the environment to thrive – “Encourage the students to dare to dream and dare to take risks.”

The value of diversity in all areas of business was emphasized. Chiling Tong (National ACE) has intensive experience in economic and business development, with a focus on enhancing the growth of minority business enterprises. Tong shares, “Private institutions can implement changes in their company by creating initiatives that foster more diverse and inclusive work environments – companies that establish diversity programs can expect a more innovative office with more creativity and higher retention rates.

The virtual Gold Medal 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 more about some of the other ways The Congressional Award has responded to the pandemic and upcoming programs and updates, visit us at our website.

For reporters working on national stories and/or members of TV, radio, new media broadcasting:

Bethie Woodall, Director of Events & Strategic Communications

woodall@congressionalaward.org

Erica Heyse, National Director

heyse@congressionalaward.org

For reporters working on local stories, partner organization/congressional staff inquiries, or general information:

Matt Tick, Program Director

tick@congressionalaward.org


“We Can Bridge the Gap”: Congressional Award Foundation Hosts Nonprofit Leadership Panel for Gold Medalists

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Rachel Mallory, Manager of Corporate Partnerships

mallory@congressionalaward.org


October 7, 2020

Washington, DC

Last Saturday, The Congressional Award Foundation hosted an interactive “Nonprofit Leadership” Panel as part of the first-ever virtual Gold Medal Ceremony, which honored 478 incredible young leaders with the highest recognition bestowed by Congress.

The panel was moderated by Ray Kerins, Senior Vice President and Head of Communications, Government Relations & Policy for Bayer Corporation, who led a thoughtful discussion with experienced government and industry leaders, including:

  • Congressman David N. Cicilline, Representing Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District
  • Merrill Eisenhower Atwater, People to People International
  • Depelsha McGruder, The Ford Foundation
  • Adan Gonzalez, The Puede Network
  • Deborah Rutter, The John F. Kennedy Center

The panel discussed the value of nonprofit organizations in the United States, along with the challenges and opportunities that arise when in the nonprofit sector.

“Make sure your voice is heard loudly in the democracy that you are a part of,” expressed Congressman David N. Cicilline. The Congressman also spoke to the value of nonprofits when he served as Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, expressing that many of his accomplishments during this time were because of “efforts from intense partnerships with nonprofits.”

Merrill Eisenhower Atwater, great-grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, serves as the Chief Executive Officer of People to People International. “We can bridge the gap and promote cultural understanding through tolerance and diversity,” says Atwater, who also shares that education, cultural exchange, and humanitarian work around the world are crucial to their success as an organization.

Adan Gonzalez developed the Puede Network as a way to meet the needs of his community. In the panel, Gonzalez explained how his nonprofit organization started with only seventeen students tutoring in his backyard, but has now grown to reach over 5,000 families in a recreation center. “It is my responsibility to create opportunities that don’t exist in my neighborhood – we are successful when we are no longer a need.”

Depelsha McGruder is the Ford Foundation’s Chief Operating Officer and Treasurer. “The nonprofit world is not without financial pressure,” she explained, encouraging youth to learn valuable business and financial management skills.

How can young people get involved with the causes they care about? Deborah Rutter, President of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, spoke of her own experiences, “I am doing what I do because I am emotionally drawn to this work. Stay focused and explore opportunities, and you will have success.”

The virtual Gold Medal 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 more about some of the other ways The Congressional Award has responded to the pandemic and upcoming programs and updates, visit us at our website.

For reporters working on national stories and/or members of TV, radio, new media broadcasting:

Bethie Woodall, Director of Events & Strategic Communications

woodall@congressionalaward.org

Erica Heyse, National Director

heyse@congressionalaward.org

For reporters working on local stories, partner organization/congressional staff inquiries, or general information:

Matt Tick, Program Director

tick@congressionalaward.org


“Our Success is How We Are Able to Lead”: Congressional Award Foundation Hosts Women in Leadership Panel for Gold Medalists

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Rachel Mallory, Manager of Corporate Partnerships

mallory@congressionalaward.org


October 7, 2020

Washington, DC

Last Saturday, The Congressional Award Foundation hosted an interactive “Women in Leadership” Panel as part of the first-ever virtual Gold Medal Ceremony, which honored 478 incredible young leaders with the highest recognition bestowed by Congress.

The panel was moderated by Sanyin Siang, Founding Executive Director of the Coach K Leadership and Ethics Center (COLE), who led a thoughtful discussion with experienced government and industry leaders, including:

  • Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Representing Texas’ 18th Congressional District
  • Karen Gally, Otsuka
  • Kerry McLean, Intuit
  • Keira Lombardo, Smithfield Foods

Building confidence and fostering curiosity were highlights of the discussion. Attendees were also given the opportunity to ask their own questions related to leadership.

“Our success is how we are able to lead, guide, comfort, and get through it on the other side – so many of our problems today are because people do not understand each other,” shared Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, in a powerful statement. She encouraged the Gold Medalists to be the champions of seeing people from their eyes to help solve problems and be the solution.

Panelists shared how they have overcome fear when finding their voice in the workplace. Keira Lombardo, who serves as Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Compliance for Smithfield Foods, gave this advice, “If you’re not naturally confident, I found that the only way to get through it is to push yourself to swallow your fear and deliver your message.”

How can young leaders advance in the workplace? “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Be more assertive than you think you should be,” shared Karen Galley, Vice President & General Counsel for Otsuka, a pharmaceutical company.

“Engage fully with everything you do with 100% curiosity,” said Kerry McLean, who leads Intuit’s legal and global corporate affairs teams as they work to support Intuit’s mission of powering prosperity around the world. “Ask a lot of questions, don’t worry so much about what others think.”

The Congressional Award Foundation also announced their partnership with Intuit, maker of TurboTax, QuickBooks, and Mint, to develop their Personal Finance Program to help youth own their financial future while earning hours towards their Congressional Award Personal Development goal. The program is open to all youth regardless of ability, circumstance, and socioeconomic status.

The virtual Gold Medal 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 more about some of the other ways The Congressional Award has responded to the pandemic and upcoming programs and updates, visit us at our website.

For reporters working on national stories and/or members of TV, radio, new media broadcasting:

Bethie Woodall, Director of Events & Strategic Communications

woodall@congressionalaward.org

Erica Heyse, National Director

heyse@congressionalaward.org

For reporters working on local stories, partner organization/congressional staff inquiries, or general information:

Matt Tick, Program Director

tick@congressionalaward.org


“You’ve Got to Use Your Life to Make a Difference.”: Congressional Award Foundation Hosts Race Relations & Social Justice Panel for Gold Medalists

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Bethie Woodall, Director of Events & Strategic Communications

woodall@congressionalaward.org


October 7, 2020

Washington, DC

Last Saturday, The Congressional Award Foundation hosted an interactive “Race Relations & Social Justice” Panel as part of the first-ever virtual Gold Medal Ceremony, which honored 478 incredible young leaders with the highest recognition bestowed by Congress.

The panel was moderated by David Osman, Clinical Quality Program Administrator at Anthem, who led a thoughtful discussion with experienced government and industry leaders, including:

  • Jodie Geddes, Coming to the Table
  • Courtney Christian, PhRMA
  • Councilmember Will Jawando, Montgomery County Council
  • Dr. Hakim J. Lukas, Virginia Union University

Race issues and intersectionality were highlights of the discussion. Attendees were also given the opportunity to ask their own questions related to leadership.

Panelists shared with youth how they can empower one another and influence real change. Dr. Hakim J. Lukas, who serves as the president of HBCU Virginia Union University, gave this advice, “You’ve got to use your life to make a difference.  We need to use our lives in a way that we don’t have to die for change anymore, but we can live for it.”

“A lot of times, people think policy changes can only come from an elected office, but no, policy is happening every day in the rooms that you’re in and the spaces that you occupy… you have the opportunity to influence policy” shared Councilmember Will Jawando, in a powerful statement. He encouraged the Gold Medalists to broaden their perception of what policy is and how we can all influence social, economic, and racial changes in our communities.

What kind of discrimination are we dealing with today? “We are at an inflection point right now, where every industry is trying to figure out how to be better and show up better for black and brown communities… Systemic racism is as real as any disease, and our industry is not immune.” shared Courtney Christian, Senior Director of Policy and Research at PhRMA, a trade group representing companies in the pharmaceutical industry.

“We can dismantle systems and structures, and there is healing work that needs to be done in our bodies, our communities, and with our land” said Jodie Geddes, who serves as Vice President of the Board of Managers of Coming to the Table, a program that provides leadership, resources, and a supportive environment for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism that is rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.

The virtual Gold Medal 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 more about some of the other ways The Congressional Award has responded to the pandemic and upcoming programs and updates, visit us at our website.

For reporters working on national stories and/or members of TV, radio, new media broadcasting:

Bethie Woodall, Director of Events & Strategic Communications

woodall@congressionalaward.org

Erica Heyse, National Director

heyse@congressionalaward.org

For reporters working on local stories, partner organization/congressional staff inquiries, or general information:

Matt Tick, Program Director

tick@congressionalaward.org


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