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State youth received Congressional honors
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Forty-two Mississippians received the highest honor the U.S. Congress gives to young people when they were given Congressional Awards Sept. 29 in Jackson.
Two young people received the gold award, 11 the silver and 29 the bronze. They earned these awards by meeting goals they set for themselves in community service, personal development, expedition/exploration and physical fitness.
Linda Mitchell, interim director for Mississippi State University Extension Service's northeast district, said Congress established the program in 1979 to encourage young people in leadership and personal development. Mitchell has been involved with the program for nine years and is a national board member of the Congressional Award program.
"The program aims to get young people in the habit of providing community service and constantly bettering themselves so they will see the benefits of it and continue to serve their communities throughout life," Mitchell said.
The award program is for young people ages 14 to 24 and commemorates their efforts through three progressively more difficult levels of achievement. Participants work with an advisor to set goals for themselves in each of the four areas. A validator certifies that the young person met the goals and is qualified for the award.
"In Mississippi, 4-H is a perfect match for the Congressional Award program," Mitchell said. "We use 4-H agents as validators in many cases, and youth can complete any of the 4-H project areas to meet the requirements for personal development."
Erin Anderson, 17, is a 4-Her from Sherman in Pontotoc County and a recent recipient of the silver medal. She reached most of her goals for both the bronze and silver awards through her involvement in 4-H.
"I thought it was really neat that it is the highest medal Congress would give to youth. I thought I would try it," Anderson said.
She has spent almost three years in the program and has just begun work to earn a gold medal. She wants to meet these more involved goals in two years.
"To earn the gold for personal development, I'm learning to play a new instrument, the bowed psaltery. It's a stringed instrument kind of like a violin, and it is mentioned in the Bible in Psalms," Anderson said.
For her gold-level goals in expedition/exploration and personal fitness, she camped out four nights in Wisconsin and swam across a lake. She also will have to complete 400 hours of community service to earn the award.
For more information on the Congressional Award program, contact the local Extension 4-H agent.