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Award program offers extracurricular activity
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- College-bound students know that extracurricular activity looks good on college entrance and scholarship applications, and there is an award program that can help them kill two birds with one stone.
The Congressional Award program was established by the U.S. Congress in 1979 to encourage young people in leadership and personal development. The Mississippi State University Extension Service has been involved with the program for 11 years helping state youth reach goals they set for themselves.
Linda Mitchell, interim district Extension director, is a national board member of the Congressional Award program. She said youth ages 14 to 23 work their way through three progressively more difficult levels of achievement. Personal goals are set in community service, personal development, expedition/exploration and physical fitness.
"Young people who get in the habit of performing community service and constantly improving themselves tend to continue this pattern for the rest of their lives," Mitchell said. "Young people take the initiative to set and achieve individually challenging goals, and have an adviser's help as they reach these milestones. This process and the accomplishments are valuable assets as these young people prepare for college."
The Congressional Award is the highest award the U.S. Congress presents to young Americans. The four-year program gives three medals to youth who meet three different sets of personal goals. After successfully completing the first year, youth receive a bronze medal, then a silver medal after the goals of the second year are met. These are given in state ceremonies in Washington, D.C.
Gold medals are given after the successful completion of all four years of the program. Eight young people from Mississippi were recognized in a national ceremony in Washington in June. Those awarded were Madeleine Clark of Columbus, Jeremy Crump of Nesbit, Benjamin McDonough of New Albany, Jonathan Mason of Brandon, Christy Pugh of Columbus, Sarah Raymond of Canton, and Georgia Stegall and Joanna Whitten of Pontotoc.
"For young people through age 18, 4-H in Mississippi offers a perfect way to meet the Congressional Award requirements for personal development," Mitchell said. "Many times, we use 4-H agents as validators to certify that the young person has met their goals and is qualified for the award."
For more information on the Congressional Award program, contact the local Extension 4-H agent.