The Salem community and I took a major step toward fall last Friday when we watched Salem High Football return to play under the familiar ‘Friday Night Lights’. The start of a new school year is exciting because it is an opportunity for students to set new goals for the academic year and start to put plans in motion to achieve those goals.
One of my goals is to visit all 125 school districts throughout the 30 counties of the 8th Congressional District of Missouri. One thing that I love is bringing ‘Congress to the Classroom’ and meeting with students to talk the issues they care about most. I am continually impressed by the students I visit and how they view the issues facing Congress as well as the creative solutions they have for solving these problems. I often leave my visit with a new perspective on how the future of our country judges the issues we are facing today.
I have met some incredible young people across southeast and south central Missouri – young people who are not only involved in their own personal growth and achievement, but also involved in what goes on in their schools and communities. One way in which I can honor the time, hard work, commitment and sacrifice these young students have made to better themselves and the community around them is through the Congressional Award.
The Congressional Award is one of the highest recognized and official honor awards that a Member of Congress can bestow on an accomplished student and volunteer. Congress has been giving out this award since 1979 to recognize talented young people across the country and celebrate their commitment to bettering themselves and their communities.
All youth between the ages of 14 and 23 are eligible to register for the Congressional Awards program. Qualifying for the Congressional Award is simple because many youth are already meeting the requirements through their everyday service to their community. However, the first step is to sign up because candidates can only get credit for the service and goals they achieve after they have signed up. Candidates can sign up online at my website, www.jasonsmith.house.gov.
After completing the sign up process, candidates for the Congressional Award must pledge to challenge themselves by offering hours of community service to do things like help out at a homeless shelter or mentor a younger student. Additionally, they may also pledge to improve their physical fitness or develop a project of personal exploration, such as specialized study of a specific topic or making a trip to learn about another culture. Many students who are already taking part in the A-plus program, Eagle Scout, Future Business Leaders of America, National Honor Society or students involved in FFA like I was are most likely already completing some of the requirements of the Congressional Award program.
Currently, there are 50,000 young people throughout the nation working toward the award. They earn certificates, or continue to bronze, silver or gold medals based upon their achievements. Gold medalists are invited to Washington D.C. for a special ceremony to honor their achievements.
Students from Sikeston to Hillsboro, from West Plains to New Madrid, and from Cape Girardeau to Ava have signed up to be a part of the Congressional Award program. I look forward to seeing these incredible young people work to earn the prestigious award and I am excited to get the chance to honor them with an award for all of their hard work. There are many other students across southeast and south central Missouri that I want to encourage to get involved in this program. I also encourage parents and teachers of these young people to urge them to get involved in a personal growth program with the start of a new school year.
Jason Smith represents Missouri’s 8th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives. Contact him at 573-335-0101 or visit https://jasonsmith.house.gov