Written by Hari Ravichandran
Albert Dorman Honors College
Senior, Chemical Engineering
In June, 2014, I earned the Congressional Award at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. During the ceremony, I met Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Bill Pascrell. In this article, I would like to share how I earned the award, what I have learned from doing all of these activities, and give some advice to my fellow Honors students.
The Congressional Award
The Congressional Award is given by the United States Congress to young people who set goals for themselves in the areas of Voluntary Public Service, Physical Fitness, Personal Development, and Expedition/Exploration, and achieve these goals. There are several levels of the award, the highest being the gold medal, which I earned and was awarded in June, 2014. The requirements for the Gold Medal are 400 hours of Voluntary Public Service, 200 hours of Physical Fitness, 200 hours of Personal Development, and a 4-day expedition/exploration. The Public Service, Fitness, and Personal Development areas also require you to spread out the hours earned over at least two years. You can learn more about the program here: http://congressionalaward.org/.
For my community service, I volunteered at the Arc of Monmouth, the Monmouth County Park System, Colts Neck Fair, and at The Vector, my college newspaper. I helped at the Arc of Monmouth Thrift Shop that raises money for people with intellectual disabilities. I also led a group of volunteers to help the Monmouth County Park System to maintain and improve the quality of its gardens. At the Colts Neck Fair, I also organized a group of volunteers to raise money for my high school. For The Vector, our student newspaper, I wrote a world news column and set up an online news platform to help keep our student body informed about campus, national, and international events.
I carried out renewable energy research on water electrolysis, a clean and sustainable method to produce hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen and oxygen produced from water electrolysis have many applications such as renewable energy storage, semiconductor manufacturing, petroleum refining, fuel cell cars, fertilizer production, and patient care in hospitals.
For Physical Fitness, I practiced tennis for two years, mastering the fundamental skills of tennis and improving my stamina.
During my Expedition, I immersed myself in Indian Culture by visiting North India. I experienced the rich cultural heritage of India through my expedition in North India and the Himalayas.
By challenging myself with the Congressional Award, I have realized the importance of giving back to the community and enjoyed the wonderful experience of setting up and achieving personal goals.
I started pursuing the Congressional Award during my sophomore year of high school and continued until the end of my sophomore year of college. During this time, I learned how to balance my obligations by finding ways to increase my productivity and prioritizing important work. I selected a few activities that I was passionate about and rigorously pursued them.
Furthermore, pursuing the award has improved my leadership skills, bolstered my writing skills, refined my research skills, and increased my physical fitness. While doing all of this, I have matured and developed lasting skills that I can gainfully employ for the rest of my life.
I encourage my fellow students to pursue the program, as it will be a learning experience for them and allow them to mature as individuals who can both succeed and give back to their communities.
A Bit of Advice
I would like to conclude this article by offering some advice to my fellow students. Depending on the program that you select, you will be at college for three to five years. This time will pass by before you know it. Therefore, make sure that you constantly seek out and seize opportunities to accomplish something positive for both yourself and for the greater good. Do not simply wait for opportunities to find you – you must be proactive. For instance, join a club, start volunteering, and seek out internships. Begin doing this as soon as you start college – do not wait, as time will pass quickly. Furthermore, find out where your talents lie and focus your time on developing them during college. You might enjoy mathematics, have a natural affinity for writing, and/or be intrigued by science. This is what I did through pursuing the Congressional Award, and I strongly recommend that you do the same.