WASHINGTON — A 17-year-old Fargoan has received the highest honor given to youth by the U.S. Congress.
Lauren Knoll, a senior at Park Christian High School, was one of 538 young people nationwide to receive the Congressional Award Gold Medal last month in Washington. She's just the fifth North Dakotan to receive the award since the program's inception in 1979.
"I feel honored to represent the beautiful state of North Dakota on a national level," Knoll says. "I also carry the responsibility of sharing this wonderful opportunity with other interested teens who are wanting to take part in bringing about the change we are all wanting to see in the world."
The award is Congress' only charity and award program for youth. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979, the program recognizes initiative, service and achievement in teens and young adults ages 13 1/2 to 23.
The Gold Medal represents the pinnacle of the program. The honor requires that each recipient embark on a two year goal-setting journey, logging a minimum of 400 hours of voluntary public service, 200 hours of personal development and physical fitness and a five-day, four-night "Expedition/Exploration."
Knoll says she was a little intimidated when she started the program at the age of 14. But she says it's helped her learn how to set goals, overcome obstacles and accomplish large tasks.
"I have become more organized and well-rounded through this program," Knolls says. "It also gives you that extra push you may have been needing to get out and just go for the things that you have been considering for a while but have yet to accomplish."
Spanning 42 states and territories and 181 congressional districts, Gold Medalists contributed 295,206 volunteer hours to their communities, an average of 548 hours per medalist. Knoll says it hasn't been a very popular program in the Midwest, but she hopes more North Dakotans will look into it.
"This program challenges youth to become forward-thinkers, problem-solvers and achievers. They take on a variety of challenges that develop them into well-rounded individuals who are ready to take on leadership roles wherever life may take them," Knoll says.
Knoll and the other recipients received their awards during a multi-day celebration in Washington last month. For more information about the program, visit www.congressionalaward.org.