At age 23, Jacob Swan was the oldest medalist at the 29th Annual Wyoming Congressional Award State Ceremony in April. Swan received the Congressional Award Bronze Medal just one week before walking a second stage to receive his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wyoming.
Swan was not aware of the program in junior high or in high school, leading him to register for The Congressional Award just a year and a half before participants are required to complete the program on their 24th birthday.
“I’m disappointed I did not learn about the program earlier as its participants truly make a difference in Wyoming,” Swan said.
If you know someone between the ages of 13 1/2 and 23 who could benefit from taking on a challenge, you might consider letting them know about the Congressional Award program.
And you might consider signing on yourself to mentor a young adult or your grandchild and offer guidance through the process.
Wyoming Congressional Award program Executive Director Janice Peterson would like to see many more participants, both young and old, sign on in the months leading up to the program’s 30th year in Wyoming. “If we had 100 kids register, we’d have a big celebration.”
The program, which is non-competitive, is open to all kids. That means that there’s no limit to the awards available, and success depends on meeting individual goals.
The program components are:
- Voluntary public service – helping to improve life in your community
- Personal development – learning a new skill or improving an existing skill
- Physical fitness – learning a new physical skill or improving personal physical fitness ?over time
- Expedition/exploration – an overnight camping experience or an extended time exploring a different culture or country
“We have the oldest active program in the country,” Peterson said, noting that U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming was one of the sponsors of the bill that created the program in 1979. The Wyoming program began in 1983. Since then, about 1,000 Wyoming kids have taken part, earning bronze, silver or gold certificates or medals for their work.
“Our biggest challenge is that many people don’t know about the program,” Peterson said. That goes for both kids and mentors; she said the program doesn’t provide advisors. Rather, kids work with mentors they already know or someone they consider a role model.
“Personal goals are something all young people should have in common. Meeting?those goals and subsequently exceeding them is something all young people should strive for,” said U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, who is a strong advocate for the program.
“It focuses on volunteerism, character development and fitness,” he said. “(It) allows them to discover new things about themselves and expand their capabilities, while at the same time improving their communities. The Congressional Award program helps young people grow into future leaders, able to define and create achievable goals – whether it is for themselves, their education or their future endeavors.
The program is supported by a host of partners, including the National 4-H Council, UPS, and AmeriCorps.
The Wyoming Congressional Award program is open to people between the ages of 13 1/2 and 23. To learn more about this award for achieving goals or how to mentor a person in the program, please visit www.wcac.us or call Janice Peterson in Encampment at 307-327-5464.