Northwest senior Allison Wu has done something that very few Northwest students have ever done. Wu has earned a Congressional Award. Wu was awarded the medal earlier this month as Congressman John K. Delaney, who represents the Maryland 6th District, which includes Germantown stopped by Northwest High School. She becomes just the third student in Northwest history to earn a Congressional Award Medal.
And while being awarded a Congressional Award sounds impressive, wait until you hear about what the 17-year-old from Boyds had to do to earn it.
Established in 1979, The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’ award for young Americans. It is non-partisan, voluntary, and non-competitive. The program is open to all 14- to 23-year-olds; young people may register when they turn 13-and-a-half years old and must complete their activities before their 24th birthday. In 2015, there were just 267 recipients of the Congressional Award Gold Medal from all over the US.
Participants earn Bronze, Silver and Gold Congressional Award Certificates and Bronze, Silver and Gold Congressional Award Medals. Each level involves setting goals in four program areas; Volunteer Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/ Exploration. This is not an award for past accomplishments. Instead, you are honored for achieving your own challenging goals after registering for the program.
Wu earned a Bronze Congressional Award Medal, which requires the earner to do 100 hours of voluntary service, 50 hours of personal development, 50 hours of physical fitness and a one-night/two-day expedition of some kind.
For her award, Wu volunteered for over 100 hours at Shady Grove Medical Center.
She was a member of the Northwest softball team which were runners up in the 4A state championship last year, for the physical fitness portion of the award.
And for the Personal Development portion, Wu challenged herself to become a better cello player. “I wanted to advance cello playing,” said Wu, “to perfect my solo playing and play chamber music. I was already taking weekly cello lessons. My plan to participate in at least one solo competition and at least one chamber music competition and work with various youth orchestras.”
The final portion of the program is the Expedition/ Exploration portion which challenges participants to move out of their comfort zone. For this portion, Wu planned a three-day camping trip in Pennsylvania. “I went on a three-day and two-night camping trip in Ohiopyle State Park, in Pennsylvania which involved new things like extensive hiking and learning how two white-water raft and set up a proper camp site,” she said.
Wu said that when she first applied to the program she was trying to get a silver medal, which requires double the amount of hours for each portion of the program. She said that she was able to achieve all the hours for the physical fitness, expedition/exploration and personal development, however she was still 99 hours short for the volunteer public service.
“Initially I sought out to earn a silver medal, but it took longer to get my volunteer hours completed,” said Wu. “But all my other service requirements are at the gold medal level.” The gold medal level requires 400 hours of community service, 200 hours of personal development and 200 hours of physical fitness.
Since young people can continue in the program up until the age of 23, will Wu try for the gold medal at some point? “I have been thinking about it,” she said. “Right now I have been really busy with college applications, so I haven’t been working on it. I am considering working toward the silver and gold medals.”
This is a program that is open to any American between the ages of 13-and-half and 23 and can be combined with activities, interests, and extracurricular activities that the student may already be participating in.
“I am a student and I do a lot of extracurriculars,” said Wu, who heard about the program from a family friend. “I thought this was a good program for me, because it just fit in with what I was already doing. It was a good way to challenge myself. To set goals and go through the process of achieving them.”
Twins Garima and Mahima Dewan both earned Congressional Gold Medal Awards. They the only two people thus far to have received Congressional Gold Medal Award in Maryland.
For more information about the Congressional Awards program visit the Website.
EDIT NOTE: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Allison Wu was the only student in Northwest history to win a Congressional Award. That has been corrected.
Top: Northwest senior Allison Wu receives the Congressional Award Bronze Medal from Congressmen John K. Delaney (MD-6) earlier this month at Northwest High School.
Photo courtesey Northwest Principal Lance Dempsey.