The Congressional Award: An impressive honor Scouts can earn just by being Scouts – Scouting Magazine

Posted: July 6, 2020 at 5:47 pm


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In Congress, its the rare subject about which theres unanimous agreement.

Its the Congressional Award, the highest recognition Congress bestows on young people. To qualify, a young person must meet certain goals in four key areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.

Are you thinking what Im thinking? Yes, many of the activities young people enjoy in Scouting fit nicely into those four categories. Better yet, double-dipping is encouraged, meaning work on merit badges, rank requirements and Eagle projects counts toward the award.

This natural correlation explains why, in 1999, the BSA became partners with the Congressional Award Foundation, which remains Congress only charity.

As jobs and colleges become increasingly more competitive, the Congressional Award along with a young persons experience in Scouting will look great on a rsum. That something extra is exactly what hiring managers and college admissions counselors want to see.

Scouts have been earning the Congressional Award ever since it was established in 1979. In 2019, at least 75 of the 538 Congressional Award Gold Medal recipients were Scouts. But I say its time to raise that number even higher. The award is noncompetitive, meaning anyone who properly completes the requirements will receive the award.

Before you consider retroactively counting Scouting experience toward the award, let me point out one key statement from the Congressional Award site: This is not an award for past accomplishments. Instead, you are honored for achieving your own challenging goals after registering for the program.

That means your Scouts should register for the award as soon as possible after turning 13.5 years old, giving them the maximum amount of time to count Scouting requirements toward their progress.

But even if your Scout or Venturer is 16, 17 or older, all hope is not lost. They have until their 24th birthday to complete the requirements.

After registering, any qualifying activity in school, Scouting or another extracurricular activity can count toward the award. That fact is confirmed in the awards FAQs: If you belong to groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venturing, 4-H, etc., your activities may often be used to achieve a particular goal.

That was certainly the case for Eagle Scout Todd Christian, who earned the Congressional Award in 2019, at age 23.

I completed all of the requirements for the program exclusively through the things I was already doing through Scouting, he says.

Christian earned the Gold Medal, which is the highest of the Congressional Awards six levels. That top honor includes an invite to the national award ceremony in Washington, D.C., where honorees meet other recipients as well as their congressional representatives. (Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this years ceremony was held virtually.)

The Gold Medal requires at least 400 hours of volunteer time, 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical fitness, and an expedition of at least five days and four nights.

Essentially, anyone who completes a multiday trek as well as a comprehensive service project what we call an Eagle project has already overcome a major hurdle to receiving the top award, Christian says.

The entry-level award the Bronze Certificate is within even closer reach for most Scouts. It requires 30 hours of volunteer service, 15 hours of personal development, 15 hours of physical fitness, and a one-day expedition or exploration.

Virtually every Scout has met these requirements many times over, just by being a Scout, Christian says.

Explore the program requirements here. Keep in mind that each level is cumulative, meaning time spent on one award carries over to the next. For example, completing 200 hours of service for the Silver Medal means youre already halfway to the 400 needed for Gold.

Scouts who want to count their work in Scouting toward the Congressional Award should keep three things in mind:

Scouts like to aim high, so Im guessing that many will be eyeing that Gold Medal. Christian shared a few examples of how Scouts might meet or exceed Gold Medal requirements just by enjoying all that Scouting has to offer.

While it is certainly appropriate to present this opportunity to your Scouts and Venturers, keep in mind that like anything else in Scouting the Scouts should take the lead.

But as a Scouter, you still play an important role.

Any young person wishing to earn the Congressional Award will need Advisors and Validators adults who can help a young person navigate the program and verify completion of requirements.

According to the official FAQs, Scoutmasters are ideally suited for this role with a few exceptions.

Teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, club leaders and Scoutmasters would all make excellent Advisors and Validators, according to the FAQs. The only guideline in choosing an Advisor or Validator is that they cannot be your parent, relative or peer.

Thankfully, Scouting has not been on pause during the coronavirus pandemic. Scouts are still having fun, earning merit badges and serving others.

Likewise, progress toward the Congressional Award can continue. For the official guidance on navigating the award during COVID-19, see this article from the Congressional Award Foundation.

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The Congressional Award: An impressive honor Scouts can earn just by being Scouts - Scouting Magazine

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July 6th, 2020 at 5:47 pm