By Amanda Maurer
Picture this: You earn a shiny gold medal that represents the highest award offered by the United States Congress for young Americans. Well, Tempe Prep Senior Sierra Smith does not have to imagine it after earning her Gold Medal along with other awards! The Congressional Award Program offers both a Bronze, Silver, and Gold certificate and medal to those who meet the requirements of each award. The requirements for each award include Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and an Expedition/Exploration.
Sierra began the Congressional Award program her freshman year. She explains, “I remember wanting to use the requirements to my advantage.” And that she did! She continues saying, “Due to this, over the past few years the Congressional Award has helped me determine my major and interests.”
During her freshman year, she earned the Bronze certificate, which allowed her to move one step closer to her ultimate goal of earning the Gold Medal. Sierra states, “The way this program is laid out is rewarding and encourages you to continue moving.” She goes on to say, “The thought of stopping short of that never really passed my mind.” And with that mindset, she was able to accomplish her goal of earning the Gold Medal.
Sierra has put in lots of hard work to achieve these goals. For the Gold Medal by itself, she had to do 400 hours of voluntary service, 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical fitness, and a 4 nights/5 days expedition/exploration. Sierra states, “I earned my Congressional Award Gold Medal by volunteering over 400 hours at Lost Our Home Pet Foundation and spent a week designing an exhibit for the D.C. Air and Space Smithsonian. For physical fitness I earned my black belt in Taekwondo and am now an assistant Sensei for my upper-level class.” She goes on to say, “For personal development, I learned about the physics of flight and was taught firsthand by an airline pilot. I also spent many of the required hours studying for my SAT. For most of my expeditions I hiked some of the highest peaks in Arizona.”
Achieving these goals is not an easy task without having a bit of motivation. Sierra got her motivation from wanting to be a strong part of her community while both working on herself both physically and mentally. She mentions that this program has helped her with figure out her career goals and achieve her highest martial arts goals. She has only positive things to say about this program. She states, “The four parts allowed me to both find myself and grow an impressive resume. I will use the time management and leadership skills I gained during this process throughout my college life and beyond.”
Article by Amanda Maurer, a student staff writer and sports editor for De Equitibus, Tempe Preparatory Academy’s student newspaper.
About Tempe Prep: Tempe Preparatory Academy is a tuition-free public charter school in Tempe for students in grades 6-12 that provides a nationally acclaimed liberal arts education based on the Great Books of Western Civilization with an exceptional math, science, foreign language, humanities, and fine arts curriculum. Tempe Prep has been recognized by the Arizona Board of Regents as having the highest percentage of college graduates in the state and has been named the #1 high school in Arizona by Newsweek (America’s Top High Schools 2016). For more information about enrolling at Tempe Prep, visit the school’s website at tempeprep.org.