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Published April 24, 2023
Two University of Wyoming students from Casper will receive Congressional Award gold medals, the U.S. Congress’ highest honor for youth.
Finley Klinger and Leah Rose, both Kelly Walsh High School graduates, are among this year’s 26 award recipients from Wyoming. They will be honored at the Wyoming Congressional Award Council’s (WCAC) state medal ceremony in Cheyenne Sunday, April 30. All three members of Wyoming’s U.S. congressional delegation have been invited to attend the ceremony and present the awards.
The U.S. Congress established the Congressional Award in 1979 to recognize initiative, service and achievement in young people. It began as a bipartisan effort in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. The original bill was sponsored by Sen. Malcolm Wallop, a Republican from Wyoming, and Rep. James Howard, a Democrat from New Jersey.
The Congressional Award program is open to all youth in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 24 regardless of ability, circumstance or socioeconomic status. It is a nonpartisan, voluntary and noncompetitive program.
Participants earn bronze, silver and gold certificates and bronze, silver and gold medals. Each level involves setting goals in four program areas: voluntary public service; personal development; physical fitness; and expedition/exploration.
To earn their gold medals, Klinger and Rose had to log a minimum of 400 hours of voluntary public service; 200 hours of personal development; 200 hours of physical fitness; and a five-day, four-night expedition or exploration, all over a period of at least 24 months.
Klinger, a freshman majoring in kinesiology, started her journey to earning a gold medal in June 2019. She completed the program’s requirements last December.
“It is a great honor to accept the Congressional Award since it is the culmination of many of my personal goals, but I am truly humbled to have been given so many opportunities to help strengthen my community through service to others,” Klinger says.
Klinger fulfilled her volunteer hours by serving at local organizations, including an elementary school, her high school booster club, Central Wyoming Hospice & Transitions, Make-A-Wish Wyoming and her tennis community.
To meet the required hours in the other program areas, her activities included cooking and baking a variety of main courses and desserts; completing woodworking projects, including building a bed; developing her tennis skills; and virtually exploring Paris.
“I hope to use the inspiration I gained from this project as a starting point to continue identifying needs in my community and serving those around me every day of my life,” she says.
Rose began her gold medal quest her first month of high school, when she was 14. She met the program’s requirements last summer as an 18-year-old.
“Receiving the Congressional Award is an amazing honor. It feels great to be rewarded for four years of hard work,” says Rose, a freshman studying music education. “However, giving back to my community means much more to me than any award ever could.”
Rose logged most of her hours by participating in activities and opportunities available through Kelly Walsh High School. She held leadership positions in the band, theater and swim programs. Rehearsal and practice in these activities helped her acquire hours in the program areas of personal development and physical fitness. Most of her volunteer hours came from school-related activities such as singing the national anthem for sporting events and helping at open houses and music festivals.
To fulfill the expedition/exploration requirement, she conducted a virtual deep dive into Greece. Her favorite activity was reading Homer’s “Odyssey” last summer.
Klinger and Rose also will receive their Congressional Award bronze and silver medals at the April 30 ceremony. They fulfilled the requirements for these medals in pursuit of their gold medals.
Not only did the two graduate from the same high school, but they have been friends since elementary school.
“Finley and I played sports and sang in choir together,” Rose says. “It is so cool to be honored with her.”
Klinger and Rose will attend the Gold Medal Summit in Washington, D.C., June 20-22. They will participate in leadership and service seminars with other members of this year’s gold medal class. WCAC will pay a portion of Klinger’s and Rose’s expenses to attend the summit.
“I would like to encourage anyone who can to pursue their own Congressional Award,” Rose says. “It is such an accessible and rewarding process.”
For more information about the Congressional Award program, visit www.congressionalaward.org.
To learn more about WCAC, go to www.wcac.us.