By: Sharon Aron Baron
Humbling. Inspirational. Optimistic. These are words not always found buzzing around Capitol Hill. But the 2019 Congressional Award Gold Medal Ceremony & Events held in June in Washington, D.C. sparked enthusiasm for our nation’s future and ushered in the next generation of servant leaders.
Congress presented The Congressional Award Gold Medal to 538 youth this year, including Coral Springs residents Lorraine Angelakos and Hannah Komroff, who are constituents of U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch: They are part of the largest class in the program’s 40-year history, spanning 42 U.S. states and territories and 181 congressional districts.
The Gold Medal represents the pinnacle of Congress’ award program for youth. The honor requires that each recipient embarks on a two-year goal-setting journey, logging a minimum of 400 hours of Voluntary Public Service, 200 hours of Personal Development and Physical Fitness, respectively, and a five day, 4-night Expedition/Exploration.
For her volunteer service, recipient Lorraine Angelakos, a student at Pompano Beach High School, made over 400 greeting cards for the military stationed overseas, and Veteran hospital patients. She also made dog collars for guide dogs at Southeastern Guide Dogs, and started her own nonprofit “Lolo’s Cocoa,” hosting events at local children’s hospitals. For Personal Development she participated with Florida Youth Orchestra as a Percussionist, a member of Congressman Ted Deutch’s Youth Cabinet, participated in National History Day, with the topic of Missing and Exploited Children, personally interviewing John Walsh, becoming a Florida finalist.
For Physical Fitness she continued mastering Greek Folk dancing, and furthering her skills, won a scholarship to travel to Greece to learn dances from the area of Thessaloniki. She also participated in marching band, played varsity soccer and flag football. For Exploration, she traveled to Chicago and Indiana, where in Indiana, she was able to explore Amish country.
“The Congressional Award experience took me out of my comfort zone, expanded my knowledge, strengthened my passions and gave me new passions,” said Angelakos. “More importantly, it propelled me into a lifestyle equipped with leadership skills and goals, all with the excitement of knowing what I can accomplish and how I can truly make a difference in the world.”
Hannah Komroff, a student at Coral Springs High School, made blankets for the children at St. Mary’s Hospital, volunteered at Broward Health Coral Springs Hospital, made dog collars for the guide dogs in training at Southeastern Guide Dogs, and volunteered at the Coral Springs Museum of Art Camp.
For her Personal Development, she worked at Broward Hand Center, learning about health-related careers and worked on improving her skills on the French horn and becoming a better overall musician. She also participated in the marching band and soccer for Physical Fitness, where she created a fitness plan for the gym for strength training. She also participated in the marching band and soccer for Physical Fitness.
For the Exploration portion, she traveled all around California, Arizona, and Nevada, where she visited the Grand Canyon and flew in a small plane over it, which pushed her out of my comfort zone.
“This trip was amazing, and I’m so glad I was able to experience everything I did there,” said Komroff. “Pursuing the Congressional Award Gold Medal has helped me to become a better person and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I am so thankful for the experience and lessons learned.”
Three award ceremonies were held throughout the day on Thursday, June 20 in the U.S. Capitol Visitor’s Center Congressional Auditorium. ABC News Congressional correspondent Mary Bruce, POLITICO senior Washington correspondent Anna Palmer, and CBS News national correspondent Chip Reid each served as Masters of Ceremonies.
Florida mentor and former Congressional Award Board Member Lynn Lyons was recognized with the Inspiration Award for her exemplary service in advising Congressional Award participants, including Angelakos and Komroff. Lyons is a retired educator and has guided over 500 youth in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties.
U.S. Congressman Brian Mast presented the award and commended Lynn for her unparalleled mentorship.
“We’re proud of these young men and women because they have already learned one of the most important lessons through this program – how to live your life without regret. And Lynn gives them the drive to achieve and pursue something bigger and more important than themselves.”
Over 70 Members of Congress attended the ceremony to present their constituents with the Gold Medal. Other Congressional speakers included US Senators Richard Burr (NC), and Mike Enzi (WY), and Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-08).
Capping off the celebration, the Washington Nationals hosted Congressional Award Gold Medalists at Nationals Park on June 21st for a memorable day.
Gold Medalists took a photo on the diamond at midday and were invited to the Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves game that evening.
- Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Coral Springs Talk. CST was created in 2012 to provide News, Views, and Entertainment for the residents of Coral Springs and the rest of South Florida.