Mississippi 4-H’ers earn Congressional Awards

Published 3:04 pm Monday, August 14, 2023

By Susan Collins-Smith
MSU Extension Service

Mariah Malone was among 57 Mississippi 4-H’ers to receive the highest honor given to youth civilians by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The Aug. 6 Congressional Award ceremony marked the 25th anniversary of the partnership between the Congressional Award Program and the Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H Youth Development Program.

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Each 4-H’er received a gold, silver or bronze certificate and medal for their personal, goal-oriented achievements through the Congressional Award Program. Some participants also received STEM Star Awards for participating in one or more science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities while working toward their Congressional Award.

Malone, a 4-H member in Oktibbeha County and an aspiring robotics engineer, volunteered with a middle school robotics team and helped them reach some goals of their own.

“In the 7th grade, I was on the same robotics team, and we didn’t have anyone who knew about robotics to volunteer to help us,” Malone said. “So I wanted to help them learn about it and do well in competition. They placed first in state competition and made it all the way to the national competition in Arkansas.”

The awards were presented by former U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson.

“These young people are really bright,” Harper said. “We are proud that they have taken the opportunity to participate in this program. These accomplishments are not only important to them now, but they mean a lot when they begin to apply to colleges, for scholarships, internships and jobs.”

Though unable to make the ceremony in person, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker congratulated the recipients virtually. “You didn’t just receive this award. You earned it through your commitment and determination to reach your goals,” he said. “We are proud of you and the parents, grandparents and others in your life who encouraged you along the way. Congratulations and keep it up!”

Eligibility for the Congressional Award is open to all young people between the ages of 13.5 and 23 who want to set goals for themselves in four program areas: personal development, physical fitness, voluntary public service and expedition and exploration. The age- and ability-appropriate activities foster responsibility and help young people practice planning and organizational skills.

Linda Mitchell, head of the Extension Center for 4-H Youth Development, said the program complements the goals of 4-H well. “In 4-H, we work to grow leaders, and this program is a great way to offer young people more opportunities to participate in experiential learning, leadership and community engagement,” said Mitchell, who also serves on the Congressional Award Board of Directors. “I am proud of all these young people, and I know you can look at them here today and see future leaders.”

Mississippi currently has more than 400 active participants in the award program. The 57 participants recognized Aug. 6 devoted more than 23,900 hours to voluntary public service, more than 15,900 hours to personal development, and more than 9,200 hours to physical fitness. They also participated in numerous in-person and virtual expedition and exploration activities.