The Congressional Award

“The Congressional Award, a public-private partnership, established by Congress in 1979 under Public Law 96-114, is a non-competitive program open to young people ages 14-23, regardless of mental or physical challenges, or socioeconomic status. The Congressional Award Foundation teaches participants to set and achieve personally challenging goals that build character, and foster community service, personal development, and citizenship.” (from Congressional Award: Congress’ Award for Youth)

Astute parents and students understand that the students who get the best scholarship opportunities are students who not only excel academically but who also show leadership, character and other indicators of integrity. The Congressional Award program offers the opportunity for distinction to students by offering the opportunity to earn the bronze, silver and gold medal awards.

Participation in this program involves setting and achieving goals in the areas of:

  • Community Service
  • Personal Growth
  • Physical Fitness
  • Expedition/Exploration

How does a student participate? Students must first register with the program at In order to register, a student needs to list his/her congressional district and the name of their congressional member. The student will also need to print out a waiver and send in a check for $15.00 to finalize the registration process.

The Student Advisor- The registration form will ask for the name of the student’s advisor for this process. The advisor can be any adult who is not a member of the student’s family. Teachers, coaches, civic leaders, neighbors and close family friends can be excellent advisors. The Congressional Award program describes the advisor’s role as:

Meeting with the student to set acceptable and challenging goals

Staying in touch with the student throughout their pursuit of the award

Helping the student put together their award booklet to submit when the student has completed his/her goals.

Potential advisors can read all about the program and the duties of an advisor by visiting the Congressional Award: Congress’ Award for Youth and clicking on the Adult Volunteers tab. There is then a link to a section called “Become an Advisor” that covers the Advisor’s duties.

The Validators- Each of the student’s activities in pursuit of the Congressional Award will need to be validated by someone involved in supervising that activity. The student will have a form that he or she fills out for each activity that must also be signed by someone who can confirm the student’s involvement and accomplishments in that activity. So, while a student only has one advisor throughout the program, there will be many different validators involved in the different components of it.

The Awards- Students can start the program by working towards their bronze, silver and gold certificates before moving on to their bronze, silver and gold medals. Many students, however, just start off by working towards the bronze medal. Once the bronze medal is awarded, the student is automatically given the bronze, silver and gold certificates. (Each level of achievement builds on the previous levels.)