Congressman Awards Medals to Upper Schoolers

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Juniors Kiona-Mei Sperr (left) and Maria Thompson with their Congressional Award medals

Every year, primarily through their participation in the DiscoveryBound National Leadership Council (NLC) program, several Principia Upper School students earn Congressional Awards.

In February, Upper School juniors and Illinois residents Kiona-Mei Sperr and Maria Thompson, traveled to the College campus in Elsah, Illinois, to receive their Congressional Award Bronze Medals from their local Congressional Representative—Rodney Davis (R-Ill.).

“You’ve made a positive impact on others’ lives while earning this award,” Representative Davis noted, referring to the 200 hours of community service contributed by the two students. “We are all here today to show our appreciation and to honor your hard work and dedication. Our country needs young leaders like you!” he added.

There are several criteria for receiving the Congressional Award Bronze Medal:

  • 100 hours of voluntary public service
  • 50 hours of personal development (following an interest or hobby)
  • 50 hours of physical fitness
  • An expedition or exploration that lasts for two days and one night

The rigorous, four-year NLC “servant leadership” program is designed specifically for Christian Science teens and fosters spiritual growth, leadership qualities, and a service approach to life. One of its expectations is that participants will earn at least a Bronze Medal (the third highest of six Congressional Award levels) by the time they complete the NLC program.

Maria and Kiona-Mei are likely to surpass these criteria, since they still have another year to go with NLC. Both girls have been involved in a variety of service activities:  

  • Working with disabled individuals on horseback riding skills at a local equine center
  • Volunteering in the childcare program at Principia College
  • Engaging in a two-week NLC service trip to Peru last year, during which they helped build a children’s library and taught English at an orphanage

“I learned a lot about the need to stay organized and on top of deadlines,” remarks Maria. “I think the award helps participants strengthen their connections to their communities. It's definitely something you have to work hard for—but it's very rewarding.”

The award ceremony was attended by family members of both girls as well as Principia Head of School Travis Brantingham (US’94, C’98) and Principia College President Dr. Jonathan Palmer (C’78).

Since 2009, Principia College has enrolled approximately 90 students who have earned Congressional Awards, thanks to their participation in the NLC program. In recognition of participants’ commitment to service and leadership, the College has created a DiscoveryBound Scholarship, valued at $5,000 per year for four years, which it awards to NLC program graduates enrolled at the College.