WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Ander Crenshaw, Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Financial Services and General Government, recognized two Atlantic Beach, Florida, students who were honored with the Congressional Award Gold Medal. The Congressional Award is the United States Congress’s award for young Americans with the gold medal as the highest-level achievement in the program.
Shyla Blackmon, 18, and Jelisa Jackson, 19, both of Atlantic Beach, Florida, are graduates of Fletcher High School and are two of 34 students to earn the Congressional Award Gold Medal from Florida and two of 325 to receive the honor nationwide. Each developed and completed a rigorous program of achievement that included 400 hours of volunteer public service, primarily with Beaches Habitat for Humanity, as well as personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration goals. Crenshaw, a long-time advocate of the program, congratulated the young women on Thursday, June 16 at the 2016 Gold Medal Ceremony on Capitol Hill.
“Completing goals, teaching others, and making my community a better place: These are some of the objectives that Shyla Blackmon and Jelisa Jackson have strived for and are the tools they will take away from the experience of achieving the Congressional Award Gold Medal,” said Crenshaw. “Let me add that these courageous young women are deserving of an honor that has helped so many others while also providing them with critical life skills that they will use far into the future. Watching their focus and dedication along the way, I had no doubt that they’d ‘get the gold.’ Shyla and Jelisa, you are examples for us all. Congratulations!”
Beaches Habitat for Humanity Education Director Kathy Christenson, who accompanied the young women to Washington for the ceremony and also met with Crenshaw, said “Shyla and Jelisa committed themselves to seeing this challenge to completion. Perseverance, hard work, and determination were the keys to their success. They seized the opportunity to participate in a program that they knew would help them grow. They deserve to be very proud of all their accomplishments, and I truly enjoyed this journey right along with them. They are both very special young women.”
Shyla Blackmon, who will be attending University of North Florida, wrote the following about her experience of earning the Congressional Award Gold Medal:
“I worked with Beaches Habitat for Humanity and it's partners to fulfill my voluntary public service goal. With my focus mostly on human services, I volunteered the bulk of my hours at Mission House. Mission House is a local help-service to the homeless where they can come and get food, hygiene care, and their mail. My passion has always been cooking and learning about business so personal development came easy to me. I took Junior Achievement classes to learn how to properly interview and used what they taught me to acquire a part-time job at Auntie Anne's. This job helped satisfy both of my passions all in one. For physcial fitness, I played flag football, weightlifting, and track and field. In all three I've made it to regional and became a team captain because of my skill, willingness to learn, and teach others. My expedition took me out of my comfort zone. I set off for St. Augustine during their 450th anniversary, immersing myself in the rich history of arguably America’s oldest city. I would like to thank my advisor, Kathy Christensen. She helped me stay focus and complete my goals.”
Jelisa Jackson, who is committing a year to Americorps, wrote:
“To compete my voluntary public service goals, I logged the majority of my hours at Beaches Habitat for Humanity. Through this organization, I was able to discover different ways to make my community a better place. For personal development, I had to find ways to bring out my true talent. By writing poetry and playing guitar I was able to express my true self. These talents allowed me to realize who I am and what I want to become. In order to complete my physical fitness goals, I set a workout schedule to motivate myself. I started off small, with little ways to improve myself and then I increased my activities. Now that I have pushed myself to the max, I am comfortable with my physical self. I prepared myself for my expedition by bracing my fears. We worked as a team to figure out where we wanted to explore. Not only was I a member of the planning committee but, I attended every meeting. I honestly think the Congressional Award was a tremendous asset and it taught me a lot of skills that I can use as I grow older.”
Additional background on the Congressional Award can be obtained at: www.congressionalaward.org
- Barbara Riley, Crenshaw Communications Director, 202-225-2501.
- Kathy Christenson, Habitat for Humanity Executive Director, 904-504-2422.