Saturday, July 25, 2009

Orcutt teen wins congressional medal


July 25, 2009 7:08 AM

An Orcutt teen won the Congressional Award Gold Medal this summer after completing 400 hours of community service.

Sarah Schwab, 16, also completed 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical development and a four-night tent camping trip within twenty-four months to earn the prestigious award.

Sarah joined 266 other recipients from across the nation in Washington, D.C. to receive the medal from the U.S. Congress and enjoy the city for a few days.

"It was really amazing," said Sarah of the experience. "When you're receiving that award, it's an experience you can only have once in your life."

To earn the award, Sarah devoted herself to various types of community service, particularly those supporting environmental causes and church work.

"I started my own non-profit organization," she said. "It's called the Three Amigos of Orchid, and its purpose is two-fold."

Sarah explained that the environmental non-profit strives both to increase environmental awareness and to expand awareness by creating Three Amigos branches in schools to teach younger children the importance of trees. She also volunteered three hours a week at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum.

Sarah's favorite volunteer experience was working as a Leader-in-training with her local Awana club.

"We'd have the kids play games, memorize (Bible) verses," she said. "I was able to meet a lot of sweet young girls; some came from troubled backgrounds. It's nice to know you're helping these girls."

The Gold Medal is given to those between 14 and 23 who dedicate 400 hours to community service and 200 hours to both personal development and physical fitness.

Recipients must also complete an expedition or exploration of some kind, which Sarah fulfilled through her camping trip.

"I think the philosophy behind it is that you can't do 400 hours unless you really want to help people," explained Sarah. "I thought it was fun. I was surprised how quickly I got the 400 hours."

Sarah encourages other young people to strive to earn the Gold Medal.

"When you first start out, it's very scary," she said, "but find something you're passionate about. The community needs people to donate their special talents and passion."

Sarah said her parents have been a tremendous help and a great support for her.

"They're very proud," she said. "They've been telling everyone they know!"

Ventura resident Charles Su also received the medal.

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