WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Saturday, Sept. 26 members of the United States Congress honored 478 youth from across America with The Congressional Award Gold Medal in the program’s first-ever entirely virtual Gold Medal Ceremony. The Congressional Award Gold Medal is the most prestigious award Congress bestows upon a youth civilian.

Wesley Hutchins, a homeschooled student from Swanville, is among the recipients honored during the program’s first-ever virtual Gold Medal Ceremony. This medal honors youth for their commitment to voluntary public service, as well as personal development and physical fitness. Additionally, Hutchins earned a STEM Star in conjunction with their Gold Medal.

“My favorite Congressional Award activity was helping to raise service dogs through Guiding Eyes for the Blind. This experience bettered my people skills and my skills regarding interacting with animals,” Hutchins said.

Each Gold Medalist accumulated over 800 hours over the span of at least two years in the program areas of Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development and Physical Fitness in addition to planning and going on an in-depth Exploration/Expedition.

 The virtual ceremony brought together the 2020 Gold Medalists, their loved ones, notable industry and civic leaders, and members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives to celebrate the momentous occasion.

 The medalists were mailed their Gold Medal and ceremony gifts in time for the event which featured several special events. Chairman of the Congressional Award, Paxton Baker gave insightful virtual interviews of the ceremony’s special guests Wolf Blitzer, Senator Mike Enzi and Emmitt Smith — each of whom gave words of encouragement and advice.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell both gave their congratulations to the medalists, along with remarks from a list of Senators and House Representatives including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Congresswoman Katie Porter (CA-45), Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Congressman Richard Hudson (NC-8) and Congresswoman Liz Cheney (WY-0).

Gold Medalists were also able to enter a raffle for a gift giveaway, participate in smaller networking groups led by Congressional Award Board Members and see videos submitted by their peers sharing their experiences with The Congressional Award program. The ceremony closed with virtual panels on four topics of interests to the medalists: Women in Leadership, Nonprofit Leadership, Race Relations & Social Justice, and Entrepreneurship. Each of the panels hosted panelists that are established leaders in their respective areas, answering medalist questions and giving their wisdom and advice.