One of the highest honors presented to youth by the U.S. Congress was awarded to Midway High School senior Eliana White this fall. Eliana spent hundreds of hours volunteering—1,300 to be exact—as she worked to earn the Congressional Award Bronze Medal, which honors students for setting personally challenging goals and meeting the needs of their community.
“The combination of service and being able to achieve a goal through daily work is important,” Eliana said. “I learned that what you invest in really matters.”
The Congressional Award Program, founded in 1979 to recognize initiative, service, and achievement, requires honorees to set and work toward goals in four program areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration.
To fulfill her public service goals, Eliana served the community through several local nonprofits, including the Hewitt Public Library, Mission Waco, and Caritas. As a volunteer, she taught kids creative arts, helped them with homework, served food to families, and sorted clothes.
“Volunteering gives you the unique opportunity to make a difference where you live,” Eliana said. “I enjoy helping others because it’s a practical way to make a difference.”
Additionally, for her personal development goals, she logged over 650 hours building her music skills through one-on-one training, rhythm and ear training, and studying music theory. She also spent nearly 400 hours weight training, biking, and running to improve her swim times and meet her physical fitness goals.
For her expedition/exploration, Eliana planned a trip to New York City to immerse herself in the city as a cultural center.
“I learned about my family history while I was there and got to see people from all around the world,” she said.
Eliana, who plans to attend Wheaton College Conservatory of Music in the Chicago area and hopes to one day become a member of the Navy or Air Force Band, said earning a Congressional Award set her up for success by showing her that daily discipline matters.
“I learned so much about pursuing smaller goals daily to complete a big goal in the end,” Eliana said. “I know I can do hard things, and this will help me as I enter college and strive to achieve equally difficult goals later in life.”
However, for Eliana, the most impactful takeaway from her experience is the importance of helping others.
“My faith teaches me that there is a bigger picture to life and that not everything is about me,” she said. “Every day I can do something to help make another person’s day a bit better. We can all do something to help someone else.”