February 21, 2011
VSU Graduate Student Receives Congressional Gold Medal
VALDOSTA -- Dennis Harris II, a graduate student at Valdosta
State University, has earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal --
the top national award presented by Congress -- for completing more
than 800 hours of community service and activities that foster
citizenship and leadership qualities in young people.
U.S. Representative Jack Kingston presented Harris with the award during a ceremony at VSU’s Student Union on Tuesday, Feb. 22.
At the ceremony Kingston commended Harris for his commitment to his community and the dedication it took from him and his family to reach this milestone.
“The purpose of the Congressional Award is to give students and people of all walks of life the opportunity to be involved in something that is long term,” Kingston said. “It takes at least two years to obtain this medal and you have to have dedicated students and dedicated families in place to succeed. Dennis and his family definitely fall into this category.”
Harris, a Lowndes High School graduate, earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Valdosta State and is currently working on a master’s degree in instructional technology.
To earn the award, participants have to set and achieve challenging goals in four program areas: volunteer public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.
In achieving his goals, Harris dedicated more than 400 hours of community service, which included working at Moody Air Force Base, Valdosta Boys and Girls Club and the local Soup Kitchen. Additional hours were completed in personal development, as he trained as a firefighter and helped teach young people about fire safety and emergency response. The physical fitness requirement was achieved through intense training as an Air Force cadet. The final goal of exploration was completed by working at a homeless shelter in Panama City, Fla.
“I started volunteering because I felt it was an obligation to give back to my community,” Harris said. “Over the years, I have learned that there is a great deal of personal and professional benefits to volunteer work. I encourage young people, especially college students to volunteer in areas that are of personal interest and may help them professionally.”
The Congressional Award is a non-competitive program that recognizes young people for service to their community and achieving goals that promote personal development. Established in 1979, approximately 6,500 Congressional Awards have been earned, representing more than 1.5 million volunteer hours performed in communities across America.
For more information, visit the Congressional Award web site at www.congressionalaward.org.