By: Jordan Wong
As I walked into the office, I wasn’t sure how to feel. A mixture of emotions swirled within me – ranging from pride to humility, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. These emotions, of course, were caused because on April 22nd, I received the Presidential Volunteer Service Award for my volunteer work with Joshua’s Heart Foundation (JHF). The Presidential Volunteer Service Award was established in 2002 by then President George W. Bush with an executive order to recognize people who have dedicated hundreds of hours of their time to helping thers. There are four levels of the award depending on the number of volunteer hours completed – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and the President’s Call to Service Award, the latter is awarded for over 4,000 lifetime volunteer hours. I received the second highest level of the award, the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award for volunteering over 250 hours (I think that’s where some of the pride came from).
To receive it, my mom and I went to Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s office along with other Junior Advisory Board (JAB) members who were receiving it as well. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen has been a long-time friend and supporter of JHF. She was so moved by the accomplishments of the JAB members that she decided to present these prestigious awards in person in her office. In addition to the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen also presented us with a Congressional Award for service at the same time, in celebration of National Volunteer Week (April 23-29). To my surprise, her office didn’t look like the Capitol from the outside (I honestly don’t know why I expected that). When I got into the office, I saw the other JAB members and their parents. Refreshments were provided and we ate, talked about our plans for the summer vacation, and anticipated the presentation of the awards. After everyone arrived, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen gave us a speech on the importance of the award, and how she was proud of and grateful for kids like us who volunteer our time to improve our communities for the better. She greeted each one of us and our families, asked for our names, where we go to school and thanked us for our service. I thought that she is a very nice lady who has dedicated most of her life to public service. A few weeks after, I learned that she is retiring next year after more than 35 years in Congress representing Florida, and so I’m very grateful to have met her while she was still a Congresswoman.
One of the Congresswoman’s staff then told us that the presentation was about to begin and got us organized. We waited in line and, one by one, got our awards. The Presidential Volunteer Service Award recipients went first and Joshua was alongside Rep. Ros-Lehtinen to present the awards. Lots of photos were taken as we got our awards, including some with our parents. There were also separate group shots of the JAB members and parents with the Congresswoman. As I felt the medal being put around my neck, I finally felt one overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. In the end, I believe this award served as a great reminder – one that reminded us that the work that we are doing to help and strengthen our communities isn’t being forgotten but actually recognized by many, including a member of Congress. I feel proud of that and hope that we continue to inspire others to strengthen our nation and communities through volunteer service.