CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Gold Congressional Award is the culmination of 400 hours of volunteer service, 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical fitness, a four-night and five-day exploration or expedition, and one very determined individual.
Samantha Jurkowski, daughter of Torrington residents Tim and Maggie Jurkowski, was one of 167 Wyoming youth U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, U.S. John Barrasso M.D., Representative Liz Cheney and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon recognized during a medal ceremony at the Cheyenne Civic Center, Sunday, April 7.
Each year, The Wyoming Congressional Award Council Board of Directors hosts the Cheyenne bronze and silver medal ceremony and supports the gold medal ceremony held each summer in the nation’s capitol.
Sixty-four Wyoming youth received bronze medals and 64 received silver medals. In June, 70 youth will travel to Washington D.C. to receive their gold medals during a ceremony on Capitol Hill.
Jurkowski graduated from high school in Cheyenne in 2017. She began working toward the Gold Congressional Award her sophomore year.
“Honestly, I was pretty active in my high school all throughout high school,” she said. “I was talking to my advisor for the Congressional Award, and she said I was doing a lot of the things (required) already, I just needed to do a little bit more … I continued on with it, and it was just nice to be doing things for the community, as well as doing things to improve myself.”
For her 400 hours of volunteer service, Jurkowski said she utilized several contacts through her
involvement in FFA.
“I was kind of able to take it under my own wing – I’d go back to people we’d volunteered with previously and see if there was anything else I could do for them. I did a lot of work with the animal shelter, and the Bureau of Land Management.”
Jurkowski was able to cross several goals off her list when completing the 200 hours of personal development and physical fitness, including reaching a personal best on her 5K run time and learning to play new songs on the piano.
“I run a lot, and I wanted to increase my running time, but do that in a healthier mindset – so, not kicking myself when I didn’t do well, and really getting excited when I did do well,” Jurkowski explained.
The final element she had to complete to become eligible for the award, is execute a four-night and five-day exploration or expedition. Jurkowski used it as an opportunity to plan a family trip to Breckenridge, Colo. in the summer of 2017.
“We had family come out from Virginia,” she said. “We went water rafting, horseback riding, hiking. I planned the dinners that we did together – we spent some quality time playing cards.”
The Gold Congressional Award is the most prestigious award for youth and the only award given to students by the U.S. Congress. Jurkowski called the achievement a “longtime goal”.
“I really thoroughly enjoyed (the experience),” she said. “I appreciate all of the things I had been doing previously, and this made me realize all the things I could be doing on top of it that fit into my everyday life that not only improve me as a person, but help my community.”
Gold medalists also receive a $2,000 higher education scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national ceremony.
“I’m studying psychology (at the University of Wyoming), and getting pre-requisites for physician’s assistant school. I’m also minoring in honors and Spanish,” Jurkowski said. “I plan to use the scholarship for books and other school expenses.”
She will not be attending the national ceremony in June due to her brother’s deployment around that same time, but Jurkowski said she truly appreciates the honor and plans to keep in mind lessons she learned in her journey to become Wyoming Gold Congressional Awardee.
“Hopefully, I’m going on to graduate school to be a physician’s assistant,” she said. “I don’t know where I want to end up yet, but I want to … continue to strive to make myself better, and give back to community as much as I can.
“I’m not sure where I’m headed, but I know I’m going somewhere.”
See an upcoming issue of the Telegram for a feature on fellow Wyoming Congressional Awardee and Goshen County resident Logan Grosz.