Junior Christina Beggs Wins Gold Medal Congressional Award

Throughout the process of completing the criteria for the award, Beggs found motivation in her core values, knowing that she was helping others every step of the way.


Supplied by Joe Beggs

Junior Christina Beggs smiles with Congressman Norcross as she receives her Gold Medal Congressional Award.

   On April 26th, 2021, then-sophomore Christina Beggs officially received her Gold Medal Congressional Award, but the pandemic prevented her from receiving it from Congressman Donald Norcross until November 22nd.

   The Gold Medal Congressional Award is the highest honor that youths can receive. It combines voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration, and gives young people the opportunity to be recognized for achieving personal goals in these categories. In order to receive the Gold Medal, Beggs and ten other New Jersey teenagers accumulated 400 hours of community service, 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical fitness, and a five-night, four-day expedition/exploration.

   When Beggs heard about the program, she knew it was something that she wanted to participate in.

   “I knew the areas would help me to further develop the personality traits and leadership traits I have always valued,” she said. 

   Because the program is self-guided, Beggs had to stay organized in keeping track of her progress. Her Excel spreadsheets for each area became her best friend as she logged her hours. 

   The activities completed for each category must satisfy a specific criteria, so Christina had to choose carefully in deciding how she was going to fulfill the categories. 

   For public service, she volunteered at the Waterford Township Public Library, organizing shelves and assisting patrons. In addition to spending time at the library, Beggs served food to those staying at a family shelter with Volunteers of America in Camden and Glassboro. Over the pandemic, she helped community members connect with their families over virtual platforms like Zoom. 

   To fulfill the personal development criteria, Christina split her time between two of her interests: trombone and STEM. She dedicated time to improving on her trombone skills and recently became involved with the 4H Lockheed Martin STEM Program. The program emphasizes making STEM career resources more accessible and available to girls and minorities by assigning participants mentors in the STEM field.

   In terms of the fitness criteria, Beggs has been swimming for the Jersey Wahoos year-round for as long as she can remember. 

   “Physical fitness was probably the easiest part for me,” she said.

   Her exploration trip took her around the Batsto Region in South Jersey. She camped at the Winding River Campground, focusing on learning about the history of the Pine Barrens as well as South Jersey’s involvement in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Beggs also had the opportunity to participate in the opening of the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cape May on Juneteenth this past summer. 

   Throughout the process of completing the criteria for the award, Beggs found motivation in her core values, knowing that she was helping others every step of the way.

   “As I got involved in the community, I wanted to do more and more, especially when I found out how enjoyable it was to interact with the people I had met along the way,” she said. 

   The main thing Christina took away from this experience is not the award itself; it’s the learning and self-improvement she received. She became more aware of the different lives people lead, and how we all experience things in our own way. 

   “I think the best part of it was that throughout the process, I learned so much about the world around me,” Beggs said. “I thought I was helping others but soon realized that they were helping me just as much, if not more!”

   When she received the Gold Medal Award, Christina felt honored and accomplished, but her end goal reaches beyond the award. She hopes to turn the projects and activities she started into lifelong experiences. As of now, she continues to volunteer with Volunteers of America, participate in the 4H Lockheed Martin STEM Program, and swim for the Wahoos. 

   “I’m continuing to look for more opportunities to help others and expand my learning of those in the world around me,” she said. 

   Christina would like to give a special thank you to her parents, Mrs. Zuk, and Congressman Norcross for their continuous support throughout the process.