As the calendar pushes through February into warmer weather, it brings some exciting activities. Farmers will soon begin sowing seeds to prepare yet another bountiful harvest. Trees will sprout lively, green shoots and more people will head outdoors. Many kids and parents look forward to the crazy week known as “Spring Break.” As a sports fan, I’m ready for another season of St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball.
But as your representative, a few activities have really piqued my interest. They’re the Congressional Competitions and Congressional Award.
What makes these events so exciting involves the focus on young people. Annually, they provide opportunities to train our country’s future leaders by challenging and awarding them for skills they learn or already have.
Open now through April, two Congressional Competitions present students with the chance to design or draft original concepts.
The first competition, the “2014 Congressional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Competition: House App Contest,” seeks app submissions on a platform of choice from high school students 13 years or older.
My family relies daily upon apps while using computers, smartphones, and tablets. So, the idea of a young person within Arkansas’ First District designing an app to use in a recreational or productive way brings pride to our state.
When selecting an overall winner, our judges will examine the app’s idea, implementation, and impact. The contest closes April 30, and we’ll select a District winner at an awards ceremony May 16. The District winner will then get featured on the U.S. House’s website, House.gov.
The second competition, the “2014 Congressional Art Competition,” asks students grades 9-12 to submit original paintings, drawings, collages, mixed media, computer-generated art, and photographs through April 11.
From the submissions, we’ll select an overall winning piece, which will hang in the U.S. Capitol for one year. The tunnel housing these pieces comes alive as the artwork weaves stories many novels aren’t capable of telling. I find it enjoyable passing through the tunnel on my regular trips to House Floor.
In addition to having a piece on display, our winning District artist will receive free airfare to the national reception during June at Washington D.C., where an overall winner gets selected.
The last “competition” isn’t really a competition at all. The “Congressional Award” is a year-round challenge for young people ages 14-23 to earn “Gold,” “Silver,” or “Bronze” certificates and medals based on individual goals. To earn a certificate or medal, participants set goals in four program areas—including “Volunteer Public Service,” “Personal Development,” “Physical Fitness,” and “Expedition/Exploration”—moving at their own pace, or with friends.
Past accomplishments have no bearing for earning awards, because young people receive honors for achieving their own challenging goals. In addition, this award is non-competitive, non-partisan, and voluntary, while also accommodating young people with special needs or disabilities.
Whether our youth choose to participate in the App Contest, Art Contest, or Congressional Award—maybe all three—I’m eager to see how the First District’s best and brightest use or learn new talents through these opportunities.
I urge anyone interested to contact Rebekah Bryant at 870.203.0540 or Rebekah.Bryant@mail.house.gov for more information.