U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton awarded Telluride native Soleil Gaylord two Congressional Awards for community public service and personal goal setting, Tipton’s office announced on Monday.
Starting in her junior year of high school, Gaylord volunteered at her school’s greenhouse, working with students to grow and harvest vegetables.
“Being awarded through the government is a really neat recognition, a very special recognition,” she said.
The Congressional Award is a 40-year-old program run by The Congressional Award Foundation, Congress’s sole charity. It is a nonpartisan program in which youth participants between the ages of 13.5 and 24 earn bronze, silver and gold certificates or medals.
From 2017 to 2018, the program gave out 4,663 awards, representing 1.1 million hours of service and nearly 376,000 hours of physical fitness. Only 40% of participants are younger than college-age.
Colorado is home to a total of 659 participants. Among neighboring states, Wyoming had 936, Utah had 776, Kansas had 568, and New Mexico had 108.
The Foundation highlighted Gaylord’s story in its annual report to Congress. Noting that she began running up mountains at age five, Gaylord has selective mutism, an anxiety disorder. She overcame the condition to become student body president and host of her own radio show.
"I want to be a motivated, passionate, thoughtful, empathetic, contributing member of this great country,” she said. “The Congressional Award helped me think about and arrange my activities to reach this goal.”