Central Magnet Student Receives Congressional Gold Medal for Youth

Central Magnet Student Receives Congressional Gold Medal for Youth
Photo Provided by Rachel Oppmann

Rachel Oppmann, a student at Central Magnet School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has just been announced as a recipient of The Congressional Award Gold Medal, the United States Congress’ highest honor for civilian youth. The medal honors these youth for their commitment to voluntary public service, exploration of the world around them, initiative, achievement, personal development, and physical fitness. 

To earn the Gold Medal, each participant must complete at least 400 hours of Voluntary Public Service, which means sharing their time and talent for the betterment of the community; 200 hours of Personal Development, which can include developing social and life skills as well as interests; and 200 hours of Physical Fitness, spent in any way that improves their health and quality of life. Additionally, they must spend at least five days and four nights exploring a new environment or culture. Oppmann has been consistently working to achieve this award for over two years, the minimum time frame to earn the Gold Medal. 

“Rachel has completed more than 1,200 hours of community service while in high school,” said Eric Fernandez, Senior Program Manager, The Congressional Award, through a press release. “Her efforts have benefitted The Arts Center of Cannon County, Murfreesboro Little Theatre, Barfield Crescent Park, Central Magnet School, Oaklands Park, the Rutherford County Historic Courthouse Museum, and more. She received the 2023 Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award as the top youth volunteer in Rutherford County. Rachel is an Eagle Scout and founding member of Troop 2019, the first all-girl troop chartered by Scouts BSA. In 2021, she completed a nine-day backpacking trek at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, an expedition of more than 65 miles and 12,441 feet in elevation. A senior at Central Magnet School, she is president of the Central Magnetude Robotics team which has won multiple national, state and regional titles under her leadership, and [she] is president of the school’s International Thespian Society troupe. She is a member of Youth Leadership Rutherford’s Class of 2024. Rachel is also a musical theatre actor who has performed in 27 productions since 2012; she was one of 30 students to attend the Governor’s School for the Arts/Theatre in 2022. She is a former member of Central’s regional champion varsity tennis team.” 

According to the Governor’s Volunteer Stars Award website, “Rachel has donated her time, skills and talent to the Rutherford County community as a Scout leader…Rachel was a charter member of Murfreesboro’s Troop 2019, recognized as the nation’s first all-girl troop in the Boy Scouts of America. Rising to Eagle Scout and serving in a variety of leadership roles in the troop, Rachel logged hundreds of volunteer service hours. These volunteer hours ranged from multi-day events benefiting local charities, churches and conservation projects, to small efforts she directed or assisted as part of the troop’s activities. For her Life Scout project, she worked with Civil Air Patrol to help coordinate a Wreaths Across America holiday remembrance of veteran graves at the Stones River National Cemetery. For her Eagle Scout project, she raised money and completed displays for the Rutherford County Courthouse Museum recognizing the positive impacts of including women in Scouting.” 

“I am incredibly honored to receive this award for all the work I have done,” said Oppmann, “but that’s not why I did it. The real reward has come from working with my fellow Scouts and peers to better our home, and being able to create art and compassion in and with the people of our community.” 

There were 3,797 Congressional Medal Awards given to American youth at three levels – gold, silver and bronze – in 2023. As Fernandez makes clear, these awards are earned, not won.  

Through the creation of the The Congressional Award, Congress urges young people to challenge themselves. Any interested, motivated student between 13 ½ and 22 years old may register for the program, participating between the ages of 14 and 24. They participate in The Congressional Award by setting and achieving individually challenging goals in four program areas: Voluntary Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness and Expedition/Exploration. 

According to the award’s website, the United States Congress established The Congressional Award in 1979 to recognize initiative, service, and achievement in young people. It began as a bipartisan effort in both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. The original bill was sponsored by Senator Malcolm Wallop of Wyoming and Congressman James Howard of New Jersey. It was initially signed into law by President Jimmy Carter. It is a public-private partnership that receives funding from the private sector.

The awards will be handed out at the Annual Gold Metal Summit June 2024 in Washington, D. C. Members of the United States Congress, public and private partners, and industry and civic leaders will be recognizing the Gold Medalists in front of their families and peers in a multi-day recognition event. There are 483 Gold Medalists in the 2024 class. 

I plan on attending the Summit,” added Oppmann. “My sister lives in Washington D.C., and it is one of my favorite places to visit, so I am thrilled to be invited to be recognized for the award.”

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