Evangel students win U.S. Congressional Gold Medal

Published 11:24 am Monday, July 10, 2023

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By LIZZIE BOWEN | Staff Writer

ALABASTER – Hoover residents and Evangel Christian School students James and Amelia DeLano have won the U.S. Congress’ Congressional Gold Medal at the 2023 Gold Medal Summit.

“I was shocked,” Amelia said. “I knew that it would be happening as I had submitted all of my work for the award a few months prior, but I was still shocked and honored. For the Congressional Award Gold Medal, you are required to have at a minimum of 200 hours personal development, 200 hours physical fitness, 400 hours public service and a five-day four-night expedition/exploration. I had 305 hours of personal development, 1,321 hours of physical fitness, 1,780 hours of public service and completed a seven day and six-night expedition.”

Amelia said that awards like this help to give back to local communities, and she has done a variety of community service work in order to aid in the effort to give back.

“I feel others should go out in their community and help,” Amelia said. “I volunteered at the Hoover Public Library and Special equestrians. I worked at 280 Animal Medical Center Westover. I earned all my physical fitness hours at Mountain Brook Gymnastics. I am a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions, the largest service dog organization in the country. I met many amazing people through my journey and have helped just as many.

I am a certified therapy dog team member and volunteered at the Hoover Public Library’s Sensory Story time. I earned over 1,000 hours from being a volunteer puppy raiser for Canine Companions. With Canine Companions, I raised a future service dog puppy from 8 weeks old until she was 18 months. I also helped organize DogFest Alabama, Canine Companions fundraiser for Alabama.”

Amelia has big plans for the future and sees herself progressing In her career in the next five years.

“I plan to be a veterinarian,” Amelia said. “I am hoping to get into Mississippi State’s early entry vet program, which would save me a seat in their vet school after I compete undergrad.”

Victoria DeLano said that James and Amelia were the only two residents from Alabama to receive this award.

“I was at a gymnastics meet when I got the email I would be receiving the award in June 2023,” DeLano said. “I told my teammates, most of who did not know I was completing this award or even what the award is. I texted a screenshot to my parents while I was behind stage at awards. They were freaking out. I also texted a picture to my best friend, who was just as excited as I was.”

This is the U.S. Congress’ highest honor bestowed to young people for public service work, personal development, physical fitness and an expedition/exploration project completed during a certain period of time.

“You have to put the effort in,” Amelia said. “Nothing in life comes easy, especially this award. I had to get out of my comfort zone and email dozens of people asking for them to zoom with me to give me advice for personal development. One of the board members for the Congressional Award is a dean at Mississippi State, so I emailed her in hopes of meeting her at the three-day day summit. Once at the summit, I went up to complete strangers who turned out to be very similar to me and we all became fast friends.”