Advertisement
Share

‘Celebrating goal-setting’: La Jolla Country Day student earns Congressional Award gold medal

La Jolla Country Day School senior Roma Nagle has earned the Congressional Award gold medal.
La Jolla Country Day School senior Roma Nagle has earned the Congressional Award gold medal for achieving at least 400 hours of voluntary public service, 200 hours each of personal development and physical fitness and a five-day expedition.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Country Day School)

La Jolla Country Day School senior Roma Nagle has earned the Congressional Award gold medal after four years of what she describes as reaching a goal, one step at a time.

The Congressional Award program, founded in 1979 to encourage and recognize initiative, service and achievement, contains six levels: bronze, silver and gold certificates and bronze, silver and gold medals. Each level involves setting goals in four program areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.

The program is open to all U.S. residents ages 14-24, regardless of ability, circumstance or socioeconomic status.

Just over 5,200 gold medals have been awarded since the program began.

“The congressional gold medal represents celebrating goal-setting. You have to do work to get the award,” said Roma, 17. “It’s a big undertaking.”

Roma began working toward the award’s requirements at the beginning of her freshman year, earning the bronze certificate and silver medal along the way (the lower-level awards do not have to be earned before the gold medal).

Gold medalists log at least 400 hours of voluntary public service, 200 hours each of personal development and physical fitness and a five-day expedition or exploration.

For the service hours, Roma began with sorting produce and helping in the warehouse for Feeding San Diego.

She also started the La Jolla Country Day School chapter of the Feeding San Diego Gratitude Calling Program, in which students call the nonprofit’s donors to thank them for their gifts.

“We’re really expressing our gratitude and making sure that they understood that every dollar that was donated was well worth it,” Roma said.

Most of her hours, however, came from volunteering with Learn to Be, a nonprofit that provides tutoring to students in disadvantaged communities.

For personal development, which involves cultivating a skill, Roma logged her hours on Country Day’s mock trial team.

“I’ve been doing it for four years now,” she said. She acts as the team’s pretrial attorney, who must argue a case in front of a judge.

Roma, who earned awards for outstanding pretrial defense attorney at the 2021 and 2022 San Diego County High School Mock Trial Competition, said she’s honed skills such as maintaining composure, thinking quickly and arguing effectively.

“All those hours that I put in ended up paying off,” she said.

Earning the gold medal is “very much a testament of my entire high school journey and shows what my potential is [and] what I can do if I just goal-set.”

— Roma Nagle

For her fitness hours, Roma pushed herself to try a variety of activities, including working out in a gym, climbing, running and field hockey.

For the expedition portion, which had to be self-planned, Roma and her father visited Boston and New York last summer.

The itinerary was “based on art,” Roma said, as “I really wanted to push myself. I would consider myself very analytical or data-driven, so I really wanted to see how much I [can] learn from art.”

Through her visit, which included studying art and architecture that she researched ahead of time, Roma learned “how much can we symbolize, how much can we represent, how much emotions can be conveyed through [art],” she said.

“If it wasn’t for this trip, I really wouldn’t have seen … the qualitative, creative side of meaning,” she added. “It was really, really fascinating.”

Upon her return, Roma wrote a paper detailing her expedition process.

Roma already has her gold medal but will attend a virtual ceremony in July with members of Congress recognizing those who have earned the award this year.

The virtual format, adopted amid the COVID-19 pandemic instead of the usual in-person trip to Washington, D.C., was not the only adaptation in the process.

Roma said the lockdowns at the onset of the pandemic in her sophomore year meant restrictions on service hours, travel and other activities, which made earning the medal more difficult than she expected.

Daunted by the required hours, she said she thought “’I don’t know if I can complete this.’ My [virtual] school was an entire burden on itself; I didn’t see my advisor as often. It made it harder to see the end.”

“In life, we have all these dreams and things we want to get done, and stuff really does seem daunting,” she added. “But being able to break it down into steps and just say, ‘OK, I’m just going to focus on this one thing’ … you get closer and closer to the end.”

Roma, who will head to UC Berkeley in the fall to study data science and biology with an eye on computational genomics, said earning the gold medal is “very much a testament of my entire high school journey and shows what my potential is [and] what I can do if I just goal-set.” ◆