Kaitlin (Katie) Wong of Carlmont High School in Belmont, Calif., was one of 373 students from across the nation to receive the Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C., on June 21.
Given by the U.S. Congress, the award was established in 1979 to recognize initiative, service and achievement in young people. To this day, it is the highest honor the U.S. government can bestow upon youth.
To earn her medal, Wong completed nearly 1,500 hours in the areas of Voluntary Public Service, Expedition, Personal Development and Physical Fitness. For each category, she set goals and worked for nearly four years to achieve them.
Specifically, for the Voluntary Public Service category, Wong created her high school’s Principal’s Service Award, which is a sustainable program that encourages students to experience an interest in volunteering. Additionally, she helped at a Japanese cultural summer camp, Medaka no Gakko, for the past six years, and also received a scholarship last summer to attend a Global Leadership Academy in Canada, where she worked with other students from around the world.
Wong chose to take writing courses to improve her abilities for her Personal Development goal. Recently, she was chosen to be a finalist in the Facing History Together Student Essay Contest, where she earned the Upstander Award scholarship and finished in the Top 10 out of more than 5,000 entrants.
For the contest, she wrote passionately about her grandmother’s experience of being born and raised in a Japanese internment camp and how that injustice taught Wong about standing up for human rights.
This year’s Congressional Gold Medal recipients represented the largest class in its 38-year history. Wong represented the 14th Congressional District, Redwood City, Calif. She will currently be a senior in high school in the fall.