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ITT: TTU Freshman Earns Congressional Award

Hundreds of volunteer hours earned one incoming Texas Tech freshman a trip to the U.S. Capitol this summer to receive a prestigious award. Elizabeth Walker of Abilene was one of 29 Texans to earn a Congressional Award gold medal. On Mondays and Wednesdays for two and a half years, Walker volunteered at City Light Soup Kitchen, a program of the First Baptist Church in Abilene. She began volunteering with friends even before she decided to apply for the Congressional Award, which was established in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter “That was such an amazing opportunity to get to work there,” Walker says. “I just volunteered there but I love everyone I work with—the staff—and I have come to know a lot of the people that come in regularly and it’s just been a great opportunity. I’m glad that I was able to do that during my high school career because it was just, I don’t know if I would say enriching, but it was good.” Walker, a home-schooled student who graduated this past spring, will enter the Honors College and plans to major in Human Development and Family Studies while on a pre-nursing track. She logged 400 hours of community service, 200 hours of personal development and 200 hours of physical fitness. The 18-year-old chose to volunteer to help others. She says she gained much from the experience. “I did feel like I got to learn a lot of empathy for others because I’ve always been in a position of great privilege. I come from a two-parent house, middle class. And it was just eye-opening I guess. I didn’t do it to feel good necessarily, but I felt like I was in a position where I could give my time back to people who didn’t necessarily have as much as me, so that’s why I wanted to do that.” The 2018 Gold Medal class was the largest in the program’s 39 year history. Four hundred and forty two young people aged 13 and a half to 23 earned the honor. The award was established as a public-private partnership and is the highest honor bestowed upon a young person through the U.S. Senate and U.S. House. This year’s class contributed more than 371,000 service hours, an average of 840 hours per medalist. Walker was the first awardee since 2005 from District 19, which includes Abilene and Lubbock. The ceremony was in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. More than 50 Members of Congress attended the ceremony to present their constituents with the Gold Medal, including Congressman Jodey Arrington, who represents Walker’s hometown. She and the other awardees were on their own financially in getting to the ceremony. Walker’s parents and her older sister Hannah went her. “I think it was worth it ultimately,” she says. “It was a lot to get out there, but it was worth it to be in the Congress building and it was just really awesome. I met our representative Jodey Arrington, he was very kind, gave us a good Texas welcome.” Once she gets settled in at Texas Tech, Walker says she’ll be on the lookout for opportunities to volunteer. And she encourages others to do the same. “If you have a heart for service, just go out and do it and do it without expecting anything in return,” she says. “It’s rewarding in itself, even though you’re not doing it for you necessarily, or doing it for others, it does come with its own rewards, and so definitely get out there and do—even if you’ve never really had an interest in service, just try it once and it’s, I feel like it’s something everyone should do at some point or another, if they can.” Walker says she looks forward to joining the Red Raider family. She’d considered three other schools, including Texas A&M. “In the end, I feel like Texas Tech just had so much more to offer me personally and one thing I’ve always raved about is the faculty and staff, they’re just fantastic,” she says.