Justin Chang ’19, a day student from Middleton, Mass., received the Congressional Silver Medal for achieving several goals in voluntary community service, personal exploration, and personal athletic development this year.
Congressman Seth Moulton ’97 presented Chang the award on February 24 in Moulton’s Town Hall at Saugus High School. Chang was one of two students who won a medal in his district.
Chang wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Participating in the Congressional Award has been life-changing for me. It has elucidated just how many opportunities there are for me to give back to society and the people around me.”
Chang continued, “[The award’s] high standards and worthy goals have taught me the value of persistence and diligence in following my dreams. The Congressional Award is a goal that I have dedicated myself to, and aspire to achieve — and it in turn has improved me as I strive towards it.”
In order to win a Congressional Silver award, a student has to partake in numerous activities, including 200 hours of voluntary public service, a wilderness expedition lasting at least three days, and 200 hours of personal athletic improvement. Chang took around a total of four years to win the Congressional Silver Medal.
Despite his achievement, Chang at first did not tell any of his friends about his Congressional Silver Medal. Upon hearing the news, Olivia Lai ’20, one of Chang’s friends, attributed Chang’s attitude and work ethic as deserving of the Congressional Medal.
Lai wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “I think [the fact] that Justin didn’t tell me about his Congressional Award really speaks to Justin’s humility. He has an incredible work ethic and one of the most positive attitudes towards his work that I’ve seen, of course, but the admirable part is that he doesn’t get caught up in the hyper-competitive achievement culture at Andover. I think he’s particularly deserving of the award, and I’m really proud of him.”
Chang’s start in community service lies in his experience with the Boy Scouts. Chang said that he originally did not have the intention of winning the award. Instead, Chang volunteered in order to give back to his community.
A particular Community Engagement activity that resonated with Chang was the Homework Room, a service project in which Andover students tutor and mentor elementary school students of the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence. Chang claims that his experience working at the Homework Club completely altered his perception of the obstacles that financially disadvantaged students face.
Chang wrote, “I’ve seen students who can tackle three-digit multiplication in their heads. I’ve seen students fluently speak English and Spanish in equal measures. However, some of them were inhibited in their English literacy — a skill difficult to acquire in homes with minimal books and extremely busy parents. They were initially unable to demonstrate their talents, but the supportive environment of the Homework Room made them more confident in themselves and allowed them to shine even brighter.”
Chang claims that witnessing these moments affected him deeply because they gave him a renewed perspective on the importance of a supportive educational system. He specifically believes that enabling disadvantaged students to their highest potential is a key part of community service.
Chang has plans to expand his endeavors in Community Engagement both in and outside Andover. He will coordinate the Checkmate Chess Club next year, one of the programs organized by both the Andover Community Engagement Office and the previously mentioned Lawrence Boys and Girls Club.
Chang also plans to work with Si, Se Puede, an organization in Lawrence focusing on a food truck program that aims to distribute food bags to local residents. Chang also plans to pursue the Congressional Gold Medal, the most prestigious of all Congressional Awards.