Gold is starting to be a tradition in the Foster family.
In 2013, Olivia Foster ’14 received a gold medal for completing the national Congressional Award program, a four-year process that involved extensively documenting her work in public service, personal development, physical fitness, and exploration. As a result of her commitment, she was awarded the program’s highest honor at a ceremony in Washington D.C.
The benefits of going through such a long and rigorous process—that it created someone well rounded, instilled self-confidence, and was extremely rewarding—did not go unnoticed by Ms. Foster’s younger sister, Abbie.
Three years ago, as the younger Foster was starting her own Congressional Award process, she asked her sister Olivia for advice.
“She said, ‘Even if some days you don’t feel like doing it, or don’t know the reason you’re doing it, don’t give up and then it will be worth it,” Abbie Foster ’16 recalled. “And it definitely was.”
In March, Ms. Foster learned that out of the possible awards— bronze, silver, and gold certificates, or bronze, silver, and gold medals—she, too, had received the top honor. Ms. Foster was also invited to Washington D.C., where the Congress will present her with the award as part of a formal ceremony in June.
“That was really exciting,” she said. “I knew I had completed everything, but they’re so specific I wasn’t sure if I did it perfectly.”
To achieve this honor, Ms. Foster logged over 400 hours of practice with the varsity tennis team, traveled to Europe with People to People Ambassador Program and two friends, and spent 200 hours volunteering at her local Jewish Community Center, where she worked with the Kehillah program teaching a karate and self-defense class to children with special needs.
“It was just so special helping them,” Ms. Foster said. “I was learning karate, too, but it was more than that, and by the end I gained their trust and they really looked up to me as a mentor and a friend.”
To fulfill her personal development requirement, Ms. Foster created Optimistic Sports, a business venture that featured hats with cheerful quotes. Ms. Foster sold the hats during a summer golf tournament in honor of her father’s best friend, who had passed away. She estimates that the effort raised around $1,500, which was donated to charity.
Earlier this year, Ms. Foster submitted her detailed logbook, along with confirmation from mentors for each aspect of the project. The formal letter and invitation to Washington D.C. arrived in the mail a short time later.
“I definitely had the biggest smile on my face,” she said. “It’s a huge accomplishment and being recognized by Congress is really special.”
Now that her younger sister, Nikki, is also considering going through the process, Ms. Foster said she has advice of her own: find a volunteering project you love.
“The volunteering part is the biggest portion of it,” Ms. Foster said. “So if you’re not passionate about it, then you’re not going to want to spend 400 hours there.”
As for Abbie Foster, who is now looking ahead to the prospect of college and beyond, the Congressional Award process has instilled in her a new sense of self-confidence.
“Now I know I can do this,” she said, “anything could be next.”