A new partnership between the Military Family Advisory Network and the Congressional Award program looks to promote public service and personal development among military teens and young adults.
The Congressional Award itself isn't new. A federally mandated but privately funded public service program aimed at American teens, it was started in the late 1970s. The program encourages teens to participate in community volunteer work as well as physical fitness, personal development and expedition and exploration. If you were ever heavily involved in a group like 4-H as a teen, you probably have either heard of the award or participated in it yourself.
The program isn't a contest -- but it does come with a variety of award levels for those who have completed the benchmark hours obligations. (You can read more about the program requirements here.)
Now the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) is working with the Congressional Award program to advertise it to military teens as a great way to get involved in their community while working on a project that can travel with them.
“The Congressional Award is particularly relevant to children from military families because it allows them to develop a sense of community and resilience through volunteerism, mentorship and personal accomplishment,” Shannon Razsadin, MFAN’s executive director said in a statement. “The Congressional Award can be part of their teen years no matter how many times the family may move in response to the call of duty.”
While the award program has been around for a long time (and plenty of military kids have participated in the past), MFAN officials have been working on the partnership for about a year, but wanted to announce it during April, which is month of the military child.
"This is kind of a no-brainer, it’s a win-win no matter how you look at it," Razsadin told me "It's a great opportunity for interaction between elected officials and military families."
An MFAN study of military families released early this year showed that not only do military families already rely on private organizations for support, but that expanding those links could be a great way to fill the gap between what the Defense Department is able to offer families and what they actually need. In an era of budget cuts where government funded programs are on the chopping block, expanding partnerships with privately funded opportunities just seems like a smart move.
The program's staff will be tracking how many military children use the program, Razsadin said, and the MFAN team will be working to spread the word among military installation leaders nationwide to amp up military kid involvement.
Photo courtesy U.S. Government