Fairfax Co. teen to receive Congressional Award Gold Medal

Young students nationwide who have achieved extraordinary things are set to be honored by Congress later this month.

And a Fairfax County, Virginia, teen is among them.

The Congressional Award Gold Medal, which is Congress’ highest honor for young Americans, is given out annually, and about 500 students will receive one this year. Established by Congress as a public-private partnership in 1979, the program encourages and recognizes initiative, service and achievement in youth.

“It definitely did require a lot of hard work,” said Ayonnah Tinsley, a 17-year-old from Centreville.

To earn the award, participants must log at least 400 hours of voluntary public service, 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical fitness and a five-day expedition.

As part of her personal development, Tinsley published a book called “This is What an Engineer Looks Like” when she was just 15-years-old.

“I would volunteer at local elementary schools and give talks about STEM – science, technology, engineering and math,” Tinsley said. “I would give workshops just explaining to students how important STEM is in our communities.”

And Tinsley became one of the youngest volunteers at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Udvar-Hazy Center.

As a high school student, Tinsley completed her physical fitness requirement largely by participating in track and field.

During the pandemic, the five-day expedition requirement was modified because of travel restrictions. Instead of physically traveling, Tinsley wrote a 10-page paper researching the country of Panama.

“When I first heard that everything was in order for me to receive the gold medal, I was ecstatic about it,” Tinsley said. “I thought it was the perfect timing since it was right around the time I was graduating from high school as well.”

Tinsley, a graduate of Westfield High School, will attend the University of Southern California in the fall, focusing her studies on arts, technology and business innovation.

The virtual awards ceremony is set for July 30.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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