Select Region
Helping Parents Make Better Decisions
Queens Student Wins U.S. Congressional Gold Medal Award for Service

Queens Student Wins U.S. Congressional Gold Medal Award for Service

Queens high school student Julia McKenna was awarded the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal for completing 400 hours of volunteer service in and near the Astoria community and at her high school, Garden School, in Jackson Heights.


In June, 283 students from across the nation gathered on Capitol Hill to be recognized at the U.S. Congressional Award Gold Medal Ceremony. Among them was Queens’ own Julia McKenna, one of 13 students from New York state who received the award this year.

McKenna, 17, of Astoria, is a senior at Garden School with a passion for volunteering.

To qualify for the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, students must complete at least 400 hours of voluntary service in their communities, including 200 hours in personal development, another 200 in physical fitness, and at least four nights and five days in an area of exploration or expedition. Over the past four years, McKenna performed 550 hours of volunteer service with organizations including Special Olympics and the Bowery Residents Committee, NYC.

julia mckenna

McKenna was awarded the medal by Congressman Joseph Crowley

“When I began volunteering, I wasn’t doing it to win this award,” McKenna says. “I did it just to do it. So when I won this award, I was proud, but I feel like everyone should volunteer because it’s a good thing to do.”

McKenna is an honor student, co-captain of her school’s volleyball team, and a member of the spring tennis team.

McKenna says she began volunteering after being inspired by her family, especially by her older sister. With that influence and Garden School’s support, McKenna held blood drives and various community service events at her school in Jackson Heights. She has also trained younger students to continue her efforts.

One of those students is sixth-grader Sandro Demonte, son of Cynthia Demonte, a Garden School parent and McKenna’s advisor, who logged McKenna’s volunteer hours over the past four years and also nominated her for the prestigious award.

Richard Marotta, headmaster of Garden School, says that he was thrilled but not surprised that McKenna received the U.S. Congressional Award.

“I’ve known [Julia] since kindergarten,” Marotta says. “I know how much she put into it and that she doesn’t [volunteer] for recognition. She does it because she quite strongly believes that this is her responsibility.”

After graduating the Garden School, McKenna says she plans to attend college and continue volunteering with the Special Olympics and other community organizations.

The U.S. Congressional Gold Medal is awarded once a year to qualified students ages 14-24. For more information, visit


Emma Rausch

Author: Emma Rausch is a graduate of Indiana University's School of Journalism. See More

Featured Events:

Cartography at New Victory Theater

Jan. 10, 2020 - Jan. 19, 2020

Hear the stories of young refugees when CARTOGRAPHY asks what part we play in the lives of young people who set out into the unsure waters of their futures.