Vista Murrieta Student Earns Congressional Gold Medal

From left: MVUSD superintendent Pat Kelley, Vista Murrieta principal Mick Wager, Mili Patel and her father, and program coordinator Carol ...

From left: MVUSD superintendent Pat Kelley, Vista Murrieta principal Mick Wager, Mili Patel and her father, and program coordinator Carol Hernandez.
(Murrieta 24/7 photos: Doug Spoon)

Mili Patel, a junior at Vista Murrieta High School, has become the second student in the history of the Murrieta Valley Unified School District to earn the Congressional Award Gold Medal, considered America's highest award for youth.

Patel was presented a certificate in recognition of this achievement today on campus by Melissa Melendez, Assemblywoman from the California 67th District.

The program is open to young people ages 14-23 and is a voluntary, non-competitive program. Students can apply at age 13 1/2 and have the opportunity to progress through the program, earning Bronze, Silver and Gold certificates and medals. Students move at their own pace but must satisfy strict requirements before their 24th birthday.

In order to earn the Congressional Award gold medal, a participant must satisfy the following requirements:

-- Perform a minimum of 400 hours of volunteer community service.

-- Complete a minimum of 200 hours of physical fitness activities.

-- Demonstrate personal development through his or her activities.

-- Plan and carry out an "expedition", or exploratory program, requiring a five-day trip to a location with which the student is unfamiliar but through which the student learns lessons that can be applied in his or her life.

Patel was introduced to the program by her teacher, Carol Hernandez, in eighth grade and committed herself to the program. She completed more than 420 hours of voluntary public service through organizations including the Rotary Club, Habitat for Humanity and the Murrieta Youth Advisory Committee. She also carries a 4.4 cumulative GPA.

In addition, she satisfied requirements of the program by participating on the school's varsity tennis team and planning and leading a week-long excursion to Washington D.C., where she participated in exploration of several historical and cultural sites.

Patel will return to the nation's capital on June 17 for the Congressional Award program, along with Vista Murrieta senior Caroline Dutzi, who received the gold medal in February.

"This is not about past achievements," said Melendez in making the presentation. "It's about the goals you set for yourself and then achieving them. Mili has a whole list of things she's done to give back to the community -- not just the school community, but the community in which she lives."

Patel plans a career in medicine. For now, she is focusing on preparing for her last year of high school and the benefits of the award she has earned.

"I kept looking at the end result and how that would really benefit me and give me something that would allow me to be unique and stand out from the crowd," Patel said. "I kept focusing on the end and remembering that all the work would be worth it at the end."

Patel also was one of 18 students from the district who traveled to China earlier this year on a cultural exchange program.

"We're very proud of Mili," said Pat Kelley, superintendent of the Murrieta Valley Unified School District. "She represents the very best of students here in Murrieta. I'd like to also thank the staff, who took on a very difficult project but planted the seeds of inspiration that lasted many years for these students."




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