Utah teen receives Congressional Award Gold Medal for outstanding community service

Nov 24, 2023, 7:05 PM | Updated: Nov 25, 2023, 4:35 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah Teen has received a prestigious award from Congress. The honor took four years to achieve, involving hundreds of hours of volunteer and personal work, and it has made a difference for the high school seniors and the Salt Lake community.

Preparing a post-Thanksgiving Day meal Friday, Katie Kim sliced sausages and cut rolls in half as part of a lunch for homeless youth at the Volunteers of American (VOA) Youth Resource Center.

The 17-year-old West High School student spent her holiday break from school volunteering and helping others.

“I love coming into the kitchen and cooking because it’s really hands-on,” Katie said. “You get to meet people in person, serve them, really connect.”

Volunteering at the VOA and making meals for other teens her age who are displaced, is just one way Katie connects with people.

She has quite a list of other organizations and projects she’s involved in.

“One of the favorite ones I’ve done, was with Peace Through Music, which taught free music lessons to underserved youth around elementary school in Utah,” she said. Additionally, she has worked with children through the YouthCity Summer Program.

Katie is also on the Attorney General Youth Council, which she explained is a board of around 40 students from schools around Utah that gather to discuss issues impacting teens in the state.

“Last year, we did a little bit of drafting for potential laws to put into place,” she said. “For example, there were some about mental health in schools and water conservation.”

Plus, Katie is a member of the National Honor Society (NHS), National Charity League, and HOSA Future Health Professionals. She does work with each one of those organizations, like volunteering with other NHS students and Katie won first place in HOSA competitions for CPR/First Aid and Cultural Discrepancies and Disparities.

Katie also competes in the pool and is currently the Captain of the West High Swim Team. She was recently named the Heisman High School Scholar-Athlete Scholarship winner for Utah.

Not to mention, Katie is a talented pianist who teaches lessons, and she loves art. Her artwork was featured on a Utah Transit Authority bus as part of a competition for students to draw a picture about their community and showing why Utah is beautiful.

“It was about really embracing diversity,” Katie said, of her drawing submission featuring people from different backgrounds. “Going to West High, I really got exposed to so many different cultures that I wasn’t really aware were concentrated in Utah like that, so it was really exciting to be part of that.”

Over the past four years, Katie has volunteered more than 400 hours. This has included organizing clothing and hygiene kit drives for the VOA Youth Resource Center, plus her regular kitchen visits to serve meals. She accepted an invitation to help launch the VOA’s new Volunteer Ambassador Program, as the organization’s first official VOA Ambassador.

It’s no wonder that Congress awarded Katie The Congressional Award Gold Medal, their highest honor for civilian youth. According to the award program, participants must complete at least 400 hours of voluntary public service, 200 hours of personal development, 200 hours of physical fitness, and they must spend at least five days and four nights exploring a new environment or culture.

Katie planned a trip to Boston for that last requirement, learning all about our country’s history.

In June, Katie will fly to Washington DC to receive the medal at an award ceremony.

“The Congressional Gold Medal Award was really such an honor to get it because it really involved every part of my life– my working, my physical fitness, personal development, leadership, service,” Katie said.

Katie’s mom Jane Kim, who often volunteers with her daughter, said Katie began volunteering when she was 12, and it has become part of her life.

Jane chuckled thinking about the early Sunday mornings where volunteering at the VOA begins at 7:30 a.m. — Katie’s only morning of the week she could have slept in — but that her daughter does it anyway, and always finds it worthwhile.

“It’s great. It’s good for the community, it’s good for her, and I’m really happy. I’m proud of her,” Jane said.

Katie knows The Congressional Award Gold Medal award isn’t the real reward in all of this, though. She expressed how she enjoys meeting new people, helping others, and making a difference in those she serves.

She encourages others to get involved in their community as much as they can.

“I think it really helps to kind of go out of your comfort zone to connect with other people,” she said. “I think it’s taught me a lot about breaking out of my shell, and just connecting with the community.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Officials urge people to stay away from high-running waters, and to implement systems to avoid floo...

Shelby Lofton

Safety and flood warnings near rivers, reservoirs hit capacity

Heavy snow two years in a row left reservoirs filled to the brim. Now, high temperatures are making rivers more active than usual. Here is how you can keep your home and family safe this summer.

6 minutes ago

Signs advertising fresh fruit and vegetables along Box Elder County's Fruit Way along Highway 89....

Alex Cabrero

Utah farmers say strong winter has led to amazing crop season

Fruit and vegetable farmers in northern Utah are saying this crop season might be one of the best in recent memory.

7 minutes ago

Former President Donald Trump gestures after speaking during the North Carolina Republican Party Co...

Samuel Benson, Deseret News

Poll: Trump leads big among Utah voters; Biden, Kennedy tied

After viewing both Trump and Biden unfavorably in August, most Utahns now see Trump favorably

56 minutes ago

Temperatures officially hit 100 degrees in Salt Lake City Thursday for the first time this year, wh...

Lindsay Aerts

Salt Lake sees first 100-degree day, here’s how it’s measured

Temperatures officially hit 100 degrees in Salt Lake City Thursday for the first time this year. The measuring of the temperature isn’t as cut and dry as you might think.

56 minutes ago

Teachers at Utah’s largest high school are done taking away cell phones from students. Instead, t...

Erin Cox

No more taking phones from students, Granger High School implementing new policy this fall

Teachers at Utah’s largest high school are done taking away cell phones from students. They’re trying something new in the Fall, and if they’re successful, other schools might do the same.

1 hour ago

(FILE) An audiologist preforming an a  hearing test. (KSL TV)...

Emma Benson

Listen up! The health consequences of untreated hearing loss

Around 600,000 people in Utah have hearing loss, but many may not realize they do until they're tested and how it can affect their health.

1 hour ago

Sponsored Articles

Photo courtesy of Artists of Ballet West...

Ballet West

The rising demand for ballet tickets: why they’re harder to get

Ballet West’s box office is experiencing demand they’ve never seen before, leaving many interested patrons unable to secure tickets they want.

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 internet safety tips for kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why printer security should be top of mind for your business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light up your home with these top lighting trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for hassle-free computer repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Utah teen receives Congressional Award Gold Medal for outstanding community service