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UC Student Goes for the Gold

This month, Jessica Pauley will be awarded the Congressional Award Gold Medal in Washington, D.C.

Date: 6/5/2006 8:00:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Andrew Higley
UC ingot
Jessica Pauley, with her bronze and silver medals

Jessica Pauley, a third-year international affairs/pre-law major from Chillicothe, Ohio, is about to join the ranks of only 25 other Ohioans. Jessica will receive the Congressional Award Gold Medal at a June 21 ceremony in Washington, D.C., to be followed by a reception at the Organization of American States.

Since 1979, the Congressional Award – a non-partisan award from the U.S. Congress – has honored young Americans for their achievements in four key areas: volunteer service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.

Jessica has now achieved all three levels of the award, the bronze, silver and now the gold. Kathleen Deschler, western program coordinator for The Congressional Award, says that in the program’s 27 years of existence, only 25 other Ohioans achieved gold medal level; 12 achieved silver and 30 the bronze. Jessica will be among 242 gold medalists awarded this year, five of them from Ohio.

The achievement certainly is a challenge. Deschler says it takes about two years of activity to reach gold medal status. Look at the hours involved:

  • Volunteer Service – 400 hours
  • Physical Fitness – 200 hours
  • Personal Development – 200 hours
  • An extended exploration of a different culture

Jessica’s volunteer service included a cause very close to her heart – serving on UC’s committee for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, which has been held every spring at UC since 2003. Jessica’s father, a volunteer firefighter, is a cancer survivor. He had just started treatment for cancer when he attended one of Jessica’s college-level theater performances at Ohio University-Chillicothe – which was also a personal development experience she counted toward her award. During her time at Huntington High School, she participated in six theater productions as part of a Post-Secondary Enrollment option with Ohio University-Chillicothe, leading her to work with The Second City out of Chicago and College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) Adjunct Assistant Professor Anthony Davis.

Her physical fitness regimen included ballet classes at CCM, Pilates, Yoga and speed-walking.

A six-week study abroad project in Mexico last summer took her to Universidad Iberoamericana in Puebla, where she studied advanced Spanish and Latin-American social revolutions. She also served a 10-week internship at the Embassy of Mexico in Washington, D.C. last fall through the Washington Center.

In 2003, Jessica says she took on the biggest cultural challenge of all when she took a three-week trip to Cordoba, Veracruz, Mexico. She stayed with the family of an international student who was studying in the United States.

“I was without my family for three weeks, living with people I had only previously met briefly,” she details on her Congressional Award application. “I could only speak Spanish, because my hosts spoke no English. I worked the cash register in their store, selling items to Spanish-speaking people. I ate only Mexican foods.

“Being allowed to speak only Spanish greatly increased my rather limited Spanish vocabulary,” she wrote of her experience.

Outside the Valentine House

Jessica now lives in UC’s language-immersion house, where students are required to speak only their foreign language of study. UC’s Valentine House is one of only a handful of such college programs of its kind across the country. Jessica, of course, lives on the Spanish-speaking floor. Her resident advisor (RA) is from Colombia. In addition to her international affairs/pre-law major, Jessica is pursuing minors in Spanish, Latin-American studies and women’s studies.

“This has been an amazing experience,” Pauley says of her personal transformation. “I’ve gained wonderful memories, lifelong memories, friendships and knowledge.”

Jessica is also a student leader on campus, serving as vice president of the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences Student Tribunal; communications director for College Democrats; and co-president of Students for Study Abroad. She also works as a tour guide for the UC Office of Admissions.

“This has led to some of the best experiences and friendships of my life, and I can tell I’ve grown substantially as a person,” Jessica says of her quest for the honor. “Although I started this journey in high school, my time spent and connections made at UC have helped immensely.”

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