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Tamaqua teen earns Congressional Gold Medal

A Tamaqua teenager recently earned the United States Congress’ highest honor for young Americans.

Alex Porambo, 18, spent more than 1,400 hours to attain the Congressional Award Gold Medal, which honors youths for bettering both themselves and their communities.

“Alex has been consistently working to achieve this award for over?two years, the minimum time frame it takes to earn the?Gold Medal,” said Bethie Woodall, deputy national director of the Congressional Award.

His recent approval, she said, was “no small feat.”

Porambo, a senior at Marian Catholic High School, learned about the program from his Scoutmasters Blake Tharp and Damon Krall, who lead Clamtown Boy Scout Troop 755.

“I looked more into it and I fell in love with the idea of setting personal goals and getting involved in the community and decided that this is something I wanted to strive toward,” he said.

Through the Congressional Award, Congress urges those ages 14 to 24 to challenge themselves by setting and achieving goals in the areas of voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition/exploration.

Porambo began his journey when he was 15 years old.

“It was completely voluntary and I don’t regret getting involved in the program especially because of the positive effects it had on my life,” he said.

To earn the Gold Medal, participants must complete at least 400 hours of voluntary public service; 200 hours of personal development, and?200 hours of physical fitness. Additionally, they must spend at least 5 days exploring a new environment or culture.

Porambo explained his game plan.

For voluntary service, he earned Eagle Scout status so he could help other Scouts do the same.

“This involves a lot of involvement in the community as well as a lot of Eagle Scout projects,” he noted. He assisted fellow Scouts on projects that included building three benches, a staircase, a bridge, a Gaga pit and park equipment.

Other projects he did on his own included serving food for the Salvation Army, organizing drives for Toys for Tots, helping at church festivals, and cleaning up local parks.

And at Marian, he was elected president of the Catholic Relief Services Club in his junior and senior years. Porambo said the club wasn’t going “too well,” but over the past two years, it became more popular and accomplished much.

“Some of the notable projects that I organized and led the club in were to prepare 51 totes for a day shelter, collect 1,000 shoes for Third World countries, cook and serve food for a retirement home for Thanksgiving, and collect jackets for homeless and house fire victims during the winter,” Porambo said.

The CRS Club recently won the National Auxiliary Award, he noted.

For personal fitness area, Porambo had his eyes set on going to the state competition for cross-country and track and field.

“I’ve run for my entire high school career and my goal was to be able to compete at the state level,” he said. “This year I took the goal seriously, placed in the top 5 at the CC districts XI, and competed at the state level.”

For personal development, Porambo said serving as a lifeguard at Tamaqua’s Bungalow community pool helps him to consistently improve his surveillance, communication, lifesaving and first aid skills.

And finally, for expedition, he spent three years planning to attend the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.

“I went last July 19 - 29, and it was a high-risk adventure base,” he said of the experience.

He also noted that it took a lot of fundraising and coordination to be able to go - and make it go smoothly.

Porambo said it’s a bit difficult to define the difficulty of the program because the point is to have fun while accomplishing goals.

“Yes, there were days I felt like being lazy and not going after one of these goals, but I can’t say it was difficult because I had fun in the process knowing I am becoming the best version of myself,” he explained.

An awards ceremony will be held in June in Washington, D.C. Porambo said Congress members, public and private partners, and industry and civic leaders will be on hand.

“I am very excited and I can’t wait to go,” he said.

Following graduation, he plans to attend college and major in computer science.

He is the son of Matthew and Andrea Porambo.

Alex Porambo
Alex Porambo
Alex Porambo