Hilliard Davidson High School senior Noah Morris recently earned a Congressional Award for his humanitarian service in a remote Costa Rican rainforest.
The Congressional Award is nonpartisan, voluntary, noncompetitive and open to citizens ages 14 to 23, according to the program website. Participants earn bronze, silver and gold Congressional Award certificates and medals based on hours of service in four program areas: volunteer public service, personal development, physical fitness and expedition and exploration.
U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) presented Morris with a bronze Congressional Award medal Jan. 4 at Peet's Coffee and Tea in Upper Arlington.
"I would like to congratulate Noah on receiving (the award)," Stivers said. "He is an outstanding young man and I commend him on his volunteer efforts. It is always good to honor a young person who is making a positive difference in the world."
Morris met the qualifications for the award through the National Leadership Council, an organization he joined as part of the youth activities at his church.
He said the program has instilled in him leadership skills that will last a lifetime.
"I would recommend that every eighth-grade student (register) for the Congressional Award," Morris said.
Morris, who also is an Eagle Scout, completed 100 hours of service, spending two weeks last summer at a village in Costa Rica. Students enrolled in the Congressional Award program are responsible for their own traveling expenses.
Morris, with 19 other students and two adult leaders from throughout the United States, said he helped children living in the Sarapiqui Rainforest.
"It was an eye-opening experience," said Morris, whose previous volunteer efforts had not taken him out of the United States. "I had never got to experience another culture. The experience was one of the best things I've done in my life."
Morris described the adults and the children as "hospitable" and "absolutely grateful."
Morris said he and other volunteers cleaned and repainted the village's containers that purify rainwater. Concrete tanks, each about 10 by 10 feet, collect the rainwater, Morris said.
"We cleaned the outside of the tanks, scrubbed off the moss and algae and repainted the tanks," Morris said.
He said they repaired fencing around a school and taught English to Spanish-speaking children in grades equivalent to kindergarten through the fifth grade.
Morris also had a chance for some recreation, helping to improve a soccer field and overseeing a soccer camp.
"Soccer is a big part of the kids' lives there," he said.
Morris said he plans to attend Ohio University in the fall and is considering majoring in photojournalism or music production.
He is the son of Donald and Tammy Morris of Hilliard.