Auburn University business student to receive Congressional Award Gold Medal

Published: May 19, 2017
Updated: May 22, 2017
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Auburn University student Madi Haney learned the importance of helping others as a fourth-grader working in a food pantry.

"I never understood how a 10-year-old could make a difference in society until one day I was able to see first-hand the difference I was making for a family that came in to get their bag of non-perishables," said the Harbert College of Business sophomore from the small town of Killen in north Alabama.

"I didn't change their lives completely, but I did make their day a little easier. That's when service became important to me. Knowing that I put a smile on that family's face put a smile on mine."

Since then, Haney has committed her time to volunteer work—spearheading service projects to benefit disadvantaged children in the Muscle Shoals area and giving 427 more hours of volunteer service to a variety of other non-profits. She was presented the Prudential Spirit Community Award Silver Medal as a high school senior in 2016 and named the Alabama Student Volunteer of the Year.

Haney will be presented with the Congressional Award Gold Medal on June 17 in Washington, D.C. She will be the only recipient from Alabama. The award is based on initiative, achievement and service with four program areas consisting of voluntary public service, personal development, fitness and exploration.

To earn the award, Haney spent 61 days traveling to 12 countries as a U.S. Student Ambassador through People to People International. She also completed 313 hours of Leadership Training by attending conferences and seminars through a variety of organizations, including Alabama Girls State, FBLA State Leadership, Alabama Student Council and the Auburn University Freshman Leadership Program. She also completed a documented 339 hours of training, including the gym, dance and swimming and the aforementioned voluntary public service.

"This award personally means a lot to me because it is such a huge honor to myself, my family and my community," Haney said. "I would love to see more teens wear this gold medal proudly because it isn't just an award—it's a lifestyle that we should all live in order to progress physically, mentally and educationally."

Though the hours were taxing, Haney said she had no desire to give up.

"It is important that people should strive to give 100 percent in everything they do to better themselves, and in other cases, society and the community that they live in through hard work," Haney said. "I believe that everyone has a talent and potential, whether they find it at 12 years old or 40."

Haney might be a pre-business major, but she's longed for a pilot's license since she was a little girl.

"My mother was a flight attendant for Delta Airlines, and I would occasionally go on trips with her," said Haney, who plans to major in professional flight management and one day earn her wings. "The airport, especially Atlanta's, was like my second home. I knew I wanted to do something that involved aviation, and my mother encouraged me to try flying."