Dudley receives prestigious Congressional Award Gold Medal

MIHS rising senior attends U.S. Congress summit in D.C.

On a recent Monday at Camp Kohahna in Michigan, counselor in training Molly Dudley spent her morning and afternoon participating in silversmithing, archery and sailing.

The Mercer Island High School (MIHS) rising senior, who also engages in water skiing and canoeing on Lake Michigan over the summer, has an affinity for the great outdoors that she absorbed at a young age from hiking and skiing with her dad, Nathan, and brother, Mitchell.

“They really made me super passionate about protecting the environment,” said Molly — a 10th-year Kohahna summer camper — during a Zoom interview, adding that her MIHS environmental science teacher Diane Nielsen led the student to explore her mission.

In fact, some of her external activities back home — including building trails with the Washington Trails Association and leading a backpacking trip on the Olympic Peninsula — helped her garner a prestigious Congressional Award Gold Medal last month at a U.S. Congress summit in Washington, D.C.

“The Congressional Award Gold Medal is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. Congress upon youth, recognizing the remarkable initiative, service, and achievement demonstrated by these exceptional medalists,” reads a press release, adding that students’ achievements of note are voluntary public service (400 hours), personal development (200 hours), physical fitness (200 hours) and expedition/exploration (five days and four nights).

For the last two years, Molly — one of 724 gold medal honorees this year — has been working diligently to attain the medal as one of the copious “Freshly Minted Leaders.” The Islander also shines in the classroom in the science, technology, engineering and math realms.

On receiving the award, Molly noted that it was a huge, gritty undertaking: “It was really cool because I got to see an accumulation of all the work I’ve been doing just throughout high school.”

Molly also became motivated to further lend a hand in the environmental stewardship sphere while hiking and soaking up the stunning scenery. “It was also enriching to be like, ‘I’m helping to create a space outdoors so that people can better appreciate our environment,’” said last season’s MIHS junior varsity lacrosse captain.

In the future, Molly would like to work in the environmental engineering field to make a positive impact on the Earth. In the now, she said it’s important for people to do things like turn lights off at home and recycle, along with voting on pro-environment public policy.

At the summit, Molly conversed with Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Congressman Adam Smith about making an impact and bettering oneself and having a broader outreach as a public service figure.

Regarding the summit, Paxton Baker, chairman of the board of The Congressional Award, noted about the attendees’ experiences: “We’ve observed firsthand the dynamic impact of youth leadership and their consistent dedication to fostering positive change both in their communities and around the world. The summit offered a stage for celebration, motivation, and connection, setting these young leaders on a path to even greater achievements.”