Aberdeen Central senior Dustin Hermansen wowed even himself with his latest achievement, a Bronze Congressional Award.
The award was presented Wednesday, March 15, at Central High School by U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D.
Given to youth 14-24, recipients of the bronze, silver or gold awards must complete a combination of volunteer public service, personal development, physical fitness and exploration. To qualify for the Bronze Award the benchmarks are:
- 100 hours of public service within seven months.
- 50 hours of personal development within seven months.
- 50 hours of physical fitness within seven months
- A two-day, one night exploration trip.
Hermansen said he was able to make a virtual trip to meet program requirements. He chose a virtual trip to Chicago, where he researched the history of Chicago pizza, which he found fascinating, and Chicago architecture.
Requirements are double for the Silver Award, although 12 months are allowed. For the Gold Award, the requirements again double, but the timeframe is 24 months.
Across the U.S., 1,545 Congressional Awards were given. Of those, 265 were certificates, 477 were Bronze Awards, 320 were silver and 483 were gold.
Hermansen heard about Congressional Award last year
Hermansen said he heard about the congressional award in 2022 when he was a summer page for the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. A former page in the South Dakota Legislature, Hermansen said his experience in Washington differed from his time in Pierre.
While he was able to witness debates and activities in both settings, Hermansen said his first day in Washington, he was surprised to see an empty chamber at the time the U.S. Senate was supposed to convene.
Whereas South Dakota legislators fill the chamber for session, Hermansen said U.S. senators filter in as needed or during a time they are schedule to speak, although they will fill the chamber when it’s time to vote.
Hermansen was one of 120 students approved as pages in Washington last year. Acceptance involves obtaining a nomination from a senator and selection by the page program.
Hermansen is speechless about Bronze Congressional Award
The son of Charles and Jill Hermansen, Dustin said he’s been very fortunate about all of the experience he’s had. He said he couldn’t have accomplished those things without his experiences on the debate team, his leadership experience on the football field and the support of his parents.
Hermansen was the starting quarterback for the Golden Eagles last fall.
He said every time he’s approached his parents about something he wanted to do, they offered their support. That led to his participation in the U.S. Senate Youth Program and his acceptance into the U.S. Air Force Academy.
“I really am speechless about what I’ve been able to do,” he said.
Hermansen has ‘unprecedented’ commitment to community service
Central High School Principal Jason Uttermark said this is the first Congressional Award he knows of, and Johnson said it was the first he presented.
Uttermark said Hermansen has not only an impressive list of accomplishments in high school, but also as a middle-schooler and as a state ambassador for the national Fuel Up to Play 60 youth wellness program as an eighth-grader.
“His commitment to community service is unprecedented,” Uttermark said.
And, Uttermark said, that commitment is sincere, which is why Hermansen continues to get recognition.
In presenting the award to Hermansen, Johnson commended him for his achievement.
“On behalf of the congressional foundation that does this, thanks for doing all of that work and doing your design work on the exploration process, and thanks for being a good model to all of us on how we can improve ourselves and improve our community through hard work,” Johnson said.
Following the presentation, Johnson said it takes a determined young person to earn such an honor.