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'I can accomplish anything'

By ELIZABETH CIEPIELA

Staff writer

Monika Hammon looks like any other 16-year-old. But she has a heart of gold, friends say.

Dressed in her colorful, patch and pin-decorated Girl Scouts uniform, Hammon received the Congressional Bronze Medal for public service last Friday afternoon in Tacoma.

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, whose district includes Federal Way, Hammon’s hometown, presented the large bronze medallion, telling her and gathered friends and family that they should all be “very, very proud.”

“Communities are only as strong as the people in them,” Smith said. “Being an active member of the community is really important.”

The Congressional Bronze Medal is awarded to teens who meet goals in four criteria: Voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness and exploration/expedition.

“I feel proud of myself, knowing that I can accomplish anything,” Hammon said in Smith’s office after receiving the award. “I like helping people.”

Hammon learned teamwork, leadership skills and the importance of service from Girl Scouts, which she’s been involved with since age 5

As years passed, and with help from a leadership class in elementary school, the quiet girl learned to be a leader herself.

She and Troop 1865 have sent mini-scrapbooks and small American flags to U.S. troops in Iraq. The girls wanted to express their concern and gratitude for the soldiers, she said.

Hammon has attended classes on how to plan a successful event, worked as an assistant at a day camp for girls, planned a menu with fellow Girl Scouts for a camping trip and cooked the meals.

“I was really proud of her for stepping up,” her mom, Gabriele, said. “She thinks about others more than she does herself.”

To earn her Silver Award in Girl Scouts, Hammon collected used sports equipment which she later donated to an organization for foster children.

She said she wants kids to know someone cares about them.

“She loves doing the volunteer work,” said her sister, Samantha.

“Since she’s been real young, she’s had a big heart,” said her dad, Stan. “She’s always tried to help other people.”

For a leader, she’s very quiet. But her beaming friends talk about her leadership qualities, her strength as a friend and her compassion.

Karina Hartung, a classmate of Hammon’s at Decatur High School, said she met Monika when they were students at Twin Lakes Elementary School. She said Monika was very shy at first but opened up when they became friends.

“Well, she’s really shy and I’m really shy, so I guessed we could, you know, bond,” Hartung said.

They belong to the same Girl Scouts troop.

Kelsey Lewis, also a student at Decatur who belongs to the same Scout troop as Hartung and Hammon, said Hammon is “right there for you, no matter what.”

And when it comes to accomplishing anything, Lewis said, Hammon “won’t give up.”

Monika said she’ll work toward the Silver Congressional Award and later, the gold.

“Monika’s got that goal in mind, and she’ll do whatever it takes to get there,” her mom said.

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565, eciepiela@fedwaymirror.com

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