Baylor School junior Mary Evelyn Pearce is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal Award in recognition of achieving personal goals focused on volunteerism, character development, and fitness.
The U.S. Congress established the Congressional Award in 1979 to recognized initiative, service, and achievement in young people, and is non-partisan, voluntary, and non-competitive. To earn the Gold Medal, which the highest level awarded, Pearce completed a total of 400 hours of volunteer work at the Humane Educational Society and McCoy Farm and Gardens on Signal Mountain, 200 hours of personal development through art classes, and 200 hours of fitness as a coxswain on the Baylor crew team and with the Chattanooga Junior Rowing. An additional area of focus was personal growth through exploration and travel.
At HES, Pearce fostered dogs with unique needs on the weekends, served with the dog enrichment program, and provided general shelter support such as laundry, and cleaning dishes and toys. Through her service at HES, she gained an appreciation for the role of animal control and animal shelters in the community and why spaying and neutering pets is important to reducing the number of homeless animals.
At McCoy Farm and Gardens, she designed and built a plant nursery that required presenting a plan to various board members, revised the plan based on feedback, and helped with the installation. The structure is now used to plant seedlings and new divisions of native plants that McCoy will use in its gardens and walking paths. Through working with McCoy, Pearce developed a deep love of plants, and has become a skilled propagator.
A talented artist, Pearce is working to develop her skills in acrylics, pastels, pen and ink, watercolor, and is particularly focused on portraits as well as plant life. Through her art exploration, she is learning where interest and skill intersect.
A coxswain on the Baylor crew team, Pearce is involved in Chattanooga Junior Rowing and has learned to scull in a single, which helped her better communicate with rowers. She attended a number of coxswain camps where she honed, leadership, safety, steering and race planning skills. Additionally, she gained an appreciation for the physics of the boat and the coxswain's role in optimizing conditions to make her boats faster. Lastly, she did a deep dive on the four parts of the rowing stroke to help her identify and correct issues in the boat. She also mentored junior coxswains on the team, creating a Power Point presentation for them on the basics of coxing that was a compilation of knowledge that she wished that someone had taught her when she first started. She also organized meetings with junior coxswains after Saturday practices to answer questions and cover special topics.
Another component of the Congressional Award involves planning explorations and learning and reflecting on personal growth through the experiences. During her pursuit of the award, Pearce explored government buildings and various neighborhoods in Chattanooga; and planned a COVID-safe exploration to Wisconsin the summer of 2020 where she stayed at a working farm in Amish Country and toured a working lavender and cherry farm. Her final exploration was planning a family trip to Iceland in the summer of 2022, that included a walking tour of Reykjavik to learn more about the country's history and government.