Sep 01, 2017

Hard Work Brings Great Rewards

By Lori Draz and Mitchell Lauria

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories to educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry – let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Rumson’s Mitchell Lauria, a 17-year-old student from Rumson-Fair Haven High School. Every year, students and many adults set goals as the school year begins. They make plans to improve time management, use of social media, get involved in family time, earn better grades, and so on. It’s human nature to drift off a bit from those goals, but when you truly apply yourself, you can achieve great things. Mitchell, one of Rumson’s newest Eagle Scouts, set a pretty lofty goal for himself four years ago. He wanted to earn a Congressional Gold Medal. It took many hours, often fighting frustration to get there, but he learned that staying the course, and pushing through when you want to quit, paid off with great rewards. Stay focused, make hard choices, and put your heart into the things you want to accomplish. The Journal wishes every student all the best for a productive and proud school year. Here is Mitchell’s story:

Someone once told me that U.S. Marines never drown from sweat. Working hard is discouraging at times, especially others are getting recognition, but hard work pays off in the end. Four years ago, my mom told me about the Congressional Award, the only charity sponsored by Congress. It is a voluntary and non-competitive award and to earn it, you must be dedicated to improving yourself. That sounded easy enough, so four years ago I began my journey to achieve the Congressional Gold Medal.

There were many times I thought about giving up. Being lazy is so much easier and there was no real recognition during the four years for performing the hard work. But in June of 2017, I earned the Congressional Gold Medal and the unanticipated benefits of working hard were incredible.

I had to compete in four program areas to earn the award. The first program area was personal development. I spent more than 200 hours working on Boy Scout merit badges. Many of the merit badges were downright tormenting to finish, but I made it through and I even earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

The second program area was expedition. For 14 days, I hiked in the New Mexico wilderness with merely a backpack and a few friends. No shower, no toilet, no washing machine, and just dried food that we carried on our backs. There were some luxurious moments, like when we reached the mountain peak and saw the incredible views. I’ve never seen views this thrilling in my life. I built a dam with logs and coached fish to swim into a confined area where I caught two with my bare hands! I was the group hero that night as we dined on fresh fish. The trip was mentally and physically challenging, but it taught me how to be part of a team that had to trust each other for survival.

The third program area was physical fitness. I spent more than 800 hours improving my soccer skills. I earned varsity playtime in my junior year at RFH. I become the leading varsity scorer for the RFH team and scored the goals the team needed to get into the state championship game.

The fourth program area was volunteering. This was the most challenging of all the program areas and took me over 400 hours to complete. My home flooded during Superstorm Sandy and I wanted to create a warning system so residents would be prepared if it ever happened again. I told my parents many times that I wanted to quit, but this was also my Eagle Scout project, so I couldn’t fail. I had to figure it out – and I did. You can see the project at

I never understood all the many benefits of hard work until now. Hard work builds character. Hard work gets results. Hard work also builds new opportunities. I realized this when I was invited by Congress to the U.S. Capitol to receive my gold medal. I met famous people and political figures, including Nancy Pelosi, Wolf Blitzer, and ran into Marco Rubio at dinner. Lazy people complain about their lack of luck. They don’t realize that hard work is an opportunity magnet.

Hard work also draws attention. After I was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, a staff member of Chris Smith, New Jersey House Representative, 4th District, told me he had requested a private meeting with me. Congressman Smith knew all about me. He knew that I was an Eagle Scout, he knew about the elevation and flood awareness guide that I did for Rumson, he knew that I was on the RFH varsity soccer team, and even knew about my soccer goals that got the RFH soccer team into the state finals. What an honor. A few days later, his office requested permission to publicize my project. Congressman Smith tweeted about me at He told me to stay in touch and encouraged me to intern for Congress next summer.

Four years ago, I set a goal to get recognized, and then I set about the hard work to accomplish it. If you want to try for the Congressional Medal, check out the Congressional Award at But even if you’ve set much more manageable goals, like improving your grades, earning $5,000 for college, organizing a community blood drive, or just getting along better with your brothers and sisters, it’s going to take hard work – but it is that hard work that will give you accomplishments you can really be proud of. You can do whatever you’re willing to work hard for!