Ridge Point High School senior Zion Alexander said community service has always been a part of his family’s life. So when he had the chance to do it on his own, it came naturally.
“I was always surrounded by that, my family and I would always do those things growing up,” he said. “So when I was able to come out and do it for things that I personally cared about and wanted to champion because it really inspired me.
It seems he took their mission to heart and he recently received a national honor in recognition of his efforts to give back to communities in Fort Bend County and the Houston area.
On Feb. 1, U.S. District 22 Representative Troy Nehls presented Alexander with the gold certificate and bronze medal for the Youth Congress Award, which is given to high school and college students ages 14 through 24 years. Participants earn bronze, silver, and gold certificates and medals, with each level involving setting goals in four program areas — voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration — according to the site. Price website.
“I was shocked when I found out (I had it),” Alexander said.
Honor is not an easy thing to earn. In order to earn the Gold Certificate, students must have accumulated at least 90 hours or six months of community service, 45 hours or six months of personal development/fitness goal achievement, and completed a three-day trip days for their shipping portion of the program.
For bronze, there must be at least 100 hours or seven months of community service, 50 hours or seven months of personal development/fitness, and a two-day/one-night trip for their expedition.
“Most of the things I do are local – I try to do things where I know it’s going to directly help people,” Alexander said.
The 17-year-old has led service programs locally for the Houston Food Bank, East Fort Bend Human Needs Ministry and Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels as part of his volunteer service for the award. He also served at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The March of Dimes, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, and participated in Martin Luther King Day service projects.
For his exploration, he traveled to Africatown — a historic community in Mobile, Alabama that was home to some of the last survivors of the transatlantic slave trade to the United States in the 1860s, according to the National Museum of African American History. & Culture.
“For me, it’s always been about knowing the things I’ve been blessed with and having the privilege of having and being around, and seeing a difference in how other people live – even people from the same city as me,” Alexander said of his desire to serve.
And although it is a colossal undertaking due to the hours involved, Alexander said the efforts bring him joy. In particular, he said hands-on, personal projects are his favorite because he can see the tangible impact the efforts have on those in need.
For example, Alexander previously collected and personally delivered hundreds of dollars worth of mittens, scarves and coats to Heart of the Kids social services in Houston. Heart of the Kids is a non-profit organization that places neglected, abandoned and abused children up to the age of 18 into foster homes.
“It means a lot to me because I can see it actually going to the kids rather than making it impersonal,” he said. “I could see the impact our actions had on these families.”
Alexander has accomplished a lot in his surface life as he nears graduation, after which he hopes to attend Columbia University and study business administration and finance. He is vice president of the National Honor Society, a member of UIL Ridge Point’s athletic and varsity teams, and vice president of competition for the Ridge Point chapter of the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) – a national association of marketing students that encourages the development of business and leadership skills through academic conferences and competitions.
He is also president of Texas DECA District 3, leading DECA chapters in Austin, Brazoria, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Matagorda, Waller, Wharton, and parts of Harris County.
But all of that pales in comparison, he says, to his passion for service. And no matter where life takes him or where honor is at stake, he is dedicated to finding ways to serve others in need.
“I will always make it a mission to find ways to help the community that I am part of,” he said. “…I always want to be able to help people.”