Madi Haney learned the importance of helping others as a fourth-grader working in a food pantry. “I never understood how a 10-year-old could make a difference in society until one day I was able to see first-hand the difference I was making for a family that came in to get their bag of non-perishables,” said the Harbert College freshman from Killen, Ala. “I didn’t change their lives completely, but I did make their day a little easier. That’s when service became important to me. Knowing that I put a smile on that family’s face put a smile on mine.”
Since then, Haney has committed her time to volunteer work – spearheading service projects to benefit disadvantaged children in the Shoals, Ala., area, and giving 427 more hours of volunteer service to a variety of other non-profits. She was presented the Prudential Spirit Community Award Silver Medal as a high school senior in 2016 and named the Alabama Student Volunteer of the Year.
Haney will be presented with the Congressional Award Gold Medal – the highest honor Congress can bestow upon a young person – on June 17 in Washington, D.C. She will be the only recipient from Alabama.
“This award personally means a lot to me because it is such a huge honor to myself, my family and my community,” said the pre-business major. “I would love to see more teens wear this gold medal proudly because it isn’t just an award – it’s a lifestyle that we should all live in order to progress physically, mentally and educationally.”
The award is based on initiative, achievement and service with four program areas consisting of voluntary public service, personal development, fitness and exploration. To earn the award, Haney spent 61 days traveling to 12 countries as a U.S. Student Ambassador through People to People International (exploration); completed 313 hours of Leadership Training by attending conferences and seminars through a variety of organizations, including Alabama Girls State, FBLA State Leadership, Alabama Student Council, and the Auburn University Freshmen Leadership Program (personal development); completed a documented 339 hours of training, including the gym, dance and swimming (fitness); and the aforementioned voluntary public service.
Though the hours were taxing, Haney had no desire to give up. “It is important that people should strive to give 100 percent in everything they do to better themselves, and in other cases, society and the community that they live in through hard work,” she said. “I believe that everyone has a talent and potential, whether they find it at 12 years old or 40.”
Haney might be a pre-business major, but she’s longed for a pilot’s license since she was a little girl.
“My mother was a flight attendant for Delta Airlines and I would occasionally go on trips with her,” said Haney, who plans to major in Professional Flight Management and one day earn her wings. “The airport, especially Atlanta’s, was like my second home. I knew I wanted to do something that involved aviation and my mother encouraged me to try flying.”
Haney took her first flight lesson when she was 13 and “knew right then that no other job would do.”