Birmingham teen honored in D.C. for nonprofit work

By: Brendan Losinski | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 5, 2017

 From the left, Paxton Baker, chairman of the Congressional Award Foundation’s board of directors; honoree Emily Prokop; U.S. Rep. Dave Trott; and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters gathered in Washington, D.C., to award Prokop with the Congressional Award Gold Medal for her outstanding work in her community.

From the left, Paxton Baker, chairman of the Congressional Award Foundation’s board of directors; honoree Emily Prokop; U.S. Rep. Dave Trott; and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters gathered in Washington, D.C., to award Prokop with the Congressional Award Gold Medal for her outstanding work in her community.

Photo provided by Katie Vincentz

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — A Birmingham teen was honored in Washington, D.C., June 21 for her efforts to make her community a better place.

Her name is Emily Prokop, a 17-year-old entering her senior year at Cranbrook Kingswood High School in the fall. She was awarded the Congressional Award Gold Medal, the highest congressional honor for youth citizens.

“Traveling to the nation’s capital to receive this award really made the experience even more meaningful, as it is where our nation takes action as an attempt to improve American lives,” said Prokop. “I found this fitting as I, along with the other recipients of this award, have done our best to make people’s lives better, and while we have done it on a smaller scale than the people that work in D.C., we have still made a significant impact on the lives of various people.”

Those who earn the Congressional Award Gold Medal, which is struck by the U.S. Mint, must spend at least two years completing at least 400 hours of community service, 200 hours of personal development and physical fitness activities, and a four-night expedition or exploration.
Prokop was presented the medal by U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Michigan, who congratulated her on her outstanding initiative, achievement and service to her community.

“Emily is the embodiment of what makes southeast Michigan’s youth so exemplary,” said Trott. “Her outstanding service to her community and her initiative and drive to help those in need makes me so hopeful for not only the future of southeast Michigan, but our entire nation. As one of the next generation’s most altruistic young people, I was proud to present her with the highest congressional honor for youth; a distinction she, with over 400 hours of community service, has more than earned.”

Prokop’s work most notably included starting a nonprofit called Trends for Teens. She began the program with friend and fellow student Eliana Margherio. The nonprofit encourages young people to learn goal-setting skills by rewarding them with what the organization calls a “shopper’s incentive program” to buy new and gently used clothing purchased by or donated to the organization. Prokop said this builds self-esteem and perseverance and teaches them self-efficacy.

“I started Trends for Teens by reaching out to local nonprofit organizations to see if they could implement our idea into their systems,” explained Prokop. “We ended up getting recommended to start a store at a high school and middle school in Pontiac named International Technology Academy. We then opened our first store there in February 2015, and by hearing about our nonprofit, another school (Wilson Middle School in Wyandotte) and two other organizations (the Coalition on Temporary Shelter and Christ Child — both in Detroit) started to work with us to implement Trends for Teens into their system as well.”

Prokop said Trends for Teens is the culmination of what she has tried to accomplish in the community, and the good it does will hopefully serve as an inspiration to others thanks to her recent recognition.

“Trends for Teens is good for the community because it brings people together that otherwise would have never had the opportunity to meet,” remarked Prokop. “Trends for Teens helps teens by demonstrating the importance of setting goals and rewarding the kids once they achieve a goal with points they can use to shop at our stores, which contain new and like-new clothing. Teens helping other teens is truly an experience like no other, because while spending time in the stores, we are able to directly see the impact that Trends for Teens has made on these people’s lives, and it is the best feeling in the world to realize you are making a difference.”

Prokop said she plans on staying involved with Trends for Teens when she leaves for college next year. Similarly, Margherio will be staying involved as she attends the University of Pennsylvania, where she will be attending classes this coming semester. The pair hope to keep their efforts going into the future and to expand upon it, particularly through the use of social media.

“I hope that this recognition will not only make people more aware of what Trends for Teens does, but also the importance that goal setting has in one’s life,” said Prokop. “In order to obtain the Congressional Award, I had to set many goals for myself and describe how I was going to accomplish them. I hope that this illustrates to all of the teenagers that participate in our various Trends for Teens stores that when you accomplish great things, hard work definitely does not go unnoticed in a country like the United States.”

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