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Torrance resident receives top Congressional Award for youth

January 13, 2014
In The News

Max Kaplan, a 20-year-old Ivy League student who graduated from South High School, has earned a gold Congressional Award medal, one of only 236 awarded this year nationwide.

The honor is the highest Congress can award to youths aged 14 to 23, South Bay Rep. Maxine Waters said in presenting Kaplan with the award at a ceremony held this week at Torrance City Hall. The event was held during Kaplan's holiday break from Princeton University because he was unable to attend a ceremony in June in the nation's capital.

"This was a really cool experience and I appreciate Congress' role in this awesome honor," Kaplan said as his parents, Neil and Adele Kaplan, looked on.

Earning the highest of six Congressional Award levels was a four-year process for the Princeton sophomore.

To earn one, participants set and achieve individual goals in four program areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration.

Kaplan volunteered as one of six student delegates for the California State PTA Board of Managers who lobbied against state cuts in school funding.

"In my family, education is a first priority," he said in an essay explaining his public service. "As a public school student, I see how education is also the cornerstone of community. Everyone is entitled to a quality education; our future depends on it, yet financial problems separate this quality from reality."

Kaplan spent the summer of 2009 interning at Carson-based Major League Soccer club Chivas USA. At age 15, he was the youngest-ever intern at the franchise.

He also improved his mile time by more than a minute while running cross-country in high school and organized a four-night camping trip for friends in Mammoth Lakes, his first overnight experience in the wilderness.

Kaplan was the lone South Bay recipient this year of a Congressional Award.