Encinitas siblings who have educated the community about sustainable farming and volunteered for other causes each received a Congressional Award for Public Service on April 6, and they even got to joke around with their congressman.
Congressman Darrell Issa recognized Samuel “Bubba” Sugarman and Margaret “Sissy” Sugarman, as well as five other area youths, during an hour-long medal ceremony at his Vista office.
It was Samuel’s second trip to Issa’s office, having received two Congressional service medals in 2014. While presenting Samuel with a gold medal, Issa joked that they’ll have to create a platinum award just for him.
“You know, there are only three of these (medals),” Issa said.
The nonpartisan, noncompetitive Congressional awards honor those who are 14 to 23 years old and have met goals involving public service, personal development, physical fitness and exploration. The students that Issa recognized live in his 49th Congressional District, which includes much of North County and southern Orange County.
Samuel, who has performed more than 400 hours of community service, said his passion for giving back started with his family’s Olivehain farm, called Sugar Sweet Farm. There, the Sugarmans raise rare and endangered livestock, such as heritage turkeys.
Sissy, 14, and Samuel, 18, have hosted many farm tours for scouts and school groups, teaching them about sustainable farming, where their food comes from and the importance of having a variety of plants and animals to ensure a healthy ecosystem — also known as biodiversity.
In February, they organized an event in which volunteers harvested four carloads of fruit from the farm and donated it to St. Andrew’s Church food pantry in Encinitas.
Outside of the farm, Samuel and Sissy — both of whom are homeschooled — have completed a number of other service projects. Sissy, who received a bronze medal, volunteers at Saving Horses Inc., a local nonprofit that rescues former racehorses. And she’s a member of the National Leadership Council, which emphasizes service and adventure trips.
Samuel has notably taught orphans in Grenada activities such as swimming.
“There’s a sense of completion when you serve the community,” he said when Issa asked why he volunteers. Samuel added: “It’s been an amazing journey.”
Flying is another love of his. Samuel has earned both his airplane and helicopter pilot licenses. Issa mentioned he’s only familiar with fixed-wing aircraft, prompting Samuel to invite him on a flight.
“We’ll check it out sometime,” Samuel said.
When Issa asked the group about future plans, Samuel remarked that he wants to earn a degree in aeronautical engineering. Sissie said she’d like to become a livestock veterinarian, but first, she’s working toward her gold medal.
“I want to pursue that dream of keeping the agriculture side of my life alive,” she said.
The other Congressional award recipients were silver medalist David Bao of Ladera Ranch, bronze medalist Luke Lindgren of Rancho Santa Fe, bronze and silver medalist Sarah Chen of Ladera Ranch, bronze and silver medalist Chris Jiang of Ladera Ranch and bronze medalist Kaily Johnson of San Juan Capistrano.
Sissy said the Congressional awards are a blessing because they motivate people to get involved.
“I think all of us want to serve our community,” she said.
Following the presentation, Issa invited the youths and their parents to ask questions.
“Anything except Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump is open,” Issa joked.
Fielding questions, Issa touched on everything from his stance on North Korea to what led him to run for Congress.
Also, in response to questions from the press, Issa expanded on why he believes the federal government should hold a public forum in Southern California on where to store spent nuclear fuel.