By Wendy Sarubbi | February 4, 2011 1:51 pm

Melissa Gregory, a sophomore Microbiology and Molecular Biology major at the College of Medicine’s Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences, has earned the Congressional Award Gold Medal, the top national award bestowed by Congress.

Melissa received the award for turning her passion for dance into an outlet for serving her community. As a student at Winter Springs High School, she danced in performances of the Nutcracker for underprivileged middle school students. She brought the National Society for Dance Arts to high schools in Seminole County and led the organization’s efforts to teach younger students and volunteer in the community.

Melissa and Kaitlyn Chana, a UCF sophomore studying Radio-Television, were among the 252 young Americans selected to receive the award this year. Established by Congress in 1979, the Congressional Award program encourages young people to set and achieve challenging goals that build character and foster community service, personal development and citizenship.

To qualify for the Gold Medal, Melissa and Kaitlyn each had to log more than 400 hours of community service – a number they both greatly exceeded. Each recipient also must complete at least 200 hours of physical fitness activities and 200 hours of personal development activities.

“To be able to share my passion with others was really rewarding, and I’ve become a better leader, role model and citizen in the process,” Melissa said of her community efforts.

Kaitlyn received the award for founding the international nonprofit organization Love Letters: Random Cards of Kindness Inc. Love Letters creates uplifting greeting cards and has delivered them to more than 50,000 children suffering from life-threatening illnesses around the world.

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