Joco Opinion

January 21, 2014

Lori Allen — The challenges of Scouting cross the lines of gender

Why doesn’t the Gold Award soar like the rank of Eagle?

I was having lunch with some friends the other day when the topic of Boy Scouts came up.

Those of us with boys were praising the program and discussing the value of the Eagle Scout award. One woman mentioned that this award is highly valuable on a resume.

Another mentioned the difficulty in achieving the rank. Next I heard a comment that would spark this column: “It’s too bad there isn’t an equivalent for girls.”

Well, as a matter of fact, there is. (You were right, Linda!) Both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts incorporate an informal educational system that emphasizes practical activities in the outdoors with community service as a major element.

At the highest levels of achievement, the Girl Scouts have a Gold Award that some would argue is even harder to get than the coveted Eagle award. The Gold Award, which involves many accomplishments along the way, requires the Scout to create a seven-step project.

And here’s the tough part: The project must be sustainable. Not only do they have to build a structure, beautify some blight or organize a collection drive, they have to inspire others to continue the work.

It must be a community service project where a need is identified, research is done to find the root cause, the problem must be addressed, and then the solution must be sustainable. It sounds impressive, but I must admit I wasn’t completely blown away until I watched a local segment on Fox 4 that featured Catherine Pestinger. She earned her Gold Award for her project that involved enhancing live theater enjoyment for the hearing impaired.

The Girl Scouts have a pretty impressive program with their Gold Award but it doesn’t end there. The top 10 Gold Award recipients from around the country are recognized as National Young Women of Distinction, the crème de la crème.

So just how many Girl Scouts achieve the ultimate goal? About 6 percent.

Roughly the same as Boy Scouts who earn the Eagle Scout. There is no denying that achieving this award is challenging.

One look at Gold Award winner Paige Young from Olathe Northwest High School and her project “Hope for Haiti” is enough to garner supreme admiration for these young women. Paige designed a backpack out of material called blue sterile wrap.

She partnered with Shawnee Mission Medical Center to obtain the wrap and hosted four sewing days to make 80 backpacks for the orphans in Haiti and even filled the backpacks with supplies.

To make her project sustainable, she traveled to Haiti to teach women and girls to sew. Today the village opens the sewing center every Monday to continue to sew not only backpacks but to fix children’s clothes.

Shawnee Mission Medical Center has agreed to continue to collect, package and transport the blue wrap for Paige’s project.

So how come you didn’t know about the Gold Award? Gina Garvin, vice president of brand and marketing for Girl Scouts in our region, offered some insight into that.

Because the name of the award has changed four times since its debut in 1916, it hasn’t been as memorable. It has been called the Gold Award only since 1980.

Or maybe it’s because not enough young women include this information on their resume. It may even be because of a lack of tracking from the Girl Scouts organization. But all of that is about to change.

The prestige has always been there, and now the Gold Award is starting to gain recognition. Thanks to the leadership within the organization, the local Girl Scouts representatives have begun to work with corporations to track these high achievers into the workplace.

And young women are being encouraged to increase awareness by including the Gold Award on their resumes. As for the Gold Award name, that’s here to stay.

Whether young man or woman, Eagle Scout or Gold Award, it looks like Scouting is where you’ll find top young achievers today. You go, girl.

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