For the third year in a row, a Girl Scout has won the Kansas VFW Scout of the Year. In fact, girls have won every year they have been eligible for the award.
Catherine Pestinger, of Overland Park, was awarded the Kansas Veterans of Foreign Wars’ top scouting honor for her leadership in school and her Gold Award project bringing captioning for the hearing impaired to live theater at Trilogy Cultural Arts Centre in Olathe.
Girl Scouts occupied the top three contender spots this year for what was formerly an award for top Boy Scouts, said Gerry Shirel, formerly the Kansas VFW scouting activities chairman.
The state Scout of the Year award comes with a $300 scholarship for Pestinger and $200 for Laurie Gilson of Olathe, the second-place winner. Abriana Wood of Lenexa received a citation for third place, said Shirel, of Overland Park.
The VFW rewrote its application rules for the award three years ago, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, he said. The award had been open to Boy Scouts who achieved Eagle Scout status in the past. With the rule change, Girl Scouts, Sea Scouts and Venture Scouts who earned their top merits also could apply.
The award is given based on points for high school participation, grades and the community service project required for the top levels of scouting. All three top contenders this year for Kansas were within a few points of each other, Shirel said.
He said the strength of the girls’ Gold Award projects have separated them from the other applicants for the past three years. “These girls have been working through a maze of requirements for three to four years to reach their Gold Award,” he said. In general, the girls’ projects have reflected a dedication and complexity that earned them top points.
Muriel Eaton of Overland Park won the Kansas VFW honor the first year it was open to Girl Scouts. Paige Young, of Overland Park, was the second winner last year.
Kansas apparently isn’t the only state where Girl Scouts have given Boy Scouts a run for their money. Each state honoree goes on to the national level, where scholarships are $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second and $1,000 for third. This year the first- and second-place winners nationally were both young women.
Pestinger, 18, was inspired by her grandfather to find a way to present captions so people with hearing loss could enjoy theater performances. In a couple of weeks she’ll go to Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln to study musical theater and directing.
Opening the VFW recognition to Girl Scouts was a “great idea,” she said. “Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts both strive to accomplish the same goal which is to empower young people.”
The Gold Award project teaches communications and time management skills and helps girls gain confidence in dealing with adults, she said.
“I learned so much from it and I feel so prepared going into college.”
Pestinger said the Gold Award, which will put 100 hours of community service on her resume, will also help impress job interviewers.
The award shows, “you’re hard-working, dedicated, devoted and not afraid to tackle really big obstacles,” said Pestinger. “It’s a symbol of your character.”