Peters Township Girl Scout troop has nine long-time members

Published May 5, 2014 at 12:56 pm (Updated May 8, 2014 at 12:43 pm)

In a time when there are myriad choices for sporting and extracurricular activities for teenage girls, staying in Girl Scouts is rare. Instead, it is an activity favored by elementary-aged students. Breaking this mold is Ambassador Girl Scout Troop 51944 of Peters Township.

While two members can claim to have been in Troop 51944 since kindergarten, the rest have been Girl Scouts for between seven to 12 years. A combination of upholding Girl Scout traditions, being able to choose their own direction and strong parental support has kept these young women involved in the largest girl-based organization in the world.

Members of Troop 51944, all growing up in the same community, have diverse experiences, but found common interests during monthly business and dinner meetings. By setting goals and earning funds to support their goals, the troop has traveled, completed many community service projects and participated in numerous adventure and skill-building activities together. Since 2001, this has been proven to be a recipe for success used by troop leader Carrie Vanistendael. The troop has traveled to Hershey Park, Presque Isle State Park and twice to New York City, where they climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty’s crown. While favoring motels, the girls have camped in both tents and lodges at four different Girl Scouts-Western PA owned camp properties. They have ridden horses, hiked, canoed and kayaked, geocached, gone spelunking and rappelling, and zip-lined in Hocking Hills, Ohio. They have been program aides at summer Girl Scout day camps, and this summer, one troop member will be a counselor at GSWPA Camp Redwing.

They have stenciled storm drains, built and installed picnic tables at Canonsburg Lake and baked hundreds of muffins and cookies for Meals-on-Wheels. As fifth grade Junior Scouts, they earned their Bronze Award by collecting 800 pounds of towels, blankets, toys and bleach for the Washington Area Humane Society. As eighth grade Cadette Scouts earning the Silver Award, they built three bridges to prevent contamination of the creek from erosion by hikers, mountain bike riders and horses that use the Periphery Trail in Mingo Creek County Park. As high school students, they studied global and local food issues, volunteered at the Peters Township Food Pantry and created an educational brochure to teach people about the benefits of eating locally-produced food.

Of the nine troop members, six have earned the Girl Scout Gold Leadership Award, the highest award that can be earned by a Girl Scout. It is earned by only five percent of eligible scouts. Cecelia Allison designed and built the Very Hungry Caterpillar Benches, an outdoor reading space for students and the community, located at Bower Hill Elementary School. Carys Corry-Roberts created the Peters Township Nature Trail, with interpretive signs about types of local wildlife that can be seen along Arrowhead Trail. Alicia Gialanella painted a large-scale outdoor ground map of the United States at Pleasant Valley Elementary School, and created instructional games for teachers to use with the map. Emma Jeanne Held developed and conducted a six month program for groups to provide meals at the Washington City Mission. Megan Parker built and planted a handicapped-accessible raised bed garden for the residents of Paramount Senior Care of Peters Township, and Olivia Vanistendael promoted the reduction of plastic shopping bag use by repurposing 500 used T-shirts into reusable grocery totes, which were donated to the Washington Area Food Bank.

Each of these individual service projects required the scout to contribute a minimum of 80 hours to complete, including at least 15 hours of direct leadership. The girls chose an issue of importance to them. Working with a project advisor, they led a team of volunteers to assist in carrying out their project. To make their Gold Award project sustainable, each scout provided educational programming and designed support materials to enable the beneficiaries to receive long-lasting, positive impact from the project.

Three more members of Troop 51944 are on their paths to Gold as well. Alexa Malstrom, the only 11th grade student in the troop, is currently working on her project to breed leopard geckos for use as classroom pets. Grace Baumiller recently received GSWPA council approval for her Gold Award project to lead a storm-drain stenciling project to prevent contamination of local waterways. Alexis Burkholder, a three-time US Junior Women’s Short Track Speed Skating Champion, has set her sights on a different kind of gold award, an Olympic Gold Medal.

In March, the troop visited New York City. There will be a final service project for the Trinity Scout building, where the troop has met for the last six years, and a final Court of Awards Ceremony. In June, the girls will graduate high school and begin a new chapter of their lives as college students, carrying on the Girl Scout traditions that make the world a better place.

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