Upper St. Clair student earns Girl Scout Gold Award

Published Jun 2, 2014 at 10:21 am (Updated Jun 2, 2014 at 10:21 am)

It’s not often that someone enjoys the same activity in high school as they did in kindergarten. But after 13 years as a Girl Scout, Rachel Geffrey is still enthusiastic about scouting and recently earned the organization’s highest honor, the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Nationally, only about five percent of Girl Scouts earn the award. The leadership-based Gold Award project challenges girls to identify and investigate an issue, build a team, create and present a plan, gather feedback, take action, and educate and inspire. Girls are required to complete 80 hours of work, 15 of which must be leadership related. Most Gold Award recipients spend between one and two years on their projects.

A senior at Upper St. Clair High School, Rachel chose self-injury as the focus of her project, researching the subject and creating a brochure to help educate people about the issue and a blog to provide a safe place for people to share their stories.

Self-injury is the act of deliberately harming your own body, often by cutting or burning, usually as a way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger, or frustration. Self-injury is far more common than you would expect, Geffrey said. She said there are kids in elementary school who self-injure because they have a problem they don’t know how to express.

Geffrey’s first experience with self-injury was with a close friend who was a cutter. While her friend was able to get help, Geffrey wanted to reach out to others and raise awareness about the subject.

Talking about self-injury is absolutely taboo said Geffrey. “My friend wasn’t worried about hurting herself; she was more worried about being labeled as ‘that girl’ (who cuts).”

Geffrey’s Gold Award advisor, Amy Kerman, said, “Rachel’s project struck me as very daring. She wanted to shed light on an unpleasant and hidden topic, to help people know they are not alone, that there is help and support out there. Rachel is caring and brave, and her empathy for friends and strangers who are cutting is commendable.”

The daughter of Eileen and Wayne Geffrey is a member of Girl Scout Troop 51776, and her mother is the troop’s leader. Her brother, Daniel, a freshman at USC High School, is a Boy Scout working toward his Eagle Scout rank.

Geffrey said her troop has always been very involved with camping and volunteering, two of the things she likes best about being a Girl Scout. This summer will mark her 13th year with the Upper St. Clair Girl Scout Day Camp at South Park, where she will be co-director.

In addition to scouting, Geffrey is active in a number of activities at the high school. She is co-captain of the varsity rifle team and a member of the Book Club and National Honor Society. Geffrey has also had her poetry published in the school’s literary magazine, “The Montage,” and as part of an on-line national poetry contest. This fall, Geffrey plans to attend Chatham University where she will major in creative writing.

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