Local Girl Scouts noted for community service

One group of Youngsville’s next generation of homegrown leaders is receiving some much deserved recognition.

Cadette Girl Scout Troop 30699 was honored during Monday’s meeting of the Warren County Association of Township Officials when they were recognized as one of winning entrants for the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) Youth Awards.

The troop won a $500 cash prize and a framed certificate commemorating their achievement after submitting an ongoing project they are participating in through the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.’s Challenge and Change: Challenge Yourself, Change the World program, sponsored by the United State Department of Agriculture.

Challenge and Change is a national leadership program, currently being piloted in communities across the country, according to information on the national Girl Scout’s website.

“Challenge and Change strengthens rural communities,” according to the site. “Through this project, girls become change-makers as they envision and start long-term community service projects. They get plenty of help along the way through a comprehensive curriculum, instruction by specially trained Girl Scout program staff, and mentoring by community champions. Girls even receive seed funding to launch their projects.”

The project includes the troop’s drive to provide porch planters in the Youngsville community to encourage consumption of healthy, homegrown foods; but it extends beyond that.

“It’s a program that teaches girls about social entrepreneurship and social solution,” according to troop adult leader Jennifer Fox-Riggin. “It highlights sustainability. This isn’t a one-and-done sort of project.”

According to Fox-Riggin, the girls want to include educational materials on fitness and healthy eating with the planters in the future. They’re also using remaining seed funding to have “veggie wagons” built to sell healthy foods out of.

“We will have that available in the Youngsville area,” Fox-Riggin noted. “So that’s part of the future.”

The troop is also in communication with the Youngsville Borough to discuss collaboration possibilities.

“We are not sure what kind of collaboration that will be,” Fox-Riggin said. “Just that we are excited that we will be working together.”

The troop, made up of girls in grade 9 though not all Youngsville Area High School students, came up with the project after brainstorming at a weekend retreat.

“Part of the retreat was learning how to brainstorm,” according to Fox-Riggin. “Their ultimate goal was to try to address obesity and encourage healthy habits. They came up with a bunch of ideas. They know kids don,’t eat healthy. They know, because of technology, kids don’t get out and exercise. We had a couple of girls who came from farming families and wanted to include gardening. Some girls wanted to change the snack machines at the high school. So we just kind of meshed them together.”

From there the girls put in some hard work and got some help from the community.

According to Fox-Riggin, Nick Brunecz at Youngsville Home and Garden donated plants for the boxes, ACE Hardware and Valu Home Center helped with materials, Andy Marino helped construct the cedar planters, local businesses put up flyers and the Penn State Master Gardeners gave advice and helped with designs.

“The master gardeners helped us from the beginning to the end,” Fox-Riggin noted. “They steered us through the whole project because the girls initially wanted to do a big community garden.”

As for the award, and the cash prize that goes with it; the troop is enthusiastic and the money is going back into the program.

“They’re excited,” Fox-Riggin said. “They’re thrilled that they’re going to have $500 to put toward materials or boxes. I’m excited because I see this come across my desk, and I passed it on to my volunteers as well, and we won.”

According to Fox-Riggin, the troop is unique with or without the award.

“One thing that sets my girls apart is they’re in ninth grade and they’re proud to be girl scouts,” she said. “It’s usually not cool by this age.”

Individuals involed with the project through Troop 30699 includes scouts Bree Jewell, Amber Houben, Emily Rutsky, Ally Marino, Alivia Perrin and Aimee Renninger; team advisors Kristina Renninger and Fox-Riggin; and parents Marlene and Jim Jewell, Billie Jo and Andy Marino and Les Houben.