MI girls win Scout"s top honor

Mercer Island residents Christina Culver and Courtney Hampson joined the ranks of an elite group of less than 6 percent of Girl Scouts by earning their gold award, the highest award in Girl Scouting.

The gold award symbolizes outstanding accomplishments in leadership, community, service, career planning and personal development.

To earn the award, the Girl Scout creates a plan focused on issues important to the community and carries it out in one to two years in close partnership with an adult volunteer.

Culver created a tutoring and mentoring program entitled ``Hand-in-Hand'' with 12 students at Mercer Island High School and second graders at Lake Hills Elementary School. She chose this elementary school because of the high percentage of children who receive subsidized lunches (52 percent), the large number of English as a second language students (55percent) and the school's poor performance on standardized tests.

The children chosen to participate in the program all came from low-income families and were struggling with their school work or at home.

Every Monday after school, the mentors met the children to play games, enjoy snacks and spend time completing spelling, math and reading exercises.

``The children benefited immensely from the personal attention and tutoring they received,'' Culver said.

Hampson's 50-hour project addressed the issue of poverty and education in Missionvale, a small township off the southern coast of South Africa plagued by AIDS.

Hampson addressed one of the community's greatest needs by collecting school supplies for the teachers and students and clothing for local children, young adults and women.

Hampson traveled to Missionvale this summer, where she worked in the school.

``The most touching experience I had while doing my project was receiving a letter in the mail from a 7-year-old girl from a local elementary school who had read about my project in the Mercer Island Reporter and sent me the $9 that she had in her piggy bank,'' Hampson said.

``Seeing a generous act like that from someone of such a young age is truly touching and makes doing a project like this truly meaningful,'' she said.

Girls who earn the Girl Scout gold award are eligible for a variety of scholarships from more than 100 colleges and universities.The U.S. military offers recipients the opportunity to enter the military at a higher pay scale.

In northwest Washington, Girl Scouts - Totem Council serves nearly 22,000 girls, ages 5 to 17, who are developing crucial life skills.

For membership information, call 1-800-767-6845 or log on to

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