Published by The Prince George’s Sentinel
Any real controversy or perceived lack of coolness didn’t matter in the humid fifth floor conference room as young adults sported badge-filled green sashes and khaki vests with pride.
Seventy-two scouts were recognized for their commitment and service in achieving high-ranking scouts honors Wednesday during the second annual Prince George’s County Scouting Awards Ceremony at the County Administration Building.
“It is all worth it,” 17-year-old Bowie Eagle Scout Nathanial Carter said.
Gold award honoree Briana Oates, 17, of Mitchellville, echoed the five words almost instantly.
“It definitely means a lot,” Oates said. “It feels good, knowing that you did something good in your community, and you’re getting recognized by top leaders that represent Prince George’s County.”
Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. of the Seventh Judicial Circuit presided as Master of Ceremonies.
“We do this to encourage you (scouts) to encourage others to come into scouting,” the judge said. “We look to build moral leadership through the scouting programs we have. Sometimes it’s not exactly linear or without controversy, as you know, but it’s important for us to do it.”
Although County Executive Rushern Baker was not in attendance, communications manager Barry Hudson congratulated the scouts on his behalf.
“Yay, you made it,” he said, adding that the awards show commitment, a sense of personal pride and proven leadership skills.
“You’ve joined an important and very small fraternity and sorority of people who can walk around proudly and say that they have reached that level,” Hudson said. “Somewhere sitting in this room is the next Rushern Baker, County Exec. Somewhere sitting in this room is the next Chair of the Council, Andrea Harrison.”
Bishop McNamara graduate Briana Oates found inspiration for her gold award project from a national public figure.
Noticing a shortage of fresh produce at a homeless shelter, she looked to The White House.
“I was inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama,” she said. “I know she likes to plant gardens around The White House.”
Oates developed and implemented a 3-day health workshop for young children living in a Maryland homeless shelter.
The project included packets, game and discussions about the importance of eating healthy. Her Take Action project, for the organization characterized by Thin Mints, culminated in building three box-raised gardens filled with fresh collard green, kale and spinach.
With high standards for leadership and civic engagement, gold award projects and Eagle Scout initiatives show that scout membership is about more than selling cookies or tying knots.
“Continue to soar towards greatness,” Assistant Director of Field Service James Hamlin, of Boys Scouts of America, told the Eagle Scouts.
When Oates received the Silver Trefoil Award in 2012, she watched the gold award recipients in similar admiration.
The silver award is the second-highest Girl Scouts of the United States of America honor.
“I wanted to be just like them and earn my gold award and stand up there,” she said. “When I got my gold award, it made feel really good.”
Six girls received the Silver Trefoil award that requires 100 service hours.
Laurel’s Kelsey Donaldson, 18, completed the 100-hour service requirement by volunteering at inauguration, day camps, scout workshops and multicultural events.
“If I wasn’t in Girl Scouts, I probably never would have done half the stuff I’ve done,” she said. “It makes me feel good about myself.”
“I’ve been in it (Girl Scouts) since I was 5 and now that I’m 18, it’s like, I don’t want to stop now,” Donaldson added.
Eight girl scouts and 58 boy scouts in the county earned the highest scouting achievement. It marked the first time that all county districts featured scouting award recipients, Nichols said.
Still, the discrepancy among districts was unmistakable. District 4 touted 21 Eagle Scouts, four gold award honorees and 1 silver award honoree, while districts 2 and 7 each featured only one Eagle Scout.
Nationwide, less than 6 percent of Girl Scouts and less than 3 percent of Boy Scouts receive the highest scouting honors, according to scout dignitaries.
DeMatha High School graduate Nathanial Carter said an inability to “see the end goal” might have steered scouts away in middle school and high school.
“People get busy, caught up with other stuff – girls, homework, stuff like that,” he said.
Girl Scouts’ Director of Membership Tonya Muse said that competing activities often interfere with the organization’s retention rate, but also pointed to the peer pressure that comes with the age demographic.
“It’s hard to keep them,” Muse said. “It’s that cool factor.”
When asked why so few scouts continue to move up the ranks in young adulthood, gold award honoree Valencia Danner, 19, of Bowie, emphasized the “coolness factor.”
“Like some people might see it as kind of dorky, but it really is a lot more than what it seems,” she said. “I do feel, like, proud. And I’m happy that I was able to do something for the community.”
Danner designed “Healthy Inside and Out,” a website that encouraged girls to share health advice, weight loss tips and their feelings about self-esteem.
For Danner, who enrolled as a Brownie at the age of 5, the reason she has stayed with Girl Scouts boils down to five words: “the chance to help people.”