As you read this, four Girl Scouts from Southeast Alaska are representing the interests of local youth as they participate in the Rural Youth Advisory Committee summit being held just outside Washington, D.C. The four are Valerie Jensen of Yakutat; Kimberly Moore of Kake; and Cassie Lutz and Megan Tack of Juneau. They flew out of Juneau Airport early on Friday, Sept. 19, and will return Sept. 25.
According to Kathy Buss of the Tongass Alaska Girl Scout Council, who is escorting the girls, the foursome is most unusual.
"The plan had originally been to bring one girl and one counselor to Washington to talk about how we can keep our rural youth strong and not isolated,"
In an interview, Buss said, "Our girls said one of the things we can't do is travel because it's so expensive. Valerie, for example, has never traveled beyond Anchorage, where she went for dental work."
The opportunity to take four girls came out of an informal meeting of minds in July. Representatives of Girl Scouts USA came to Juneau in July for a site visit to see what their grant was buying. When they met the girls at resident camp, they were extremely impressed. This was the first time these four girls had met face-to-face, and they talked about recruiting in the communities.
"The girls boldly stepped right up and said things to the VIPs - things such as the difficulty of travel," said Buss. "I am really proud of them because they understand the value of keeping Girl Scouting alive in our communities. When it's easier not to be involved, they are involved. And so it has transpired that our Council gets to bring four girls."
There are three million girls involved in Scouting nationwide. During the summit, the four Southeast Scouts will meet with about 30 other Scouts representing rural areas from across the nation. They will attend sessions on subjects such as "Financial Literacy for Your Future," "Putting Your Best Self Forward - Self Defense for Everyone," "Journaling 101 - Ways to Express Yourself through Writing," and "Networking for Your Future."
They will also enjoy a picnic lunch on the banks of the Potomac. More than 300 rural councils applied for the all-expense-paid trip to the summit, Buss said, and only 35 received the trip. The Susitna Council out of Anchorage is also sending a representative.
The summit is being held at the Milton Mark Center in Alexandria, Va. When not in sessions there, the girls may also visit Alaska's representatives, senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, and Rep. Don Young.
One of the four girls attending, Kimberly Moore, 17, is a member of Troop 167 in Kake. The daughter of Tim and Lori Moore, she has been a Girl Scout for one year, and is home-schooled. "My goal at the summit is to talk to other girls and swap ideas and talk to them about how their troops work," Moore said in an interview before her departure. "It's awesome that four of us are getting to go. We are so happy!"
"Rural communities don't have a lot for kids to do or a lot of places to go," Moore said. "We have to be inventive. I hope we can get more resources for kids in rural places."
Cassie Lutz, 16, attends Juneau-Douglas High School. She is the daughter of Terry and Susan Lutz and a member of Troop 169. She has been a Scout since joining on the Brownie level.
"I want to learn more about D.C. and government functions," Lutz said. "I am looking forward to the workshops, and I want to speak up for road connections to Southeast Alaska."
Megan Tack hopes to speak to the Congressional delegation, and is glad that "some girls from outside Juneau" are attending with her. Megan, 15, attends JDHS. She is the daughter of Art Tack and Traci Burnette.
Valerie Jensen, 14, is the member of a Yakutat Girl Scout troop in search of a leader. "I am excited about the trip," Jensen said. "Basically I want to hang out with the other girls and get their points of view about Scouting."