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As a result of a pass-through grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Girl Scouts all over Southeast have been given healthier choices in life.
For example, some of them flew to Washington, D.C., to take workshops and compare notes with Scouts from other isolated communities. Cassie Lutz of Juneau, Kimberly Moore of Kake and Valerie Jensen of Yakutat were three of the lucky ones.
"It was a good learning experience," said Lutz of her trip. "Juneau is a small community and getting to see 'the other side' was great. We saw the White House and all the monuments. I would never have been able to go except for this grant. We had photography and writing workshops, and they helped me a lot."
Kimberly Moore has spent 11 of her 18 years in Kake. "When I first started in Scouts three-and-a- half years ago," Moore said, "I just wanted something to do - not to be home all the time. Then I got into the rural community group. I have grown so much from it. I used to be so scared to speak in public, and now it's no big deal."
Valerie Jensen, 15, has lived in Yakutat all her life. "Before I went [to Washington], I was shy around groups of people I didn't know. But everyone was nice there. It gave me a different perspective of how people live in different places, and how to reach out to girls. Basically, it gave me self-confidence."
In 2002, Girl Scouts USA received a grant from the USDA to establish and extend its Rural Communities initiative. The objectives of the program included instituting innovative ways of recruiting rural-based girls and adult volunteers, developing and installing leadership skills in girls 11 to 17, and broadening the horizons of girls who are geographically or economically isolated.
During year one of the grant initiative (September 2002-December 2003), 34 councils received these grants. One of those recipients was Tongass Alaska Girl Scout Council (TAGSC), which serves 389 girls and 87 adults in 11 communities in Southeast Alaska. Enabled by the grant, TAGS offered babysitter training in Hydaburg, the only youth-oriented community service project in Ketchikan and the only organized after-school program in Hydaburg besides basketball. It also sent girls to the Washington conference.
The first grant was $39,900. For the second year, the grant was $27,350. "We are just getting ready to apply for year three," said Kathy Buss, director of programming and membership for TAGSC. "We can apply for up to $25,000."
"We have been very fortunate to get this grant," Buss added. "The ones who have really benefited are girls who would not otherwise have been able to come to our programs. The grants are helping us target older girls; nationwide, we historically lose girls the older they get. We hope to start Junior and Brownie Girl Scout troops here and have the older girls help out."
Train and Sustain will hold its 2004 Training Conference and Annual Meeting Nov. 11-13 in Juneau. Eighty leaders and scouts from all over the Panhandle are expected to attend, said Jetta Whitaker, who is helping Crystal Smith to organize the event. "Air fare is being paid for by the rural grant" for those coming from other cities, Whitaker said. "The whole idea is coming together to figure out what we can do to promote emotional and physical fitness in our troops."
"This is the first year we have brought older girls - 12 and up - to the conference," Buss said. "Most of those attending are around 14, and gain junior leadership skills from their participation. They get ideas for their adult lives, as well as motivation to help girls who have few advantages."
On Thursday, Nov. 11, Train and Sustain sessions take place at the Salvation Army. Kathy Buss, program/membership director for TAGSC, leads a workshop from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for those who need first-aid and CPR certification.
From 2 to 5 p.m., the workshop is Leading Girls to a Healthy Future. Health, nutrition and fitness professions discuss how girls can lead their communities to better health. Presenters are Dr. Janice Sheufelt, medical director at SEARCH; Fran Polumsky, a former physical education teacher and currently an employee of the Juneau Racquet Club; counselor Elaine Schroeder, Ph.D.; and Bartlett Hospital nutritionist Nancy Duhaime.
Sessions for Friday, Nov. 12, take place at the Baranof Hotel, and begin with a continental breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Following a welcome by TAGSC board chairman Gail Ford, most of the morning will be spent in a workshop dealing with leadership and communications skills. Other events include a paper crafts workshop, indoor rock climbing, a volunteer appreciation luncheon, an introduction to TAGSC's new Web site and an auction. The rock-climbing workshop will be led by Becky Janes, co-owner of Above and Beyond Alaska.
For a complete schedule of events or to register, call TAGSC at its new office, 316 W. 11th (near Cope Park), 586-1710. There is no fee to leaders or scouts.