Sarah Eisenman, a Girl Scout Cadette and an eighth-grade student at Ladue Middle School, has been named one of Missouri’s top two youth volunteers in the 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
As a top volunteer, she will receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. in May, $1,000 and an engraved silver medallion. During the trip, 10 of the 102 state honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers of 2014.
“I feel so proud and excited about this award and I wasn't expecting it at all,” Sarah said. “Lots of kids do community service which is awesome, so to be chosen out of a huge group of talented people is a really big honor.”
In Sarah’s volunteer project, which is also her Girl Scout Silver Award project, she demonstrated leadership by designing and furnishing reading rooms at HavenHouse St. Louis. HavenHouse is a home-away-from-home that serves more than 3,000 patients a year and their families, who travel to St. Louis from all over the United States and 46 other nations to receive medical treatment.
“For my Silver Award project, I wanted to encourage reading in toddlers, children, teens and adults,” she said. “So, I decided to find an agency willing to have new reading rooms designed and furnished. I love reading and wanted to help others who otherwise might not have access to good books.”
Community service is an essential part of being a Girl Scout. Earning the Girl Scout Silver Award offers girls the chance to show that they are leaders who are organized, determined and dedicated to improving their community. The Silver Award is earned by an individual or team of two to four girls and requires each girl to complete a minimum of 50 hours on a Take Action Project. Sarah earned her Girl Scout Silver Award last June.
In addition, based on the number of service hours on her application, Sarah qualifies for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of time to serve their communities and their country.
“It is a very special feeling because I love volunteering--I just get so much out of it and it is so worthwhile,” she said of qualifying for the Presidential honor. “I think everyone has the possibility to make a difference and I love that there is a reward for people who give so much to help others--we need to make them feel special because they do so much. This opportunity means that I really have made a difference in people's lives and that makes me really happy.”
During the 2012-2013 school year, she led a book drive at her school and classmates donated more than 1,000 books. Sarah sorted them, grouped them by reading level, labeled and alphabetized them to set up multiple reading areas at HavenHouse.
“I found a way to repurpose books that people didn't need,” Sarah said. “I recruited family and friends to help me with the project. I used my resources and worked around the time constraints of my school and extracurricular activities schedule to get the project done.”
Sarah and her helpers decorated and arranged a reading room with a Dr. Seuss theme for toddlers, preschoolers and their caregivers. She placed a large basket of board books in the toddler play area and arranged non-fiction books in the HavenHouse computer reference room.
“The most important thing for an organization that’s constantly growing like ours, is for someone to come in as a completely organized leader,” said Paula Kinney, Director of Family Services for HavenHouse St. Louis. “Sarah knew what she wanted to do. She already had the plan completely mapped out. She would email me and write, ‘I want to do this [idea]. What do you think? Would that work?’ She was completely on top of things.”
In the existing HavenHouse library, Sarah set up three large bookshelves - one for children, one for teens and the other for adults. In addition, she placed extra books on bookshelves by genre in a common living area.
“I was really excited because it meant that people were going to go in to HavenHouse and be able to find a book that suited their taste and reading ability and be able to lose themselves in a book during a stressful time,” Sarah said.
The HavenHouse project also made her a store-level winner in the Kohl’s Cares® Scholarship Program last year, one of 50 Missouri students and one of 2,300 nationwide to earn that honor.
Her mother, Joanne McAndrews, added that Sarah is a fourth-generation Girl Scout.
“My mom, my dad and my younger sister, Katie, are proud of me and excited for me,” Sarah said. “My mom earned her Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards when she was a teenager and it makes her elated to see me following in her footsteps. One of my mom's sisters earned her Girl Scout Silver and Gold Awards, too, so it is definitely a family tradition.”
McAndrews said completing this project motivated Sarah to attempt a Gold Award project. Many Girl Scouts credit college acceptance to adding the Gold Award to their applications.
“I plan to start working on my Gold Award project this fall,” Sarah said. “First, I will work on a Senior Girl Scout Journey and a Take Action Project with some of the other girls in my troop. I have some ideas for my project but I know the proposal has to be approved by the committee after I do the Journey and the Take Action Project before I can begin.”
“She attended the Reflections Ceremony last June and she said she wants to be on that stage within four years, receiving her Girl Scout Gold Award,” said McAndrews.
Sarah said she has never visited Washington D.C. before. During her trip, she hopes to see the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Capitol.