|By Lori Szepelak|
SOUTH HADLEY Abbe Hamilton can best be described as a role model for girls across the country she sets a course and never looks back.
Later this month, Hamilton will make a trek to Indiana to be recognized as a 2008 Girl Scout National Young Woman of Distinction for an innovative food-waste composting program she undertook with her fellow students at South Hadley High School. She will be honored during a special awards ceremony at the Girl Scouts National Council Session/51st Convention.
Hamilton was chosen for the prestigious honor for her "outstanding community service project" at the high school, according to Dana Carnegie, communications manager, Girl Scouts of Central & Western Massachusetts. Hamilton had first earned a Girl Scout Gold Award locally for the project, and is now one of the top 10 Gold Award recipients in the country.
Her pilot program represents the highest degree of leadership, personal development and commitment to her service project, noted Carnegie.
Hamilton met the national criteria for the Girl Scout Gold Award based on how her project reflected a passion she had for a cause that was important to her and how she used her leadership skills to take action. National criteria also included the impact of the project on her local community, as well as lasting results locally, nationally or globally.
Carnegie noted that Hamilton's project addressed the three Girl Scout keys to leadership discover, connect and take action.
Hamilton, a member of the school's Environmental Club, believes wholeheartedly in preserving the environment and recycling anything and everything whenever possible. In an April interview with Reminder Publications, she noted, "I think it's the connection I make between what we're doing in our school to the big scheme of environmental conservation that makes it really worthwhile to me."
Hamilton, along with her fellow club members, initiated, designed and implemented the Cafeteria Waste Composting Program, along with the support of government officials, teachers, school staff and custodians. Hamilton had noted in April that 90 percent of the student body was composting every day.
Thinking long-term, Hamilton said her hope would be that the program started at the high school would eventually expand into the other town public schools.
The first Girl Scout Gold Awards Girl Scouting's highest honor were conferred in 1980, having evolved from a long line of special Girl Scout awards going back as far as 1919, according to Carnegie. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate, through the implementation of a special project, the ability to set goals and make a plan to carry out those goals, while putting Girl Scout values into action.
Girl Scouts of Central &Western Massachusetts serves more than 15,000 girls from ages five to 17 with the support of more than 5,000 adult volunteers in 186 towns and cities. The Girl Scout program allows girls to discover the fun, friendship and power of girls together, while building their own personal leadership qualities, according to Carnegie.
For more information on Girl Scouts across our region, visit www.gscwm.org.