Participation with Girl Scouts of America can extend beyond brownie troops and cookie sales. Recently, one Murray State student was recognized nationally for her involvement with Girl Scouts.
Casey Blankenship, freshman from Carterville, Ill., received the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award a member of Girl Scouts can receive.
Blankenship was honored with the award for her project on spreading awareness about MRSA, or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, which took the life of her grandmother.
“I did not want anyone else to have to suffer from MRSA,” Blankenship said. “I wanted to raise awareness for people to know that it can happen to almost anyone, even people who are healthy.”
She said she knew not many girls took with Girl Scouts past grade school, but it was something she has enjoyed.
According to the Pew Health Center, MRSA is responsible for 19,000 deaths and 368,000 hospitalizations every year.
The annual cost to treat MRSA is from between 3.2 billion to 4.2 billion dollars each year in the U.S. alone.
Blankenship said it is important to her to get the word out about MRSA because not everyone is aware they are capable of catching the infection.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two in 100 people carry MRSA.
Blankenship completed her project during her senior year of high school and gave presentations around her community about MRSA and to let people know what they can do to prevent it.
According to the CDC, people can avoid getting MRSA by maintaining good hand and body hygiene, keeping cuts and scrapes clean, avoiding sharing personal items and seeking care early if there is a possibility of infection.
Blankenship distributed informational packets around the community and made a YouTube video demonstrating the proper hand-washing techniques used to help prevent the infection.
Prior to winning the Girl Scout Gold Award, Blankenship was honored with both the Girl Scout Bronze Award and the Girl Scout Silver Award.
Only six percent of eligible Girl Scouts are able to achieve the Girl Scout Gold Award compared to the approximate seven percent of eligible Boy Scouts who achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, their highest honor.
To achieve the prestigious award, Blankenship had to complete a minimum of 80 hours of work and complete a seven-step process for her project.
This seven-step process included identifying the issue, investigating it thoroughly, getting help and building a team, creating a plan, presenting the plan and gathering feedback, taking action and educating and inspiring others.
The Gold Award is only available to Girl Scouts who are still in high school and challenges participants to change the world.
Blankenship has been involved with Girl Scouts for the past 14 years.
She said she plans on staying involved with Girl Scouts by helping with local Girl Scout meetings and by continuing to do community service projects.
Blankenship said she hopes to one day become a troop leader and give back to the Girl Scouts all which the organization has given to her.
Said Blankenship: “It feels good to accomplish this goal, and I feel like my grandma would be really proud of me.”
Story by Rebecca Walter, Staff Writer