By Brian Conlin, email@example.com
10:50 AM EDT, April 18, 2012
In the coming weeks, the enrollment at Catonsville Girl Scout Troop 3122 will shrink from four to one as its members age out.
But what the troop based at Catonsville United Methodist Church makes up for in quality what it lacks in numbers.
Half of its membership, high school seniors Alyssa Judson and Molly Wheltle, were invited to an invitation-only ceremony in Annapolis on April 15 that recognized Girl Scouts who earned a Girl Scout Gold Award.
"We have a very small troop, so I think that's kind of saying something," said Linda Judson, Alyssa's mother and the troop leader. "They are the oldest girls in our troop, so this is a first for us."
Fewer than 6 percent of Girl Scouts receive the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout between the ages of 14 and 18 can earn, according to a Girl Scouts of Central Maryland spokeswoman.
Judson and Wheltle, members of Troop 3122 for about a dozen years each who will age out of the Girl Scouts at the end of the school year, earned their awards for completing separate service projects in the fall that aided underprivileged Baltimore City residents.
Educating about homelessness
For her project, Alyssa Judson made a series of presentations to youth in Baltimore City and Baltimore County about homelessness in the city.
Additionally, she collected a dozen blankets and sleeping bags at St. Mark School and worked with Scouts in Troop 984 at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church to make six 6- by 6-foot quilts and seven fleece blankets.
The blankets and sleeping bags were later donated to Southwest Emergency Services in Arbutus.
"I tried to have some sort of legacy with my community, Baltimore County," said the senior at Catonsville High School. "(I started) doing presentations about homeless people and disadvantaged people in Baltimore City since it's so close to us.
"In my opinion, it had a different impact than most other projects," she said.
The Gold Award project helped her strengthen the bond she felt with Scouting after her interest had begun to wane at the end of middle school and into high school, she said.
"Within the past few months, I felt a little more connected to Girl Scouts," she said. "With the Gold Award, we ended up doing a lot more than we would be doing and getting into it more."
A golden legacy
Using media both old and new, Wheltle helped make First Communion extra special for 85 girls at the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown.
The senior at Mount de Sales Academy advertised her collection drive of First Communion dresses in five parish bulletins, on a Facebook page and website and through word of mouth.
By the end of the project, she had far exceeded her goal.
"I was really excited we got 85 dresses. I expected 20," Wheltle said. "I just really like kids, working with people and I really like teaching, so I figured it would work out."
Though she collected and donated 85 dresses, the one Wheltle wore at her First Communion wasn't one of them. Wheltle saved her dress because it had been in the family for years, so she bought another one and donated that, she said.
With the Gold Award, Wheltle completes a run by her and her siblings of earning the highest awards in Scouting.
Her brothers, Billy and Patrick, received Eagle Awards as Boy Scouts in 2006 and 2010, respectively.
Her sister, Casey, received a Gold Award in 2008.
Wheltle missed receiving her award April 15 because she was on a campus visit to Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, one of her top choices for college. Mount St. Mary's University is also at the top of her list.
Not done yet
Troop 3122 may continue to rack up the Gold Awards through the summer and next year.
Laura McKeon, a senior at Catonsville High School, is currently working on her Gold Award project to provide toiletries to the homeless in Baltimore City, Linda Judson said.
McKeon will likely finish her project this summer with the help of Wheltle and Alyssa Judson, Linda Judson said.
The only returning member to Troop 3122 next year is Elizabeth Dulaney.
The junior at Catonsville High School is in the process of putting together her Gold Award proposal, Linda Judson said.
"It's been incredible," Linda Judson said of leading the group. "I've watched them learn leadership skills, take initiative and decide what to do during the meeting instead of me having to plan everything."
Linda Judson likely still has several years of being a troop leader ahead of her.
She is also the leader of Troop 984, where her daughter, Olivia, a seventh-grader at Our Lady of Victory School, is a member.
Her daughter Alyssa said she may one day be in the same position.
"I could see myself being a leader," she said. "But I don't know that I could live up to all the stuff my mom does."
Katy Alexander and Kelsey Votta, members of Troop 1380, and Meredith Andrews and Laura Gevarter, members of Troop 628, were the only other Girl Scouts from the 21228 ZIP code to earn a Gold Award, according to a Girl Scouts of Central Maryland representative.