OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Girl Scouts of the USA recently named their 10 Young Women of Distinction for 2014 -- this year's top Girl Scouts in the whole country. It's the highest honor in Girl Scouts and the Fox 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever of the Week is one of them, recognized for lofty and wide-ranging accomplishments and a strong heart for helping poor people in other lands.
Sitting at a sewing machine crafting backpacks made from special, durable material donated to her by Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Merriam, Kan., Paige Young recalls how she started sewing as a little girl, drawn to it by her mother as a way for Paige to learn a useful skill and for them to bond.
"It was always something I could do with my mom," said Paige, a recent graduate of Olathe Northwest High School in Olathe, Kan. "And my mom was my Girl Scout leader. It was just great to spend that time with her."
Paige rose through all the levels of Girl Scouts starting as a Daisy when she was in kindergarten. And when it came time to do a major service project to earn the Gold Award -- the pinnacle achievement in Girl Scouts, akin to the Eagle medal in Boys Scouts, it struck her that the foundation for it would be sewing and her deep love and concern for the impoverished orphans of the island nation of Haiti where she had done service on a church mission trip.
"So my project, Hope for Haiti, was basically a three-part project," said Paige. "I made 80 school backpacks out of material called blue sterile wrap which is what hospitals use to wrap surgical instruments in. And then they throw it away after one use. And this material is durable. It's waterproof. I repurposed that material to make the backpacks, filled them with school supplies and then took them down to Haiti and there I taught women and children, mostly girls, how to sew the backpacks and other things as a vocational program."
"Paige has had a unique, intrinsic motivation to serve others," said church youth leader Kristen Trumpp who has been a mentor for Paige as she pursued service opportunities. "She just sees what's wrong with the way people treat one another a lot in the world and she's dissatisfied with it and she wants to contribute in some way to stop that and to try to be an example of how people can really serve one another and really help one another instead of always looking our for Number One."
The national Girl Scout organization really like what it saw in Paige and her Hope for Haiti project. That together with her other noteworthy Girl Scout achievements and a phenomenal resume' of top accomplishments outside Scouts got Paige recognized this summer as one of Girl Scouts of the USA's Young Women of Distinction, the ten most inspirational Girl Scouts in the country for 2014. It is the highest honor in Girl Scouts.
"As cheesy and cliché as it is, I would not be the person I am today without Girl Scouts," said Paige. "And then having this huge recognition, never would I have ever dreamed that at all."
And now, Paige said her experiences in Haiti and her other charity projects cemented her long-held dream to make social justice and service on a global scale her life's work.
"I can't imagine doing anything else," said Paige. "I don't know if I'll be able to change the world, like everyone said, but I can change one person's life. That's changing their world. And that's so important."
Paige will get started at the University of Missouri next month where she'll major in International Peace and Conflict Studies. And with four years on the drumline at Olathe Northwest High School -- the last two years as captain -- Paige also is looking forward to performing as a member of the Marching Mizzou Drumline. And in October, Paige will travel to Salt Lake City, UT for the Girl Scouts of the USA's national convention where she will be officially honored as a Young Woman of Distinction.
Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.