North Huntingdon Girl Scout's project aims to instill, reinforce confidence
When the waters of adolescence get murky, North Huntingdon's Jessica Hartner, 19, wants teen and preteen girls to remain confident.
She put that idea into action with her four-day workshop, “Taking Care of Your ‘Selfie,'” for girls ages 9 to 13. Throughout July, girls gathered in St. Agnes Church's Resurrection Hall in North Huntingdon to learn about self-esteem from Hartner and guest speakers. The program was part of Hartner's work toward earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, the organization's highest honor.
Each day of the workshop centered on a theme: nutrition and exercise, relationships, taking care of your appearance and being a good citizen and community member. Some of the attendees were fellow Girl Scouts, though anyone could participate.
“I know this can be sort of an awkward stage in your life,” Hartner said to attendees on the first day. “But I don't want this to be awkward. It's not going to be.”
Hartner spoke about having positive self-esteem, especially while on social media — which she encourages girls to use in moderation.
Learning about food servings and sleep, making cards for the St. Agnes Homebound Residence, physical exercise, reflection journals, eating healthy snacks and doing each others' hair and nails were topics at other workshops. Each day had a different guest speaker and they all expanded on the day's theme.
Judy Kunes, a former nurse from North Huntingdon, met Hartner through St. Agnes Church and spoke about nutrition and exercise.
“When we talk about nutrition — it's not about being fat, it's not about being little — it's about being healthy,” she said. “Everything in your body is made to work in its due time. Don't ever worry about the shape you are because God made us with different builds.”
Mary Blythe, director of Faith Formation at St. Agnes Church, told the girls about ways to volunteer and the benefits of volunteering.
“I help them understand what ‘to volunteer' means and I concentrate on the word ‘help,'” Blythe said.
Katy Zapanta, 16, of North Huntingdon is one of Hartner's friends who helped her conduct the workshop by leading small groups and looking after the participants.
“It's a great resource,” she said about the workshop. “I wish I had something like this when I was their age. As an older girl, I feel like I still haven't mastered these skills that they're being shown.”
Participant Elizabeth Zapanta, 13, of North Huntingdon echoed her sister's comments, saying the attendees are at a good age for self-esteem building.
“Just looking at the younger girls, they're all in a fit of giggles ... and they're just being themselves,” she said.
After hearing Blythe speak, Irwin's Skylar McPeak, 12, said she was thinking about ways she could volunteer around her neighborhood. One of her favorite workshop activities was writing cards to the other attendees.
“It was really fun to pick out a good quality about them,” she said.
Greensburg's Delainey Thornton, 10, said Hartner is good with kids and “explaining the rules.” Jessica Schott, 9, of Greensburg called Hartner an “encouraging person.”
Hartner said she has to work a certain amount of hours on the project and prove its sustainability to earn the award. She's hoping to receive it at the end of the summer.
“She's a terrific kid,” Blythe said of Hartner, “She's a self-starter, a leader, she's persistent and has a wonderful work ethic. Persistency is key — (getting a Gold award) is not an easy process.”
Natalie Wickman is a Tribune-Review staff writer.