When she moved to Florida from Texas and was about to start third grade, Tristan Blankenship decided she wanted to become a Girl Scout.
“My grandmother had been my Aunt Maddie’s Girl Scout leader when she was young,” Tristan said. “My mother was also a Girl Scout. They thought it would be a good way to meet other girls and make new friends. My cousin Maddie also wanted to join, so my grandma found a troop in North Port that could take both of us.”
“Girltopia” — a goal of working toward an ideal world for girls — is a senior Girl Scout leadership journey that Tristan has been on for the past few years.
A book suggested to take action and complete projects that would make the community better.
When Tristan read that a statistic stating that half of women in the world above age 15 could not read, she decided to take action.
The North Port High School freshman brainstormed ideas with her grandmother, Brenda Bradley, and together they decided to organize a project to collect books and donate them to students at Cranberry Elementary School, where she once attended.
Tristan contacted Lisa Hronek, English Language Learner (ELL) Liaison at Cranberry, who arranged to accept the donation.
Using money that she collected from crushed cans, she purchased and donated almost 70 storybooks. She bought used books from the North Port Goodwill and the Venice Library, and her grandmother purchased five new books from Amazon.
Tristan’s cousin, Madelinn Canty of Nokomis, donated some more.
The project will count toward earning the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts.
“Mission: Sisterhood!” is an 80-page book that Tristan is reading during her leadership journey.
A quote from the book: “to encourage girls to be open to diversity in all of their relationships, and to give them the opportunity to get to know others they wouldn’t normally meet or seek out,” caught Tristan’s attention.
“My grandmother is a member of our church mission committee,” Tristan said. “The committee helps support the Rising Star Junior School in Uganda. A committee member is sponsoring a graduate, Racheal, so that she can attend high school.”
It costs money for kids to attend high school in Uganda. If a family can afford to send any of their children to school, it will usually be the sons.
“When the girls graduate from Rising Star Junior School, they return to their villages to marry unless they’re fortunate enough to get a sponsor. This bothers me — I think education should be equal for boys and girls.”
Tristan and Racheal started emailing last year, and now they communicate regularly online.
“She lives in a small apartment in Kampala, where she goes to school. She’s the first girl from her village to go to high school.”
For her “Take Action” project, Tristan arranged to connect girls from her troop (sixth to eighth graders) with girls of the same age in Uganda.
“I collect the letters at the meetings and my grandmother emails them to a teacher in Uganda. He prints them for the girls there and then they write letters back. It’s been fun, educational, too.”
Both Tristan and Madelinn are members of Venice Troop #138.
“We changed to a Venice troop a couple years ago, because of meeting day/time conflicts,” Tristan said.
After high school, Tristan plans on attending the State College of Florida in Venice and her goal is to study nursing.
Her advice to young girls who are considering scouting: “Give it a try. You’ll learn a lot, have fun and make the world a better place.”