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NAHS senior teaches dance

Today, there are more female leaders than ever - but still far too few at the very top. That’s where the Girl Scouts can help. The Girl Scouts Research Institute has found two-thirds of girls want to be leaders, but only one girl in five believes she has the skills to lead.

Katelyn Graver, a senior at Northampton Area High School and an Ambassador Girl Scout from Troop 6687 of Union United Church of Christ in Neffs, has been working over the last year toward her Gold Award, the highest honor given by the Girl Scouts for planning and completing a project that serves the community. For her project, titled “Sharing the Love of Dance,” Katelyn collected dance costumes, shoes and accessories at various donation sites throughout the Lehigh Valley and held a summer dance program for youth at the Easton Area Community Center.

“I was fortunate in being able to participate in many dance activities since a young child,” she said, “and I was both excited and honored to be able to bring similar opportunities to other less fortunate girls.”

A dancer since the age of 3 and inspired by a closet full of dance costumes, Katelyn provided three weeks of afternoon dance classes to the young girls (and a few boys, too) and held a mini-recital at the end of the program. Each day, the children got to experience a different dance style - ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary and hip-hop - with different songs and themes, including “Patriotic Day,” “Disney Day,” “Christmas in July,” “Broadway Day” and “Girl Power Day.” With so many generous donations, the children were able to be fitted with dance shoes and pick out a favorite costume each day, all of which they were thrilled to be able to keep.

Reflecting on her project, Katelyn said dance helps build self-confidence and self-discipline, encourages creativity and gives people joy.

“I wanted my dance project to help girls express themselves, accept themselves and believe in themselves, which hopefully will lead them to accomplish more positive things,” she said.

Thankful for the support of many local dancers and studios, her Girl Scout mentor and project adviser, family and friends, Katelyn said she would like to continue her program - and already has ideas for the future.

“I have learned so much about myself and others through this heartwarming experience,” she said. “There is no greater feeling than when you can share your skills and talents and give back to others.

“I will always remember the smiles on the children’s faces and what we shared together,” she said.

Katelyn, the daughter of Paul and Julie Graver, of Lehigh Township, has been involved with Scouting since she was a Daisy Girl Scout in kindergarten. She will be recognized for her hard work and dedication and will be presented with her Gold Award at the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania’s Achievement Ceremony, to be held later this year.

The first Girl Scout Gold Awards were conferred in 1980, having evolved from a long line of special awards going back as far as 1919 into an elite honor. For many, the leadership skills, goal setting and sense of community and commitment that come from earning the Gold Award set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.

An amazing two-thirds of women in corporate, political and philanthropic leadership roles today are former Girl Scouts. A growing number of colleges and universities have recognized the achievements and leadership abilities of Gold Award recipients by establishing scholarship programs for them, and those who earned the Gold Awards are also often eligible to enter the U.S. Armed Services at an advanced level and salary.

These projects go beyond performing a community service; they encompass organization, leadership and networking skills the girls can carry with them as they strive to become leaders. They are living the Girl Scouts’ mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.

The Girls Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, serving Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, is the largest girl-serving organization in Pennsylvania. More information is available at gsep.org or by calling 215-564-2030.

Contributed photoKatelyn Graver, a senior at Northampton Area High School and an Ambassador Girl Scout from Troop 6687, is pictured with two of the dance students she taught during a summer dance program to earn her Gold Award.