There is more than one "Whiz Kid" this week on Nazareth Patch -- nine, to be exact.
The nine girls make up Girl Scout Troop 8352, which is chartered through Holy Family Catholic Church in Nazareth.
The 11-year-old girls, who attend Holy Family School, achieved the Bronze Award -- the highest award Girl Scout Juniors can earn -- in June, according to Deborah Rutan, one of the troop's three leaders.
The now sixth-graders were in fifth grade when they earned the award, Rutan explained, adding it took two years to complete the award's requirements.
"The fact that all nine girls finished together is an achievement that all three of us leaders are very proud of," Rutan said.
There are six steps to receiving a Bronze Award, according to www.girlscouts.org:
- Build your Girl Scout Junior team.
- Explore your community.
- Choose your Girl Scout Bronze Award project.
- Make a plan.
- Put your plan in motion.
- Spread the word.
"They set their goals from a very young age that they wanted to obtain this highest honor in Girl Scouts," said Carolyn Muretta, another troop leader.
In order to receive the award, the girls had to earn badges related to a service project.
They chose the topic of disabilities, Rutan said, because three of the girls have or had family members with disabilities.
Each girl chose a different condition and wrote a report. They also designed their own badges, because the Girl Scouts do not have a badge designated for studying disabilities, according to Rutan.
Girl Scout Talia DeFranco researched Williams syndrome -- something her 8-year-old cousin has. Williams syndrome is a genetic condition that causes developmental delays, learning disabilities and cardiovascular disease, according to www.williams-syndrome.org.
"I know it's difficult for them," DeFranco said of people who have Williams Syndrome.
Maura Muretta chose Alzheimer's disease because her grandfather had it.
"I thought if I did that one, it would make me happy because it's for him," she said.
Megan Beck noted that because of the project, she had the opportunity to become friends with a 20-year-old woman who has a disability. According to Beck, her new friend has the mental capacity of a fifth-grader.
"She inspired me," she added.
Carolyn Muretta said the troop as a whole learned a lot just from working with children at Special Olympics and Dream Come True events. They learned to appreciate their own abilities, she said, because they saw how others struggled with tasks that come easy to them.
While working on their service project, the girls worked at the Bethlehem Special Olympics gymnastics competition, held a bake sale to raise money to sponsor a child's dream through Dream Come True, and dressed as elves for a Christmas party hosted by Dream Come True at DeSales University.
"It was really cute to see the little kids call us elves and say, 'They are Santa's helpers,'" said Girl Scout Stephanie Salmento.
The troop also handed out gifts -- purchased from Target, they said -- during the party.
"I felt proud that I could do something like that," said Natalie Ament, one of the troop's members.
Shannon Rutan has been active with Special Olympics and Dream Come True for years, she said. Her brother, Allen Rutan, has autism spectrum disorders, so she was happy the troop chose disabilities for its service project.
Salmento said she is glad the troop worked on the project together.
"I thought it would be easier as a troop than as an individual," she said.
"And more fun to do as a group, too," Maura Muretta added.
The Nine Members of Girl Scout Troop 8352:
The Troop Leaders: