In the midst of taking finals, University of Delaware freshman Jamila Blake got an unexpected phone call that provided a boost in what can sometimes be a stressful week. The call was from the Girl Scouts informing her that she was chosen as a 2013 National Young Woman of Distinction, an honor bestowed on only 10 Girl Scouts throughout the country.
“It is an amazing feeling to have been named a 2013 National Young Woman of Distinction,” Blake said of the award. “I am honored to be among such distinguished young women and to have had the opportunity to connect with them.”
The award is given to those who have earned the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.
Blake’s Gold Award project involved youth affected by the civil war in northern Uganda and the surrounding region. She wanted to increase awareness about the war and raise supplies for children affected by it, as well as to provide information to local legislators and encourage them to take action.
To increase awareness, Blake, who is preparing for her sophomore year in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), started the Global Outreach Club at Wharton High School in Florida and also worked with the Invisible Children organization, held documentary screenings at Wharton, and brought a student from Uganda to speak.
She said she also held a Roots for Peace carnival, participated with Caroling for a Cause to raise awareness and spoke with Florida Congressman Gus Bilirakis and legislative counsel Elizabeth Hittos.
The decision to get involved with the crisis in northern Uganda was largely fueled by Blake’s exposure to the Invisible Children organization. When she was in seventh grade, her sister, Aisha, showed her the group’s first documentary.
“I love what such a young organization has been able to accomplish and I was also horrified that the atrocities of Joseph Kony have been able to continue for so long,” said Blake. “I am in awe of how creative Invisible Children is and how well they have been able to tap into today’s youth and get them to take action. The idea that someone so young could take their passion and mobilize such a following is incredible to me.”
Blake said she was happy about the amount of exposure her cause received as a result of the award. “The recognition is great, but having a national platform to shed light on the issues we hold so dear is probably one of the best parts of this experience.”
Blake, who has been involved with Girl Scouts for more than 13 years, is majoring in wildlife conservation and minoring in sociology. She also a member of the Wildlife Society and the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), was the event coordinator for the Green Team in the Rodney Complex and served as a New Student Orientation leader.
As far as careers go, that is still a ways off, but Blake said she has enjoyed how much CANR has exposed her to in a short period of time. “I do want to be able to work in the field studying animal behavior or something along those lines,” she said. “I am really interested in big cats and penguins — very different ends of the spectrum, I know. This may change, though, as I continue to complete my courses within my wildlife conservation major.”
Article by Adam Thomas