When the world’s attention turned to the U.S. presidential election in 2016, Sarah Roelke came to appreciate what she calls the role of journalism in every community.
“That was the first major election that I was old enough to pay attention to,” says Roelke, who was 7 at the time. “And because so many people were talking about it, and there were so many different stories about it, I knew I needed to look into it myself.”
Roughly six years later, Roelke, a Fairfax County resident and Girl Scout, has developed a patch program with her local troop to help other young girls learn a bit about what it’s like to be a journalist.
“I’ve always been pretty curious my whole life, and I always like finding out information myself,” says Roelke, adding that she thought other kids like her would benefit from better understanding the profession.
Activities in the program include learning how to spot uninformed sources in articles (“good” sources vs. “bad” sources), interviewing family members, and writing articles. Another module includes researching famous female reporters.
“I thought [that module] was very relevant to Girl Scouts in general, because women in journalism is something that doesn’t seem to be talked about as much,” says Roelke, adding that she also included information about journalists who were once Girl Scouts themselves, like CBS News broadcaster Gayle King and Gloria Steinem, the social activist and former journalist.
Roelke’s journalism program is intended for Girl Scouts who are Juniors (typically in grades four or five, with the iconic mint-green vests) or Cadettes (typically in grades six through eight), or any children roughly within those age groups. To be clear, this isn’t an “official” patch for which the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, the national-level nonprofit, will have an approved badge to purchase. But Heather Roelke, Sarah’s mother, says making unofficial patches is fairly common and easily can be done online. Instructions can be found here.
Roelke interviewed several local journalists to develop her program, which is hosted online by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.
Creating the program was part of a 50-hour-minimum community project to earn her “Silver Award,” which is the highest award that a Cadette-level Girl Scout can earn. Other girls in her program undertook projects related to cultivating self-esteem and confidence or building gardens and park benches.
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