EDMOND — Hannah Johnson, of Edmond, has become the first girl in Oklahoma to earn the American Heritage Girls Stars and Stripes award, the equivalent to the Girl Scouts Gold Award or the Boy Scouts Eagle rank.
The 17-year-old earned the distinction primarily for her service project, involving an outreach to the metro area’s homeless. She volunteered for a few months at Oklahoma City’s Jesus House, a nondenominational mission that provides shelter, food, clothing and care to the city’s homeless and poverty-stricken.
The American Heritage Girls is a Christ-centered character development organization for girls. Hannah, who will be a homeschooled senior this year, was in the organization for more than nine years. This spring, she has graduated from the program.
“I first joined in Atlanta, and then when we moved here for my dad’s job, my mom helped to form a troop here,” she said of her parents, Craig and Kara Johnson.
American Heritage Girls was formed in 1995 in West Chester, Ohio, by a group of parents wanting an organization for girls with a more “Judeo Christian” emphasis.
A few times a month, Hannah and other girls would meet at Wilshire Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.
“When we first came here, there was only one troop in Tulsa,” Hannah said. “Now we have troops popping up all over.”
Troop coordinator Kena Vogel said since the founding of the Edmond troop, two more have formed in Oklahoma City, one in Shawnee and one in far north Edmond.
Reaching the goal
The Stars and Stripes honor, Vogel said, involved more than 100 hours of service and a rigorous leadership process. The award incorporates badge work, religious award recognition, service and leadership. The result is to produce girls — and eventually young women — who give back to their community.
“Establishing the habit and mindset of reaching out and helping others from the youngest age can truly change so many lives and can change the world,” Vogel said.
For Hannah, the group was an opportunity to learn new skills, make friends and have fun. Last year, she decided she would go after the high honor.
“I made it my goal to earn my Stars & Stripes, to better my community and to love those around me,” she said. She called the experience at the Jesus House an “eye-opener.” She put together 100 welcome boxes for new residents and 100 bags for homeless people
“It was something to come into that environment after being in Edmond,” she said. She also left an impression on her troop leader.
“Hannah’s project was wonderful, and she helped so many people through the Jesus House,” Vogel said.
Hannah said a second girl in the state has her paperwork in to become the next Stars and Stripes recipient.
Meanwhile, Hannah continues to pay it forward, recently returning from a mission trip to Honduras with a youth group from her church, Memorial Road Church of Christ. There she did what she could in helping to build homes for the needy and giving a hand to the homeless.
She said it’s been a lot of work, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“God calls us all to do this,” she said. “Afterward, I feel more blessed for having helped.”