By Kim Jansen
News Report Staff
When Sophia Ballard was in kindergarten, she brought home a flyer she received at school about Girl Scouts.
Her mother, Deena, was on the fence about whether or not to sign Sophia up to be a Girl Scout. But after talking to Sophia’s grandpa, Deena decided to enroll her daughter to become a Daisy in a local troop.
Sophia’s grandpa, who had been active in scouting, encouraged Sophia’s participation saying it would offer her opportunities, and he was right.
Over the summer, Sophia had the opportunity to travel with Girl Scouts from across the United States to London, England, where she spent the week-long trip meeting Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from across the world, including Finland, Africa and Canada.
The 18-year-old Effingham resident was one of 20 girls selected to participate out of over 150 applicants from across the nation, and she was the only Illinois resident chosen for the trip.
“I felt pretty honored,” said Sophia. “I was very blessed to have the opportunity to go.”
Sophia has worked hard as a scout, advancing through each level of Girl Scouts and earning the top Girl Scouts awards — the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards. She is now considered an adult member.
“I have worked very hard to get my awards, and it makes me feel honored to be picked. It made me feel like my hard work has paid off,” said Sophia, who added the application process also took into account her involvement with her troop and area scouts.
While in London, Sophia stayed at Pax Lodge, one of the Girl Scout World Centers offered as lodging to Girl Scouts and Girl Guides. The World Centers provide a comfortable and safe place for short stays or long-term accommodations, seminars, training sessions and international events.
“I was able to meet with other Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from other parts of the world,” said Sophia, who also explained Girl Guides are what scouts are called in other countries. “We talked about the differences between guides and scouts, like the differences with our ceremonies.”
She added the girls also exchanged patches and learned about the history of the different organizations.
Although Sophia spent time learning about different troops throughout the world, she and the other scouts also had time to explore London through guided tours, including stops at Big Ben, U.K. Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Sophia’s favorite, Stonehenge.
“I always tell people that if it was not for Girl Scouts, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have had to travel and to make friends and connections with people,” said Sophia. “Girl Scouts teaches you how to interact with people and gives you the opportunity to meet people from different types of cultures.”
Sophia encourages girls to become involved in scouts, adding it has opened up so many doors for her.
“Girl Scouts has been one of my favorite things I have done throughout my childhood,” she said. “I have just loved it, ever since I went to the first meeting.”
Sophia, the daughter of Ken and Deena Ballard, is a 2017 graduate of Effingham High School and is currently attending Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville where she is studying pre-law.
Although she plans to become a non-profit lawyer, she admits her dream job is not necessarily as a lawyer, but as a CEO of Girl Scouts.
“I want to become an attorney, but one of my life goals is to be the CEO of Girl Scouts in Southern Illinois,” said Sophia. “With the types of programs they have to build yourself and to build friendships, I feel like you can’t get any better than that.”
By Kim Jansen