Manahawkin’s Julia Thompson Achieves Gold by Teaching How to Save Lives

Jul 04, 2018
Supplied Photo Flanked by Lori Pepenella, Joan Hart and Michelle Ortiz during a ceremony at Branches in West Long Branch, Julia Thompson (second from left) received the Girls Scouts Gold Award on June 12.

By the time most girls are 16 years old, the path to the Girls Scouts of America’s Gold Award is over, either because other important things have taken over their lives or because of a simple lack of interest to keep going in Girl Scouts. Julia Thompson is among the relative few who opt to keep pushing for the organization’s highest achievement.

“I started in Girl Scouts late, and I wouldn’t say the Gold Award was on my radar right away,” said the 17-year-old from Manahawkin, whose senior year at Southern Regional High School begins in two short months. “But once I really got focused on it, I knew I could do it. I had a lot of people around me willing to help with what I needed to get done and they were on board, so I said, ‘Let’s go.’ I didn’t look back at that point.”

While most Girl Scouts get to Gold through a local troop, Thompson didn’t start until she was 15 and took a less-traveled road as an independent scout, meaning she was on her own to fulfill the requirements necessary to earn any of Girls Scouts’ higher achievement awards. It wasn’t a problem for the ambitious young woman. With the help of adviser Lori Pepenella, chief executive officer of the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce, Thompson fulfilled the requirements and took on a major undertaking for her final service project.

“I teamed up with Coastal Volunteers in Medicine, Mobile CPR and the chamber of commerce to teach people hands-only CPR,” she said. “I want to be a nurse, and I was previously trained in CPR, but my certification expired. So, when I went to get re-certified, I thought it would be a great idea to teach others hands-only CPR. Teaching people even this basic aspect of CPR is enough to help them save a life if it’s ever necessary. A lot of people can’t pay to be certified, so this was a free option for them, and it would be just as effective if needed to save a life.”

By going to various community events, Thompson taught hundreds the hands-only method of CPR – eliminating the option for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, which requires a specific certification to perform. The hands-only method is one almost anybody ages 10 and older can perform and be effective.

“The most important part of CPR is to keep the blood flowing to the heart, so hands-only focuses entirely on the chest compressions,” Thompson explained. “It’s very easy to learn and works fantastically. The main purpose of CPR is to keep a person alive until medical help arrives, so this is an effective way to do it.”

Girl Scouts of America recommends a minimum of 80 hours to complete the Gold service project, which requires that a scout identify a need, develop a plan to fulfill it, build a team to put the plan into action and then execute it. Thompson’s project totaled some 93 hours.

“It doesn’t seem like I taught too many people, but now there are hundreds of more people in the community who can save a life if it’s ever needed,” said Thompson, soon to start volunteering at Southern Ocean Medical Center and looking into possibly becoming an EMT. “I learned a lot through this project. I worked with a lot of people, and that taught me how to better interact with different types of individuals, and especially how to communicate to them. I learned a lot about time management as well.”

Thompson also developed contacts within the medical and service community, two things that definitely will help her going forward. And, of course, completing all the requirements for Gold gave her valuable skills that will be utilized for decades to come.

“It’s a huge honor to get the Gold Award because it’s very hard to achieve,” said Thompson, who received her Gold on June 12. “It’s a big accomplishment, and I couldn’t have done it without the help and support of a lot of people. I’m very grateful to them.”

— David Biggy

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