This internship is not boring -- Scout's honor

News-DemocratJuly 13, 2014 

Some of Hilary Conrad's friends are jealous.

The Southern Illinois University Edwardsville student is earning college credit by working for the Girl Scouts this summer.

"A lot of my friends have internships in offices, and it's boring," said Hilary, 22, of O'Fallon. "I get to build fires and take girls on hikes and stuff like that. It's a lot more fun."

Hilary was sitting at a picnic table at Camp Torqua in rural Edwardsville, wrapping a shoebox with aluminum foil. The girls were making box ovens.

"Last week, I learned how to build a one-match fire," Hilary said. "I had never done anything like that before. I didn't know how you were supposed to arrange the wood or use the tinder and kindling. I earned a pin for it."

Hilary is finishing her degree in community health education this summer. She's one of five interns working for the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, which has more than 1,000 girls signed up for camp.

The interns were a great help to Lois Green, co-director of the Edwardsville Area Girl Scout Day Camp.

"We were short on volunteers, and I like to have more than necessary," she said. "We need two adults for every 16 to 24 girls, depending on their ages."

The college interns not only provide supervision, they serve as role models.

"A lot of the young girls relate so well to these cool older girls," said Villie Appoo, chief executive officer of the Girls Scouts of Southern Illinois. "It's an opportunity. They'll say, 'This is neat. I want to do that.'"

Villie sees the intern program as one small step in fighting the trend of girls dropping out of Girl Scouts in middle school.

"They're hanging out in malls or playing with their phones," she said. "They're less likely to go to college and more likely to get pregnant. Girls Scouts is a healthy, constructive alternative. The skills they learn here are so fantastic."

Casey Koertge is another SIUE community health education major interning with the Girl Scouts.

She liked the arts and crafts at Camp Torqua, everything from batiking handkerchiefs to making water bottle holders out of duct tape.

"I don't get to hang out with kids much," said Casey, 22, of Edwardsville. "It's nice to be around them. The youngest cousin I have is like a freshman."

Another job perk is the comfy dress code. Casey wore denim shorts, bright pink tennis shoes and a T-shirt from the "Thin Mint Sprint."

Hilary and Casey have formed special friendships with some of the girls at camp.

"(Hilary is) fun to talk to," said Kylie Ketcham, 9, of Alhambra. "I like dogs a lot, and we talk about dogs. Sometimes we talk about my brother and my family."

Cooking can be a particularly good bonding activity.

"Yesterday, we made our own food over the fire, like toasted ravioli and chicken and dumplings and homemade pies," said Maria Guehlstorf, 10, of Glen Carbon. "It took a long time, but it was really good. It was worth the wait."

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