Hannah Redinger, of Columbia, wants girls in Quito, Ecuador, to have the same chance at an education she has had.
“Public education (there) ends after eighth grade,” she said. “The families have to pay for their child to attend high school. Most of the time, if there is a boy in the family, he will go to school before she will. On average, it costs $250 to send a high school girl to school for a year.”
The Columbia High School senior is collecting school supplies and toiletries and raising money for these smart, but poor girls.
On a weekday afternoon, several boxes filled a corner of the sunny Redinger family room.
The most valued items?
“Flash drives, SD cards and portable USB chargers,” Hannah said. “They don’t have computers at home. They go to Internet cafes. They have to have everything on flash drives.”
For her efforts, she hopes to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement a scout can receive.
“One of my biggest passions is being an advocate for girls’ education,” said Hannah, 18, a member of Troop 864. “This all started about the time Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban because she wanted to go to school.”
She is a ball of fire when it comes to things like this. When she has a passion for something, it energizes the group she is speaking to. The congregation was extremely responsive.
Pastor Bob Goddard on Hannah’s passion
Malala, a year older than Hannah, defied the Taliban in Pakistan and demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education. She was shot by a Taliban gunman in 2012, but survived. In 2014, she became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
“One of the most rewarding things by far about researching this topic is seeing the number of girls who are out of school decrease,” Hannah said. “The lower the number, the more girls are in the classroom learning. Currently, there are 62 million girls out of school around the world.”
Lee-Alison Wilson, a speaker at a church youth retreat, inspired Hannah to choose the project. Her church conference, the Illinois South United Church of Christ, partners with an all female-run Kiwanis Club in Quito, Ecuador, that sponsors high school and university girls.
“I thought, ‘That’s awesome. How can I help?’” said Hannah. “I contacted the Ecuador Partnership Committee.”
With help from Girl Scout troop leader Andrea Weatherford, Hannah set things in motion. Hannah named her independent project “Country to Country, School to School, Students Helping Students.” It requires 80 hours of work.
After she talked about her cause with the Columbia Kiwanis Club, she called her mom.
“When she said the Kiwanis gave her a check, she was crying,” said Sharon Redinger. “I was crying, too. As a parent, it has been amazing to watch her. She was so excited and thankful, extremely thankful.”
She also presented her project at her church, St. Paul United Church of Christ in Columbia.
“I told them I am sponsored by Kiwanis in Ecuador. I told them it costs $250 to send a girl to school for a year. If a mother is literate, a child can read as well. It keeps going. Education can bring you out of poverty.”
“She is a ball of fire when it comes to things like this,” Pastor Bob Goddard said. “When she has a passion for something, it energizes the group she is speaking to. The congregation was extremely responsive.”
I’m able to support 10 girls. I could not be prouder of my community for supporting a project like this.
Hannah Redinger on making a difference
Hannah’s goal: Collect 500 items, from markers to flash drives, and $2,000, the amount needed to send eight girls to high school for a year.
She surpassed it by collecting more than a thousand items and more than $2,000.
“I’m able to support 10 girls. I could not be prouder of my community for supporting a project like this.”
Q: When did you begin collecting?
A: “I began collecting supplies and monetary donations in late February. As part of my project requirements, I made a presentation to the Kiwanis about the issue of girls’ education around the world. Prior to the night of the presentation, I presented my project to my congregation. Within a matter of days, I began to receive school supplies and toiletries. I have been amazed by the response. I not only worked with my home church, St. Paul UCC, in Columbia, but with my high school to collect school supplies.”
Q: Any plans to go to Ecuador?
A: “I’m leaving for Ecuador July 1 on an 11-day mission trip with the ISC UCC (United Church of Christ) to meet these young women. We fly United. We each get two suitcases. Everyone will fill a suitcase with supplies.” The April 16 earthquake that struck coastal Ecuador won’t change plans, she said.
Q: Do you know Spanish?
A. “Enough that I can read and communicate. I’ve had three years of Spanish in high school.”
Q: What do you like about being a Girl Scout?
A: “I have been in Scouts for 13 years now. I started as a Daisy in kindergarten, and now I’m a senior in high school, proud to be an ambassador. An ambassador’s job is to inspire other young girls to become the best scout that she can be. When my dad's job took my family to live in Canada for four years, one of the first questions I asked was, ‘Is there Girl Scouts in Canada?’ The answer was yes. Throughout my four years there, I was part of Girl Guides, by far the coolest thing I have been a part of. When we moved back to the states, I asked the same question, ‘Where can I sign up to be in Girl Scouts?’ Since living here, I’ve been in three troops, and a year as an independent Girl Scout. Staying in a troop is hard once you get to high school, even middle school. Interests change, people ‘grow out of it.’ But I didn’t.”
Q: Other scouting projects?
A: “With the Gold, I’ll have the trifecta, all three scouting awards. For the bronze, we helped a teacher in the school district who takes care of the gardens at playgrounds. We weeded and started flower beds. It was in fifth or sixth grade.” For the silver award, she worked with another scout preparing meals for the military staying at Fischer House at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. “We put together soups and breads and drink mixes. My church youth group helped. We made 100 jars. I am still in the process of receiving this Gold award. I am currently working on paperwork and exit interviews to officially receive the award.”
Q: What are your other interests?
A: “Outside of Scouting, I volunteer at the St. Louis Zoo in the education department working with children and families. I am a part of an organization at the zoo called Zoo ALIVE, which stands for Active Leaders In Volunteer Education. At school, I am involved with Key Club, which is an international community service organization, book club (I love to read and talk about authors and books), the National FFA Organization, and film club.” Hannah also volunteers at DuBois Center near Nashville, where she works with horses.
Q: How can the community help?
A: You can drop off items or mail them to St. Paul United Church of Christ (127 St. Paul St., Columbia, IL 62236) or send a check to Illinois Southern Conference UCC and direct it to: Ecuador Scholarship.
Q: Best lesson from the project?
A: “When you are passionate for a cause and show it, people will support you.”
About Hannah Redinger
- School: Columbia High
- Family: parents Sharon and Jeff, and younger brother Stephen, a sophomore
- Pets: Rudy, an Australian shepherd mix; Nutmeg a Lhasa apso; and Oscar, a black cat
- Favorite class: “I like English, and vet tech class is pretty awesome.”
- Favorite food: Grilled cheese and Cheetos. It’s been her birthday dinner since she was 4.
- Favorite music: Alternative indie rock and Broadway musicals. “I loved ‘Once’ and ‘Wicked.’”
- Recommended book: “The Book Thief,” by Markus Zusak
- Favorite Girl Scout song: “Magdalena, Hagdalena”
- Favorite cookie: “Thin Mints. You can’t beat them, especially when they’ve been in the freezer.”
- What’s next: Plans to attend Kansas State University at Manhattan and major in pre vet animal science.