Girl Scouts Spotlight Series: Berkleigh Rathbone

Berkleigh Rathbone has been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from her own backyard all throughout her life. When it came time to choosing a project for her Girl Scouts Gold Award, Berkleigh chose to write a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. In the book, a girl named Karlein plants, grows, and harvests pumpkins. The process of creating the book took about 10 months, during which Berkleigh wrote the story, edited, drew illustrations, and worked on the layout of the book.

Higher education is important to Berkleigh, and she is planning on majoring in Psychology at the University of Washington. Having been a part of the Girl Scouts since fourth grade, cookie sales are Berkleigh’s favorite part of Girl Scouts as it helped her hone her entrepreneurial skills. Read on to learn more about this ambitious young woman!

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Berkleigh Rathbone
Education: Planning to major in Psychology at the University of Washington

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Berkleigh Rathbone: I define “Seizing Your Youth” as making the most out of your life and actively preparing yourself as a teenager for the increasingly competitive world that you enter in adulthood. Simply said, seizing your youth means seizing the day, every day!

CJ: What will you study at the University of Washington, where you’re starting school in the fall? What led you to those academic passions and why are you choosing to study them in a formal setting?

BR: I am planning to study and get at least a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology since I have always been interested in the mind and how it functions. Higher education has always been important to both of my parents, so I promised them that I would go to college after I finished high school.

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CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

BR: I joined a Girl Scout troop as a “Junior” in fourth grade. In addition to troop meetings, I loved all of the activities (such as summer camps, weekend trips, troop activities, cookie sales, etc.) that were available to me through scouting. If I had to choose my single most favorite part of Girl Scouts it would be cookie sales – not only are the cookies delicious, but by doing sales I additionally strengthened my interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

BR: 1. Always be prepared, no matter what.
2. Volunteering is extremely rewarding.
3. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.

CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you wrote a published a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. Your book includes a resource guide with a glossary, discussion questions, and information about donating to food banks so everyone can access fresh produce. You have shared your book with libraries, schools, and food banks throughout the country and via an online video you created. How cool! Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

BR: Choosing a topic for my Gold Award project was hands down the hardest part – I could have chosen to do almost anything! I decided to go with the theme of gardening since both of my parents love to plant and grow vegetables and flowers in our garden. All throughout my life I have been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from my own backyard, which is something that I will be forever grateful for. Furthermore, my mom happened to have a rough draft of a story she had written about a girl named Karlein who planted, grew, and harvested pumpkins that she had grown. So the idea to (re)write and illustrate a book for my Gold Award seemed like a no-brainer!

My initial project started out small. I would write, illustrate, and publish my book, put it into a few public locations (schools, libraries, etc.), and wait for readers to respond to discussion questions via an email I put in the back of the book. However, as the project progressed I realized that my project needed more oomph! in order to get necessary quantitative results for my before/after project impact analysis. That’s where the online video and remodified discussion questions, etc. come in.

All in all, this project was probably the biggest project I’ve ever worked on. From the time I stated until the time I finished, the total project time was about 9 to 10 months. Not only did editing the story take time, but so did creating and editing the illustrations, in addition to figuring out the layout of the book. I also put a lot of time into communicating with several different people, mostly by email, in order to sort out different logistics of where to send my book, who to send it to, and how many copies to send.

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CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

BR: In order to keep my project organized I put together a list of tasks that I had to do, and in turn organized that list on a timeline in order to get a rough idea of how long my project would take me to complete. As far as balancing my school schedule with my Gold Award project tasks goes, I decided to treat my Gold Award project itself as an extracurricular activity. I had few school obligations and at the time I was not working, which really allowed me to dive into working on my project. Once my Junior year of high school ended I took advantage of my time off from school to catch up on task deadlines and evaluate the progress of my project.

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

BR: I’m not quite sure. Yes, I do know a good amount of people, and yes, I have learned quite a bit by talking to these individuals. However, I think that my mentor takes on a more inanimate form: life experiences. By learning from both the mistakes of others (myself included) and also the lucky risk-taking strategies of self-made successful people, I feel as if my life experience of interacting with people and hearing their personal stories has helped to advise me on what steps to take at what times, in addition to how many steps to take at a time without overworking myself.

CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

BR: Good leaders are like backbones:

  1. Without good leaders, society, like our body without our spine, could not function.
  2. Good leaders, like our spines, are simultaneously flexible and strong.
  3. Just like how the spine connects the upper and lower parts of the body, good leaders find ways to connect people in a group/society in order to establish a sense of unity.

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CJ: How do you define success?

BR: I define success as meeting/exceeding a previously set goal. For me, success can come in the form of money, health, happiness, wisdom, love, or any other aspect of life that I have my eyes set on improving.

CJ: What is a book you read in high school that positively shaped you?

BR: Tiny Snail by Tammy Carter Bronson – the author actually came to my school when I was in second grade and talked about the process of writing and illustrating her own book!

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BR: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Absent by Katie Williams, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

BR: Break out of your comfort zone. Voice your opinion – if you feel afraid to do so in front of your friends, find new friends. Take advantage of extracurricular activities at school. Meet more people. Spend time cooking meals; enjoy the food that you’re eating. SPEAK UP. And, most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Berkleigh Rathbone Qs

Images by Berkleigh Rathbone