Hamilton girl wins Montana’s first Stars and Stripes award

By Michelle McConnaha(0) Comments
Hamilton resident Courtney Shupert is the first girl in Montana to ever receive the Stars and Stripes award from American Heritage Girls Inc., and only the 99th to receive it nationally.

American Heritage Girls began 19 years ago. It is an organization for women, ages 5-18, that embraces Christian values with a focus on character development and family involvement. The Stars and Stripes award is often compared to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout award.

“It was definitely challenging and it’s been a long time coming,” said Shupert, 19. “I started AHG about three years ago – I liked what it stood for. It’s a faith-based scouting program with community service and activities. It is religious but not a specific denomination.

“You can choose your own pastor or chaplain – it is scripture based. One of my projects was to do a daily personal Bible study for three months. The consistency made me grow spiritually.”

To be considered for the Stars and Stripes award, recipients have to live out the AHG Creed and oath and complete a number of requirements.

The AHG oath is: “I promise to love God, cherish my family, honor my country and serve in my community.”

Other requirements include: earning 16 merit badges, earning a religious recognition from any church selected by the girl, having a position of leadership in their troop for a minimum of six months, completing a service project of 100 hours, writing am essay about life and spiritual goals, writing a resume, having three letters of reference and passing a board of review.

For her service project, Shupert partnered with Emma’s House, Bitterroot Valley Children’s Advocacy Center.

“Emma’s house does so much for the community I wanted to do something for them,” said Shupert. “I helped them by making cabinets and book shelves. They had files that needed to be organized, art supplies, files, children’s books and resource materials for parents of these kids.”

Lori Hanson is troop commander for the Hamilton branch of the American Heritage Girls.

“We’ve been a troop since August 2011, there are only two troops in Montana,” said Hanson. “Most of our troop is [age] 11 and under – she’s the only teenager. One of Courtney’s goals when she first started was to get the Stars and Stripes Award. It took a lot of work, but she earned all the badges in two years. Badges in citizenship and government, emergency prepared, money management, fitness, leadership. One badge was to spend 14 days camping in a tent. She had to have a 100-hour project, get sponsors, find help and she had to involve different age groups – find a job for them and include them in it.”

Shupert was a charter member of her Troop MT 1811, and has served as the troop Flag Ceremony Coordinator. She has already received other AHG honors, such as the Dolly Madison Award.

Friday night Shupert was recognized in a Court of Honor Ceremony at Grace Lutheran Church.

“I was in college when I found that I received the Stars and Stripes award,” said Shupert. “The official award ceremony helped me thank all the people who helped me along the way and to be an inspiration to the younger girls. Most of them are 7 or 8 years old. I’m the first girl to do this in Montana and I wanted to make this memorial to them.

“AHG started the year I was born, so we gave the history and explained the ranks and awards. We also gave troop history and a representative from Emma’s house talked about what they do.

“I talked about my experiences and I reaffirmed the oath: ‘I promise to love God, cherish my family, honor my country and serve in my community.’ It’s what AHG stands for and I and promise to live those values.”

Shupert is a college student home for the summer. In the fall, she will return to the University of Oklahoma where she is studying economics. She is active in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Economics Club, Crimson Club and the University of Oklahoma Symphony Orchestra. She is the Causes Coordinator for the Oklahoma Creativity Festival and the Vice President of Internal Affairs for the Housing Center Student Association.

Shupert graduated from the Bitterroot Valley Home School in 2013 and is the daughter of Les and Holly Shupert of Hamilton.

Hannah Honey