Heroic Actions Earn 11 Year-Old Rare Girl Scouting Medal of Honor

6/28/2013
Menisa Marshall

Girl Scouting teaches girls lots of valuable life skills. Those skills helped one young Girl Scout from southern Indiana act bravely in a scary situation last fall when her nurse and caregiver faced a potentially life-threatening medical crisis.

Jenica Miller, a 5th-grader and Junior Level Girl Scout from Floyds Knobs, has Type II Spinal Muscular Atrophy and uses a power wheelchair for mobility. She is dependent on adults to care for her as her ability to lift and reach is limited, has a nurse who cares for her each day from the time her mother leaves for work until she gets on the school bus.

On a Wednesday morning last September, Jenica’s nurse suddenly became very dizzy as the two ate breakfast. Even after taking initial steps to check her blood sugar and blood pressure, the nurse knew she could not properly care for Jenica and called for help.

While waiting for help to arrive, Jenica knew she had to the door unlocked. It was hard as she had to drive herself to the front door, and turn the deadbolt which required reaching up in the air, a task that is extremely difficult for her. She also had to turn around to get back to the kitchen, unsupervised near an open staircase.

Jenica, who has been a member of Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana (GSK) since 2009, is at high risk of falling because of her condition. If she falls over, even from a sitting position, she is stuck until an adult can put her upright. Had she fallen or gotten stuck while working on the lock or returning to the kitchen with the nurse, there would have been no one to physically assist her.

While waiting for help, Jenica used a first aid tip she learned from Girl Scouting. She asked her nurse questions to help her stay awake and alert: What did you do this weekend? What did you eat for dinner last night and how is your dog doing?

Jenica checked to see where her nurse’s cell phone was in case she needed to call 911. She kept calm, and kept both herself and the nurse safe until help soon arrived. A substitute nurse took over Jenica’s care until it was time for her to get on her school bus.

Per the Girl Scout Promise, Law, and motto Girl Scouts are expected to be resourceful, skilled, and competent—to have presence of mind and to be of service to others. For this reason, the Girl Scout Medal of Honor is reserved for those Girl Scouts who have performed heroic acts beyond the degree of maturity and training to be expected at their age.

This recognition may be given to any registered Girl Scout, age 5-17, when evidence proves a compelling case that she saved or attempted to save a life under circumstances that indicate heroism or risk of her own life.

Because of Jenica’s courage and how she took charge in the face of such considerable personal and physical challenges, she was nominated for a national Girl Scout Lifesaving Award, the Medal of Honor. Chances of her being approved for a medal were slim—fewer than 30 are typically given out per year nationwide across Girl Scouting’s 109 councils—yet she clearly warranted a nomination.

Terri Tock, a GSK program specialist, took the lead to get Jenica’s nomination submitted to Girl Scouts USA. Tock, along with other GSK volunteers and staff were thrilled to hear when Jenica’s nomination was approved. “This is the first I’ve seen a girl be awarded a Medal of Honor in my 30 years of Girl Scouting,” says Tock. “It’s truly an exciting and incredible thing.”

Jenica’s Medal of Honor was presented to her Monday, June 10th at 7:00 p.m. during a special ceremony and reception at Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana.  Jenica's minister, Pastor Bill Shannon,  Trinity United Methodist Church of New Albany, presented Jenica's medal per her request.

Jenica was excited to have members of her Girl Scout Troop, #426, on hand for the celebration. As a third generation Girl Scout, the young hero was also pleased to have her mother and grandmother at the ceremony.

"Jenica is an inspiration to all of us," said Lora Tucker, CEO of Girl Scouts of Kentuckiana (shown in photo above with Jenica). "For anyone who needs proof of the courage, confidence and character Girl Scouts use to make the world a better place, look no further than Jenica Miller."

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