Harper Woods resident wins Girl Scouts’ excellence award

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published May 17, 2017

 Girl Scout troop leader Anna Jochum recently was honored with the Volunteer of Excellence Award from the Girl Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan for her work with Harper Woods-area Scouts.

Girl Scout troop leader Anna Jochum recently was honored with the Volunteer of Excellence Award from the Girl Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan for her work with Harper Woods-area Scouts.

Photo provided by Anna Jochum

HARPER WOODS — Harper Woods resident Anna Jochum was recognized for her work with the Girl Scouts at a banquet at the San Marino Club in Troy April 1.

Jochum was given the Volunteer of Excellence Award from the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. She was nominated due to her long-standing and diligent work with young Scouts in the Harper Woods area.

“She is a great organizer and pulls adults together to help lead the troops,” said Rose Callahan, who nominated Jochum. “She recruited me to work with the little kids. She also manages multiple troops, leading a Brownie, Junior and Cadet troop at once with a lot of girls in each. Not many people run that many kids at the same time. 

“She also is very proactive in advancing the program in any way she can. Every local Girl Scout council develops programs that they can add to their programs, and she scours the internet to look for new programs we can provide for the troops here, and new badges the girls can try to achieve. She is so high-energy, and she is doing Scout events almost every day of the week.”

Jochum volunteered as a troop leader in college and returned when her daughters became old enough to join.

“I’ve been a leader for six years. I was a leader in college for one year, and I’ve been doing this for five years, since my daughter started. I have a group of Brownies, Cadets, Juniors, so I have second- through seventh-graders, and I started something at our school sisterhood events where they get to do something together each month. Last month, they watched ‘Hidden Figures’ in preparation of saving to go to Space Camp in Alabama.”

She leads meetings for the youths at Poupard Elementary in Harper Woods, but her groups consist of students from the Harper Woods School District, Detroit Public Schools, local charter schools and even home-schooled children.

What impressed many members of the council that chose her were the variety of ways that Jochum goes above and beyond to provide a meaningful experience for her Scouts.

“Once a year, there is a call for nominations on the council, and the nominees have to have letters to recommend them,” said Callahan. “Anna is innovative, creative and definitely committed. Her Scouts get so much out of their experience, so I think this award was made specifically for her.”

Jochum said it is hard work, but providing a rich experience is necessary to engage young people and encourage them to stick with the program.

“I try to offer a lot of variety,” said Jochum. “Some athletic things, some science things, some art things. I try to be the leader I wish I had had. My little sister had a real bad experience in Girl Scouts, and I want to make sure these girls have a positive experience. Each meeting is completely different. Last week, my Brownies were doing their Making Games badge; the next day, my Juniors were making model rockets and learning about the history of aeronautics; and the next day, the Cadets were doing leatherworking.”

The programs and projects that Jochum leads her students in include everything from small daily activities to months-long initiatives.

“My fourth- and fifth-graders are working on their bronze awards, which is the most significant award a Junior Girl Scout can earn,” Jochum said. “The girls planned each step of this project, which is sprucing up Danbury Park in Harper Woods. They organized where to do it, gathered volunteers, identified what needed to be fixed up around the park by adding plants or cleaning graffiti. They are also doing all the fundraising themselves.”

Callahan highlighted Jochum’s monthly sisterhood days, which pair older and younger Girl Scouts together.

“Her sisterhood events gather at the school once a month, so the younger girls can see the older girls stay in Scouts and stick with it and still have fun, while this helps the older girls be more responsible and develop their leadership skills, which will, of course, be valuable as an adult.”

Callahan said that without people like Jochum, the Girl Scouts could not function.

“I am on the Girl Scout council committee, which distributes the awards, but I also work directly with Anna as a Daisy leader,” she said. “Girl Scouts of America has had adult volunteer awards for a long time to recognize volunteers, because without volunteers, we wouldn’t have Girl Scouts. A few years ago we started the Volunteer of Excellence, which is to recognize those who work directly with girls and go above and beyond.”