Every Girl Scout pledges "to make the world a better place." Thanks to Sarah Kate Blasingame, the Special Education world is brighter for students and teachers at Thomson Elementary School.
Sarah Kate recently earned the Gold Award, the highest achievement in the Girl Scouts of the USA, for making approximately 60 audio books for the school library. The books are on the Accelerated Reader (AR) lower level list, which are used by the Special Ed students.
"I've always liked reading. When my brother was diagnosed with dyslexia, I saw how it helped him to have someone read to him. So, I thought it would help these kids, too," Sarah Kate said.
According to test reports, the students' reading abilities did progress after reading along with the audio books. Teachers reported that many students' sight word recognition increased 200 percent. And the AR tests scores increased from 30 to 65 percent for most students.
"I felt really excited to know I had helped them progress," Sarah Kate said. It was amazing to watch the kids listen to them."
But the second- and third-graders weren't the only ones learning. Sarah Kate wanted to make the audio recordings appealing to the younger children, so she had to learn to work with a computer program called Garage Band. Using the program, she was able to record the books on her Mac computer, add sound effects such as children clapping, and change her voice to sound like a 4-year-old.
"It was fun," the Thomson High School senior said. "I got to use acting skills and different voices. It was a learning experience. The hardest part was to slow down my reading through the simple text and carefully enunciate the words."
Gold Award requirements include the project must have 72 hours of logged activity.
Sarah Kate had to finagle the project hours around her then-junior year of high school and graduation testing schedule.
"Throughout the whole thing, it was paperwork, paperwork, paperwork," she said, adding that the outcome was worth the effort. "Reading is my hobby, and I like knowing I could make it exciting for someone else."
No one in McDuffie County has achieved the Gold Award since Sarah Kate's sister, Mary Beth, did in 2006. Sarah Kate said she works on the Girl Scout achievements on her own, as there is no senior troop in the area.
The Gold Award emblem is presented as a pin resembling an eight-pointed star. The award often is compared to the Eagle Award in the Boy Scouts of America, according to the Girl Scouts website.
Sarah Kate is the daughter of Ben and Janie Kate Blasingame. She plans to attend West Georgia Tech or Georgia Southern University after graduating this year from Thomson High School.