Sarah Faubion was always a shy, reserved girl, but that changed once she found her niche.
Now the 18-year-old is hoping to build the self-esteem of American youth one struggling teen girl at a time.
It all began with Girl in the Mirror, a two-day retreat Faubion planned and organized as part of her major project for American Heritage Girls, a nonprofit organization hoping to build the integrity, character and leadership of girls and young women. The project was to be her last before graduating from the organization geared for girls ages 5 to 18.
She will be honored Nov. 11 with the organization's highest honor - the Stars and Stripes Award, a multi-faceted accolade that incorporates the project, badge work, religious award recognition, service and leadership during her seven years with the group.
"What I wanted to do was something that really helped and what would really last. ... I know they needed it," Faubion said.
Faubion will be the third award recipient in her troop. The award is equivalent to the Eagle Scout Award earned by Boy Scouts of America, according to an AHG press release.
Though Faubion is excited to receive the award, that wasn't the reason for her efforts. Faubion's mother, Kimberly, points to her daughter's selfless drive.
"She just took everything with grace," Kimberly said. "It really showed the girls even though they did mess up there was still grace there and a way back. We all make mistakes and we can all recover from them and still be good."
Volunteers teamed with the home-schooled senior to make her dream a reality. Her goal was for girls to soak in faith-based encouragement at no cost and to instill value, worth and perseverance in teen girls so "they can then stand up for themselves and say no to drugs, alcohol, sex, bullying or suicide," Faubion said.
"Many of the girls talked about how meaningful the retreat was and how the activities were fun. That really brought home that they were somebody special. To me that was confirmation of her doing a good job," Kimberly said, adding her daughter also benefited from the retreat.
Though Faubion always wanted to attempt the project, her tendency was to shy away because of her timid nature. She also had been coping with the loss of her aunt and uncle in a recent automobile accident.
"She's fun and can be very funny, but in a group of people she doesn't know she would rather sit back and watch and participate," Kimberly said. "I never foresaw her doing something that could change the world. I am deeply proud. She did hit many problems and considered giving up, and in the end she pressed right on. That makes a parent very proud."
Faubion's AHG Troop 0131 coleader Caroline Milne said she believes Faubion's dedication will carry her a long way in the future.
"It is a huge accomplishment. She has worked very hard to get this award. It's not an easy award to get. It's just something that takes a lot of time and planning," Milne said. "It looks great on college applications and when she interviews for jobs. The fact that she planned and implemented something as big as her project was it speaks volumes to employers and sets the tone for her down the road.
"It just showcases she's not a slacker. She's a 'let's get it done and do it.' It's just a huge honor. She's very deserving of this award," Milne said.
Faubion hopes to host another Girl in the Mirror retreat and is considering turning it into an annual event tied to a nonprofit organization.
"It's needed and the girls enjoy it," Faubion said, adding she is working on starting a Bible study with the girls as well.
"It's going to help the girls and so when they grow up they're going to help other people that they come in contact with now," she said. "As they grow it's going to help their kids and they're going to hopefully stop the cycle that's been happening."
Faubion is considering attending Johnson University in Knoxville and majoring in education or nonprofit ministry.
"She needs to pray it through and she needs to take it a step at a time," Kimberly said. "I see so much good that can come out of it. It could change our community and if it took off and God was behind it, it could change the world.
"I think so many girls don't understand their worth," she said. "If you do what your heart drives you to do you're going to be happier and you're going to do more and you're going to demand more of yourself and more of the end product."