NEW TAMPA - Kim Jowell, CEO of Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, calls Girl Scout Jamila Blake a "gift" to the organization.
"She is an example of what Girls Scouts is about - giving back to the community and beyond," Jowell said about Blake, a 19-year-old Wharton High School graduate who will begin her sophomore year at the University of Delaware in the fall.
"At her age she's probably made more of an impact than most adults will make in a lifetime," said Jowell.
In recognition of Blake's outstanding service to others, she recently was named one of 10 National Young Women of Distinction, an honor bestowed on Girl Scouts who show exemplary leadership in completing Gold Award projects that demonstrate a strong sense of sustainability.
Blake is among the 21,000 members of the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida and was one of 366 potential nominees from 122 councils throughout the nation.
"I don't think there is a greater honor for a CEO," Jowell said.
As a middle school student, Blake was introduced by her older sister Aisha to Invisible Children, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the plight of the youth in war-torn Northern Uganda.
Jamila Blake advocated for the 2010 passage of the Lord's Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Recovery Act in an effort to put a stop to what she described as "heinous crimes" by Joseph Kong, leader of the LRA's guerilla group.
Her passion for helping the Ugandan youth and other distressed youngsters inspired her to base her Girl Scout Gold Award on the issue and led her to start the ongoing Global Outreach Club at Wharton to aid children in need.
It also moved her to organize the Roots of Peace community festival in 2011 as a way of bringing more awareness to the matter.
Jowell estimated that Blake spent double the 80 hours required to achieve the Girl Scouts' Gold Award, the equivalent to the Boy Scouts' Eagle Scout Award.
"Plus, Jamila brought awareness to a subject that very few people know about," she said.
Blake said being named among the Girl Scout's 10 "Young Women of Distinction" is a tremendous honor, but not because it brings her personal notoriety. "It was really just a nice opportunity to bring more exposure to my cause," she said.
Blake credits her parents, Leslie and Russell Blake, with instilling in her the importance of making a positive impact in the world around her.
"They taught me to put good energy into the universe and it will provide me with a rewarding, full life," she said.
Leslie Blake said her middle daughter's good deeds began in third grade when she initiated the opening of a school supply closet to provide disadvantaged children with clothing, books and other school supplies.
"She's accomplished what she has in a focused way and in a way in which people believe in what she wants to accomplish and want to help," Jamila Blake's mother said.
Russell Blake delights in the recognition Jamila has received as a result of her passion to bring hope and dignity to hurting young people across the globe.
"I'm proud and grateful for Jamila's kind spirit and for her accomplishments," he said. "It seems there are no limits to what she can do in the future."
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at JoyceCMcKenzie@gmail.com.