Katherine Bell achieves her Gold Award and beyond in her senior year


Surrounded by a multitude of people and dozens of cats at Crash’s Landing and Big Sid’s Sanctuary, a no-kill animal shelter, senior Katherine Bell observed as patrons walked in and out of the doors, smiles forming as visitors continually interacted with the many animals.

Most notably, one family made the significant decision to bring one of the cats home, quickly generating a smile on Katherine’s face as the fruits of her community service project took form right in front of her eyes.

“There was an adoption that took place while I was there, which was pretty cool,” Katherine said. “This family was happier than when they came in because they got to [be with] the cats.  Just seeing their faces showed me that they enjoyed being there, and I just enjoyed that.”

In hopes of attaining her Girl Scouts Gold Award, Katherine put over eighty hours of work over a period of two years planning and organizing an event at the cat sanctuary, one that she frequently volunteered at. Her passion for animals, and cats in particular, immediately drew her to this concept.

“I’m a very firm believer that shelters and adopting are the way to go, not breeding animals,” Katherine said. “I realized that more cats are euthanized in shelters than dogs. Part of that is due to the fact that dogs are identified and microchipped more often, so they are returned to their owners.”

Thus, the project itself focused on the importance of collaring and microchipping cats for easier identification of lost cats. Katherine advertised the event through the sanctuary and a variety of other sources, leading to a record number of visitors on the day of her event.

Through creating a presentation board and informing patrons of her findings, Katherine strived to emphasize the importance of collaring and microchipping. The impact of her work was widespread and profound, as a final survey indicated that more owners would be more inclined to collar or microchip their cats after listening to her research.

While the event took place in November of 2018, paperwork was filed in the summer of 2017 to begin the process. Since, Katherine has continued to devote her time to her project, from planning it throughout her junior year, to executing it in the fall of her senior year, to finally receiving her Gold Award for her efforts last month.

“It definitely showed me that I can lead in situations where it requires a lot of work,” Katherine said. “Eighty hours, in the beginning, seemed really intimidating, but once I was finally done with it, I looked back and was like, ‘Wow, I did that.’ I just feel like I defeated the odds, and it’s pretty cool to say that I have all three awards.”

In her thirteenth year of Girl Scouts, receiving such a prestigious award was a highlight for Katherine. Since first grade, it’s been a monumental aspect in her life, teaching her life lessons and serving as a support system.

“I feel like it’s definitely taught me to be patient with people,” Katherine said. “Patience is key. Being a Girl Scout, you have to know that being respectful is part of it. It’s taught me to lead in general, just knowing that it might seem hard but eventually they will work out.”

Another source of life lessons has been swim, a sport that Katherine has participated in for all four years of high school. While obstacles like a new coach and the innate difficulty of the sport have stood in the way, swim has built upon the lessons of perseverance and strength that Gold Scouts emphasized.

“It’s shown me that persistence is key,” said Katherine, who has swum both butterfly and IM events. “If you keep working at something, you can succeed and do well. Swimming is very, very difficult, and it’s nice to have a team that uplifts you and keeps you strong, even when swimming gets rough. They’ve just been positive, and we always bring each other up.”

As Katherine wraps up her last swim season and channels the energy exuded by her fellow swimmers, she begins to look into the future as well. Since embarking upon her Gold Award journey and succeeding in her mission to help cats, Katherine’s original desire to become a veterinarian has only been amplified. As someone who has always grown up with pets, this path was undoubtedly meant for her to take.

As such, in the fall, Katherine will be continuing her educational journey at Purdue University’s renowned pre-veterinary program. She’s especially interested in unique programs and opportunities offered by Purdue, like studying animal production abroad and shadowing vets. Making West Lafayette, Indiana her new home, she will continue to forge change and fuel her passion for animals that she’s held since day one.

“Senior year has definitely been a wild ride,” Katherine said. “I thought that it might be a little more relaxed, but after I’ve achieved this many things, I look back and think, ‘Wow’ because I didn’t think any of that was going to happen. It’s pretty cool.”