Gold Award Girl Scout Fights for Proper Medication Disposal
For Anchorage-based alum and Gold Award Girl Scout JoEllen Walters, proper medication disposal is something she has been passionate about since she was young.
“My grandma broke her ankle, and after she healed she realized she had pain killers just lying around. At that time, it was widely understood that you flushed the leftovers. That didn’t seem right to her, but she didn’t know what to do,” explains Walters.
Walters made the proper disposal of prescription medication her Gold Award project and, at age 16, decided to partner with the local DEA and others who were launching the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day—a program that offers twice-yearly drop-off services for medication incineration—in her area.
“I made posters asking people not to flush their medication. It’s extremely important to never flush medications because whatever you’re flushing won’t get filtered out of our drinking water and it could impact the environment.”
Walters, who started as a Brownie when she was eight years old, continued in Girl Scouts through high school. Today, she is a lifetime member and a first-grade teacher in the Anchorage School District. Her school is in a low-income community, and she makes a point of educating her students on the dangers of opioids.
“I tell them when you go to the doctor and you’re sick they give you medicine and that’s your medicine,” she explains. “It’s not for someone else and you don’t know how it can hurt them if they take it.”
And that’s not the only way this issue lives on as her passion: This year, she competed for the title of Miss Alaska USA 2019—a pageant that originally interested her as a scholarship opportunity—with a personal platform of medication disposal. As the winner, she has had the opportunity to bring even more attention to the issue in her travels across the state. This summer, she will compete at Miss USA 2019 and should she win that crown, too, both Walters and the personal platform she honed as a Gold Award Girl Scout will take the stage at the Miss Universe competition at the end of the year.