Paula Kyriakos began her music education in sixth grade when she learned to play the flute.
Now a junior at Lawrence High School, she's switched to trombone - but she wasn't sure at first whether the school district could accommodate her change of heart.
"Luckily, they found a trombone for me, and it's not in the best shape," she says. "But I've got one."
Interest in supporting the district's music program is how Kyriakos and fellow members of Girl Scout Troop 623 came up with "Helping Through Harmony: Bringing Instruments 'Bach' to Students," a campaign to encourage the community to donate instruments to Lawrence schools.
"We're all really deeply rooted in the music community," says Cali Burke, a Free State junior. "We've all been in band and orchestra, and we all thought it would be good to use as a project idea."
The project will help the troop earn a Gold Award, the highest honor offered to Girl Scouts.
Patrick Kelly, specialist for fine arts and career and technical education, says the district appreciates the students' efforts to increase the inventory of instruments.
"We have enough instruments, but some of our students have to make a choice," Kelly says. "For example, they want to play the cello, and we're out of cellos, then they might switch to violin instead."
The Scout campaign, he says, would allow more students to play their first choice.
While the district has accepted donations in the past, the Gold Award project is chiefly an effort to get the word out to the community.
"We've started a publicity blitz in December," Burke says, "Leaving fliers and posters at schools and making a PowerPoint presentation for the district's music teachers."
The troop also is using its own funds and money made by wrapping gifts at Borders to donate to businesses that will refurbish donated instruments. Burke says some of those businesses also are donating time toward the project.
Troop member Amy Coons, a Free State junior, points out a perk for those willing to donate instruments.
"It's a tax writeoff, she says. "If you're not sure about giving away a $200 instrument, we've got tax forms that offer some benefit."
The Scouts have designated several concerts and theater productions in March and April when donations will be accepted. However, if the instrument's size will make transport difficult, the district can pick it up.
Music and mentoring
The project idea was a collaborative effort for the troop; the close-knit group of Scouts all participate in band, orchestra or choir - some in more than one.
It also ties in with the community service the troop offers.
"They especially like working with younger kids," says Margaret Townsend, troop co-sponsor. "But they've done projects with LINK and the Community Drop-In Center. They do a lot with Hidden Valley (camp)."
She says she knows that Scout participation at the high school level is less common these days.
"We have eight or 10 junior high and high school troops. It's pretty strong in Douglas County, and it's not the normal trend," Townsend says. "I think it's a good program, and the girls seem to enjoy it."
That's the case for Burke, who also keeps busy at school with Model UN, soccer and tennis.
"I just think that I still have fun with it," she says. "I don't think that usually people think it's cool, but they kind of look at me and ask if I'll come to them during cookie season.
"I tell them I've got them covered," she adds.
Meanwhile, the troop is working with Kelly to ensure the music program is covered, even after they earn their award.
"That our alumnae want to give back to the schools," he says, "it speaks strongly of the fine arts program we have."