Claudia Kenneway of Kennebunkport instructs a student in CPR at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, in March. Her work earned her a Girl Scouts Gold Award. Courtesy photo

KENNEBUNKPORT – A Kennebunk High School senior put her CPR and first aid skills to work, teaching and certifying visually impaired young people, and in so doing has earned a Girl Scouts of America Gold Award, the highest award in girl scouting.

Claudia Kenneway said she was talking with her cousin, who works at Perkins School for the Blind, helping students prepare for college. As the chatted, she said her cousin, who is legally blind, told her that students at the Watertown, Massachusetts school hadn’t had the opportunity to become CPR certified or had much training in fire safety, other than what to do when a fire alarm sounds.

So Kenneway, 17, the daughter of a firefighter paramedic and a public health nurse, set about to remedy the situation, delivering instruction.

“I felt like this would be the perfect opportunity to help these students and give them the chance to become CPR certified and to feel comfortable with any fire-like emergency that they may face,” she said.

Kenneway said she worked on the project for a year, enlisting the help of her father, Seth, and carried out the lessons in March.

“Together we established a lesson plan that included the students becoming CPR certified,” Kenneway said in an email interview. “(Students) also learned what to do in the case of a kitchen fire, how to activate a fire alarm and how to efficiently evacuate a building. The way the class was taught really was not much different than it would be if someone had full sight. We just had to include a little more description and tell them exactly what was in front of them. The rest they really figured out on their own.”


“It was pretty amazing to me to see how these students could adapt to any environment they were in,” said Kenneway. “They had never felt what a CPR mannequin felt like or how a defibrillator works but they were all able to find exactly what they needed to do, just by their senses.”

Claudia Kenneway, who will graduate from Kennebunk High School this year, recently earned a Girl Scouts Gold Award . Kenneway, 17, has been a Girl Scout since she was in kindergarten. Courtesy photo

Projects in line for the Gold Award must be organized by the scout, who can enlist others to help, as Kenneway did, by engaging an area fire department and seeking advice from her father.

About five percent of Girl Scouts earn a Gold Award, according to Girl Scouts of America. In seeking a Gold Award, a Girl Scout designs and implements a ‘Take Action’ project that addresses a significant need and has long-term benefits.

Kenneway has been involved in scouting since she was in kindergarten, and is a member of Troop 1804. She was the girls’ varsity soccer goalie at Kennebunk High school, and part of the Captain’s Club.

She plans to attend the University of New England where she will study medical biology on a pre-dental track in hopes of one day becoming an orthodontist.

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