Good Life

Local Girl Scout chronicles the history of women World War II pilots

No one can accuse Saige Cestone of flying too close to the sun — she has, however, picked up a thing or two about aviation.

A junior at State College Area High School, Cestone was recently bestowed the Girl Scouts’ highest honor, the aptly named Gold Award, in recognition of the ambitious multimedia presentation she assembled about Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.

A collection of sound bites and video interviews with WASP veterans, the resulting effort is an impressive entry into the annals of military history.

Cestone’s affinity for her subject matter is evident in every moment of her nearly 14-minute presentation.

“They’re really amazing women and have so many great stories,” Cestone said.

Beyond the project’s historical import, Cestone also had to satisfy the requirements for Gold Award status.

They’re really amazing women and have so many great stories.

Saige Cestone

To qualify, her project had to help the community or environment, take 100 hours or more to complete and, perhaps most daunting, have a sustaining impact.

In other words, this was a presentation that was built to last.

“That’s the biggest thing, is making sure that your project outlives your start up,” Cestone said.

With the help of The National WASP World War II Museum in Sweetwater, Texas, and some independent research, Cestone was able to make contact with three female pilots who were willing to have their stories recorded for posterity.

The WASPs provided her with a surplus of great material and left a lasting impression. Cestone was impressed by the WASPs’ passion for their work, which stood in alarming disproportion to the paltry amount of recognition they received during their service.

“These women were so passionate about what they did that it didn’t matter what they got out of it,” Cestone said.

The admiration seems to have run both ways.

I think Girl Scouts is a really good organization and I’ve definitely learned a lot from it.

Saige Cestone

In March, when Cestone traveled to Texas to present a copy of her completed project to the WASP museum, some of the veterans whom she interviewed arranged for her take a special tour.

She was even able to try on a flight suit.

The experience gave Cestone a whole new appreciation for her subject.

“It made it really real and kind of put it in perspective,” Cestone said.

Soon, she’ll have to do the same with the Girl Scouts.

The Gold Award was the pinnacle of achievement, the last step on a long ladder that she started climbing in the first grade — and it’s almost time to move on.

Looking back, Cestone said that she’s enjoyed her time as a Scout, especially the opportunities that it’s afforded her to mentor younger girls and develop a project of which she remains very proud.

“I think Girl Scouts is a really good organization, and I’ve definitely learned a lot from it,” Cestone said.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready