Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Meet GSUSA’s 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts



From creating comprehensive, age-appropriate mental health programs to fighting against human trafficking and child marriage, this year's National Gold Award Girl Scouts are creating positive changes to address society's most pressing issues. They exemplify how Girl Scouts confidently stand up for what they believe in, advocate for causes, and take action to solve community problems, showcasing Girl Scouts’ commitment to civic engagement.

“Our 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts demonstrate how girls are creating positive, sustainable change to improve their communities and the world,” said GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. “With their incredible aspirations, innovative problem solving, and risk-taking spirit, these girls are exactly the kind of employees 21st-century companies are looking for. They are well on their way to becoming the business leaders, activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and artists who will build our collective future."

Meet these inspiring change-makers:

Caroline M.—Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York



Pollinators, like bees, are essential to New York’s agricultural industry and global food security, yet more than 450 species are threatened by habitat collapse and other environmental stressors. To protect pollinators, Caroline set up the first municipal solar pollinator gardens in her state. As ideal pollinator habitats, these gardens located within solar arrays help secure local food sources. Caroline also rallied political support for her food security efforts and environmental advocacy. Working with her governor and other state officials, she secured $300,000 in state funding for pollinator research and habitat development. In addition, she helped create and advocate for legislation to develop guidelines for vegetation-management plans to be used by persons or corporations that claim to provide pollinator protection. The legislation, which passed both the New York State Senate and Assembly, is currently awaiting the governor’s signature to become law.

Haley W.—Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan 

To address a lack of mental health knowledge and curricula in her state, Haley developed We Stand Together, a comprehensive, multi-level program that offers age-appropriate mental health education for students in grades K–12. Through this program and local partnerships, Haley engaged 9,000 students and their families in lessons about topics ranging from stress management to suicide prevention. Her innovative and interactive program ultimately reached 30,000 people, successfully bolstering empathy and mental health awareness in her community. It is currently expanding to other school districts in Michigan and several other states.


Kelly C.—Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida 

A massive 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and one in five teens in the United States now has NIHL by age 19 due to their exposure to damaging levels of sound from personal audio devices and noisy entertainment venues. Kelly set out to inform teens, parents, and educators about this permanent, yet preventable, form of hearing damage. Working with Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation, she scripted, filmed, and edited an educational video, Band Together to Protect Your Hearing, which is used in the foundation’s teacher training workshops for 392 schools in Miami-Dade County. She has educated elementary and high school students about hearing conservation, presented on this topic at a statewide music educator’s conference, and presented to 125 teachers at a professional development workshop. Kelly has also created and distributed educational posters and informative brochures to pediatric offices and hospitals statewide. She plans to expand this distribution to a nationwide campaign.

Nikole R.—Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina 

With a keen interest in the power of history and storytelling to unite people, Nikole decided to share the untold stories of local heroes with her broader community. To do so, she interviewed 29 veterans from diverse backgrounds and conflicts and compiled their stories into a four-hour documentary. By showcasing the veterans’ experiences, especially their struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, Nikole taught her peers about the sacrifices and severe mental and physical consequences of fighting for freedom. The documentary, Our Veteran Stories: FOREVER Live Our Dorchester County Heroes, is now a permanent part of her community’s historical and archive center as well as the South Carolina State Museum’s library, where it will continue to educate and inspire students of different races, backgrounds, and beliefs for years to come.

Sakshi S.—Girl Scouts of Northern California 

Working with Amnesty International and Girls Learn International, Sakshi learned about gender-based violence and was inspired to tackle the issues of human trafficking and child marriage. Sakshi created Project GREET (Girl Rights: Engage, Empower, Train) in which she designed, created, and distributed documentary films, a training curriculum, a website, and a YouTube playlist to engage and educate audiences on these topics. The materials address root causes, statistics, misconceptions, warning signs, and community actions to stop trafficking and child marriage. Sakshi also wrote an extensive curriculum, “Guidelines to Rehabilitate Young Trafficked Girls,” a tool for activist organizations to set up vocational training programs for girls who are at risk of being trafficked or were previously trafficked. Working with 35 partner organizations, Sakshi’s films have been screened in over 59 locations in 15 countries. She also presented Project GREET materials at the United Nations’ 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, where she discussed child marriage; trafficking-prevention laws; and cultural practices with ambassadors, activists, and survivors.

Sarah M.—Girl Scouts of Central Texas 

In some regions of the world, girls can miss up to 20 percent of school a year during their periods because of the high cost or lack of menstrual products, such as sanitary pads. Sarah traveled to rural Bolivia, where she organized eight workshops that taught girls, families, and educators how to sew washable pads. She also raised funds to donate new sewing machines and taught community members how to repurpose other materials, such as umbrellas, to make pads. Sarah’s efforts, which focused on sustainable community involvement, helped hundreds of girls gain access to affordable menstrual resources so they can continue with their education uninterrupted. 

Selina N.—Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta

Selina launched GirlsFIRST Jr., a program that sparks girls' curiosity in STEM through engaging, hands-on activities in a supportive, all-girl learning environment. With her sponsorships and the $5,000 she raised, Selina developed free workshops, coding seminars, and other resources to promote girls’ education and innovation in science and technology. And through the 17 events she hosted worldwide, including three seminars in China, she reached over 7,000 girls ages 10–13, parents, and educators. With her team, she also designed a STEM toolkit containing student activities, an instructive manual and videos on how to host STEM camps, and a STEM Storybook for elementary educators available in six languages. 

Shelby O.—Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast 

Shelby founded the nonprofit Jr Ocean Guardians to combat waste and defend the environment. Initiating a movement called No Straw November, she encouraged people who don’t medically need a straw to reject unnecessary plastic straws during November, because they’re a main source of ocean pollution. As a result of her advocacy, Shelby’s resolution proclaiming November to be No Straw November in California was approved by the state legislature. She also conducted a letter-writing campaign to executives at prominent corporations, convincing a leading airline to formally discontinue its use of nonrecyclable plastic straws and working with other companies to improve their sustainability practices. Shelby’s organization, with support from Girl Scout troops and notable environmental activists, has eliminated the use of millions of plastic straws and promoted reusable alternatives. 

Susan S.—Girl Scouts of San Jacinto 

Susan learned about a town in Guatemala where children spoke a local Mayan dialect only, rather than also speaking the country's official language of Spanish. These children struggled in primary school, and their illiteracy was often linked to difficult life outcomes, like dropping out of school and experiencing poverty. To promote literacy and primary school readiness, Susan partnered with Guatemala SANA, recruiting Spanish speakers to record children's audiobooks, setting up a library, and establishing regular language programs. Because of her efforts, over 400 children visit the library every month to listen to and read books, and most of them score at or above reading level in Spanish by the time they enter public school. By creating instructions on how to record and donate books and teaching members of a local school dropout-prevention program how to record the books, Susan also ensured that the library would continue to offer families effective educational tools.

Trinity W.—Girl Scouts Heart of the South 

Recognizing the healing power of art therapy, Trinity set out to help teen girls with mental illnesses and emotional challenges learn healthy ways of coping. She organized the Note 2 Self Art Expression Workshop and Showcase, through which she developed materials that enhance mental health resources and social justice programs in her community. After raising $3,000 to fund her workshop, Trinity taught girls about art expression as a means of achieving mindfulness and supporting their mental well-being. At her showcase and through various social media platforms, she educated 1,500 people about teen mental health issues.


Being named a National Gold Award Girl Scout, becoming a Gold Award Girl Scout, and receiving generous scholarships are just a few of the countless experiences girls have through Girl Scouts. To join or learn about volunteering, visit www.girlscouts.org/join.