Go Gold: Mythbusting the Gold Award!

Welcome to the first blog in our Go Gold series! To start, we are breaking down some processes and procedures for the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn–– and busting some common myths you may have heard. It’s true that nowadays the common way to find answers to questions is, “Google it!” but the Gold Award is a bit different, because every council has their own set of procedures.

Here we have combined some of the most common questions and some commonly misunderstood rules for earning your Gold Award through Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. Stay tuned for more in our Go Gold blog series!

Have a question that’s not answered here? Contact Annie Gilmartin for more information!

You may have heard…

Myth #1: The Gold Award requires a ton of paperwork!

Sort of true–– but it’s not as bad as you think! For the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, yes, there is paperwork you need to complete. But remember this: it’s only two sets of paperwork, a proposal, and a final report. As of October 2019, all girls beginning their Gold Award process should utilize Go Gold online as the platform to collect all their information in one place.

The project proposal is a girl’s expression of how her project will address the root cause of an issue, create lasting change, be sustainable beyond her involvement, and connect to a national and/or global issue. The final paperwork gives girls a chance to show off how their project achieved her goal and made the lasting changes she sought!

Remember, with a proposal and final report, girls are responsible for including detailed project plans, timelines, and budgets. These are considered supplemental materials for the proposal and final report. Thanks to the Go Gold online platform, they are easily populated and integrated into proposals and final reports. There’s no longer a need for multiple additional documents and attachments.

Myth #2: Gold Award interviews are hard to schedule!

In the past, yes, but good news: we have recently made changes to alleviate this issue! As of October 2019, girls who submit paperwork (either a proposal or final report) will not need to interview with our committee. Instead, the paperwork will be reviewed by our Gold Award Panel. Panel reviews will happen every two weeks. Once our Gold Award Panel reviews your paperwork, you will receive an email from council with your next steps! See our step-by-step guide for more details on what comes next, specifically for proposals and final reports.

Myth #3: Girls must finish by their 18th birthday!

Myth! All graduating senior Girl Scouts have until September 30 of the year they graduate to have their Gold Awards approved by our committee. Please remember: this means projects need to be reviewed and approved by our Gold Award Panel prior to September 30 to be considered complete. Our suggestion would be that all graduated seniors submit their final paperwork no later than September 1 to ensure you receive full approval by September 30.

Other things you might be wondering…

Who should my project advisor be?

Someone who works with the organization you are partnering with for your Gold Award project! For example, if you plan to work with a food pantry to develop a community garden so they always have fresh fruits and vegetables, you may select the director of the food pantry at your advisor. Project advisors should be selected based on their ability to assist you in completing your Gold Award. Remember: project advisors should NOT be your troop leader or any family member or friend.

What hours count towards the 80?

Great question! Some myths throughout the years have thought that all volunteer hours of those helping with Gold Award projects count towards the girl’s total 80 hours, but that is NOT TRUE! Only the hours the individual girl spends working on her Gold Award project count towards the 80. Don’t worry about it too much up front–– almost all projects have no problem achieving 80 hours of girl time!

Is there a list of pre-approved projects?

Myth! This is just an old campfire tale that seems to recirculate every few years, but remember–– it doesn’t exist! Girls looking to earn the Gold Award are challenged to take a look at their own passions and communities and see where the need lies. Once a girl determines where her interests and the community needs overlap, she should take a step back and identify the root cause of the issue she is tackling.

Pro Tip: Go Gold Online has great resources (and examples) to help identify the root cause of an issue.

What does it mean for a project to be sustainable and have a national or global reach?

It’s not as difficult as it seems! Sustainability and global reach tend to be daunting words when talking about Gold Awards, but don’t worry, they aren’t as bad as they seem! For a girl’s project to be considered sustainable, it needs to carry on or have continued impact even after the girl has earned her Gold Award. In other words, she has created a lasting change. For national or global reach, a girl should be able to explain how her project connects to an issue that is relevant worldwide.

Pro Tip: Go Gold online defines and shows examples of how girls can make their projects sustainable and have a national/global link.

Can I start a project after I graduate high school?

Not recommended! Graduating senior Girl Scouts must submit a Gold Award proposal to council no later than June 1 of the year they graduate. Girl Scouts GCNWI has this procedure in place to be sure girls give themselves enough time to complete a project that meets all requirements. This deadline gives graduated seniors at least four months to work through and complete their projects.

Money earning…?

Ah! The big question. Here are the basics:

  • Girls looking to raise funds for their Gold Award project should utilize product sales (Fall Product and Cookies) as their first resource. The more product you sell, the more money you can raise!
  • If additional money is needed for a girl’s Highest Award project after she sold Fall Product and Cookies, she is eligible to do an additional money earning activity. This could be garage sales, bake sales, wreath sales, gift wrapping, etc. If a girl plans to raise more than $100 with such activity, an additional money earning form needs to be submitted to council (some blackout dates apply).
  • Donations work too! If a girl would like to ask for donations from a source (like Home Depot, Lowes, or other retailers) they must take an adult with them. The girl is welcome to explain the project and outline what she plans to do, but the adult must be the one to ask/solicit the donation of goods/items. The girl should not ever solicit things herself. Remember that girls should include all donations on their final budget.

Go for Gold!

Going Gold is not easy, but it is worth it, not only as an investment in your own future, but in your community, your nation, and your world.

Stay tuned for more Gold Award blogs in the future as a part of our Go Gold series!

Questions about highest awards? Email Annie Gilmartin.

Learn More

Learn More about the Gold Award

Meet the Girl Scouts GCNWI 2019 Gold Award Recipients

Gold Award Spotlight: Meet the 2019 Recipients, Part 2!

The Gold Award Equation

80 Girl Scouts + 6,400+ service hours = amazing projects that create impact in our community.

The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. The Gold Award projects from our 2019 class impacted many different aspects of communities both in Chicago-land and abroad. Girl Scouts created projects that focused on health education, environmental protection, exposure to STEM, child literacy, and so much more. Providing an everlasting effect on communities was something each girl worked hard to achieve and they all succeeded.

Assist us on congratulating this hard working group of Gold Award Girl Scouts! View the photo album and program booklet from this year’s recognition ceremony.

Don’t miss out on meeting the previously featured Gold Award Girls Scouts!
Part One: Meet the first 10 girls (last names A-B) »

Part Two: Meet 10 Gold Award Girl Scouts

Continue to follow along to meet more Gold Award girls throughout this blog series!

DeVonna B.

DeVonna’s project was a series of videos on a YouTube channel she created called S.C.A.L.E. which stands for Sickle Cell Awareness and Lifestyle Empowerment. The videos were created to educate the general public about Sickle Cell Disease, and to give those who suffer from the disease tips and tricks to ease symptoms and improve treatment.

LaTosha Desiree B.

LaTosha created educational videos about living with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. For example, how to check their blood sugar and what to do when your blood sugar is high or low. She hosted two events where girls watched the video and were challenged to make smoothies under 30 carbohydrates. The girls were given hands-on experience administering shots of Insulin and Lantus into grapes. View LaTosha’s videos.

Kaitlyn Elizabeth B.

Kaitlyn created science videos aimed to help fifth graders gain a better understanding of multiple STEM topics in a fun and engaging way. Along with her videos, she created instructions for household science experiments so children can practice STEM using items from around their home! With the help of her family and adviser, she created these videos for several middle schools.

Gillian B.

Gillian built a three-bin composter, hand-washing station, and website with a seed donation platform for an urban community garden in Maywood, Illinois. She worked closely with Maywood community activists—Proviso East High School student volunteers, Proviso Partners for Health, and Chicago Botanic Gardens—to empower citizens and offer support and introduce healthy lifestyle practices in a historically marginalized, food desert community.

Lindsey M. B.

Lindsey’s Gold Award, For the Love of Adler, raised community awareness for the David Adler Cultural Center. In 2019 the center is celebrating the 100-year mark of the estate. For this project she used her love of the arts and talent for research to make professional and educational brochures. She worked with the staff and historians to create a brochure with a timeline, organizational history, biography of Mr. Adler, historical pictures, and the center’s current mission.

Alita C.

Alita’s Gold Award project provided gardening experience that enriched and benefited the health and lives of clients at St. Agnes Adult Day Service Center. She enriched their lives through gardening in a raised bed.

Tiffany Diane C.

Tiffany Diane’s project helped families from homeless shelters receive basic toiletries needed for everyday living. She held a donation drive dinner where more than 250 people were in attendance. This project had such a huge impact on the community that other organizations will be presenting their own donation drives in years to come.

Kourtney C.

Less than half of people practicing in the STEM field are females. Kourtney’s project addressed this issue by spreading the word to girls about how fun and rewarding STEM can be. She did this through planning and executing a STEM workshop for 4th and 5th grade girls, maintaining a Facebook and Instagram page, and delivering information about STEM to Housing Opportunities.

Sofia C.

Sofia created 80 literacy reading kits for children in Pre-K through grade 8 that utilize the Libertyville Township food pantry. She worked with literacy experts, librarians, and her project adviser to create these kits (that contained a book, resources sheet, parent guide, stuffed animal (for the younger kids), journal and dictionary (for the older kids), and fun things like stickers and bookmarks. She will continue her project by creating a three year cycle which the Libertyville Township will take over and fund.

Lauren L. D.

For her Gold Award, Lauren trained her dog to become a therapy dog, and worked with him to receive his certification. She took her dog to many places once he was certified, including nursing homes to help the residents with loneliness, schools to help reduce stress, and a day camp to educate kids about therapy dogs and other types of working animals.

Girl Scouts Highest Awards

Bronze. Silver. Gold. These represent the highest honors a Girl Scout can earn.

All three awards give you the chance to do big things while supporting an issue you care about. You might plant a community garden at your school or inspire others to eat healthy foods for your Bronze, advocate for animal rights for your Silver, or build a career network that encourages girls to become scientists and engineers for your Gold. Whatever you choose, you’ll inspire others (and yourself). 

As you earn one of Girl Scouts’ highest awards, you’ll change your corner of the world—and beyond. The possibilities are endless.

Learn more about earning the Girl Scouts’ Highest Awards.

Lifelong Girl Scout Recognized as Woman of Distinction

Lifelong Girl Scout Recognized as Woman of Distinction

For Nancy Fink, Girl Scouts is a way of life and her commitment to community service recently earned her a coveted spot as one of Lake County Journal‘s Women of Distinction.

“I was totally embarrassed,” she said of the honor. “I didn’t tell anyone at work, I just told my colleagues I was going to a luncheon. I don’t volunteer for the recognition. It feels better to do it than it does not to do it. To me, it’s embarrassing to be recognized for something I love to do.”

The Navy commander has been involved with Girl Scouts since she was a young girl growing up in Arizona.

“Girl Scouts was a means to independence and confidence,” said Fink. “We did a lot of canoeing, motorboating and water skiing. It gave you the courage to try new things because you’d already demonstrated what you could accomplish.”

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And Fink certainly accomplished quite a bit. In high school, she achieved her First-Class Award, which is the equivalent of today’s Gold Award and is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn.

After high school, Fink attended Notre Dame to study math and later began teaching math and nuclear reactor theory with the Navy after college. And in 1991 she became an officer.

“It takes a lot of confidence in your character and your ability to compete in a group where you’re not in the norm,” she said. “I’m confident I got that ability to hold my own from being a Girl Scout.”

Today, she is the executive officer of Navy Recruiting District Chicago and lives in Libertyville with her family, including a daughter who’s a Girl Scout and three sons who are all Boy Scouts or Eagle Scouts.

In addition to being a Girl Scout volunteer and running her daughter’s troop, Fink also teaches religious education classes for first graders at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Parish.

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“Sometimes my older boys help in the classroom,” she said. “For my kids to hear me say out loud what I believe and how my faith impacts my life, it just makes them understand more about where I come from.”

Although Fink plans on retiring this year, she doesn’t have any plans to slow down as she becomes more involved as one of the service unit managers for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

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“Volunteering with Girl Scouts is an opportunity to give girls memories that really last a lifetime,” she said. “I don’t know what else you can do that takes an hour or two a month that can really stick with a young lady all the way into her adulthood like the experience you can give them through Girl Scouting. It’s good bang for your buck.”

Do you have a good idea for our blog? We’d love to hear from you! Submit your stories here for a chance to be featured.

Girl Scouts Awards $10K in College Scholarships

Girl Scouts Awards $10K in College Scholarships

Six Gold Award honorees from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) have received a total of $10,000 in college scholarships in honor of their commitment to making the world a better place.

This year’s recipients are Amber Adams-Holecek, a sophomore at Central Michigan University from Chicago; Karyn N. Baldwin, a senior at Illinois State University from Hoffman Estates; Alecia Bell, a freshman at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignfrom Hillside; Rachel Bennett, a junior at Culver-Stockton College from Hazel Crest; Brianna McCormick, a freshman at Roosevelt University from Oak Park; and Gloria Elizabeth Tabaczyk, a junior at Michigan State University from Hinsdale.

“The Girl Scout Gold Award provides a hands-on experience for young women to take action and provide a solution for a problem in their communities,” said CEO of GSGCNWI Nancy Wright. “By establishing this scholarship, we’re investing in the next generation of women leaders and creating opportunities for them to flourish in college, their careers and life.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award, which is celebrating its centennial this year, is the highest award that a Girl Scout aged 14-18 may earn. Commitment to earning the Gold Award develops skills related to leadership, time management, and community awareness, which set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more of a significant service project that fulfills a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global), creates change and is sustainable.

More than 20 recent Gold Award honorees applied for the inaugural GSGCNWI Gold Award scholarship, which was made possible by generous endowments to the council. High school seniors who received their Gold Award as a Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador in GSGCNWI are eligible to apply. Applications for next year’s scholarship will open March 15, 2017.

As awareness of the Girl Scout Gold Award continues to grow, so does its prestige. An increasing number of colleges are offering financial incentives to those who earn Girl Scout Gold Awards and admissions counselors view it as a sign of an individual girl’s ability to lead. To learn more about the scholarships available to Gold Award honorees or to donate to the GSGCNWI Gold Award scholarship fund, please visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s report, The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life, Girl Scout Gold Award recipients receive greater lifetime benefits than their peers with regard to positive sense of self, life satisfaction, leadership, life success, community service and civic engagement as a result of their experience in Girl Scouting, including earning their Gold Award.

Girls have earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s highest awards since 1916, just four years after the organization’s founding in 1912. These awards include the Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, First Class and the current Girl Scout Gold Award which was introduced in 1980. Over the course of the last century, millions of Girl Scout alumnae have positively impacted their communities and the world with their creative, impactful and sustainable community service, or Take Action, projects.

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana impacts the lives of more than 52,000 girls and nearly 20,000 adult members in 245 communities in six Illinois counties (Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kankakee, Lake, and Will) and four Indiana counties (Jasper, Lake, Newton, and Porter). Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. For more information, visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

In a Stressful World, This Girl Scout Brings Calm

In a Stressful World, This Girl Scout Brings Calm

Of course it’s always important to remember to take a step back and really think about your actions before acting on them and your words before you say them. Kaitlyn Kropp knows what it’s like to need a minute to cool down. “I have mood swings and so sometimes I’d feel overwhelmed and just kind of lose it,” she says. “It was hard on me, and I know it was hard for other people, too. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, though, and I wanted to not have those problems. I didn’t like that my feelings of sadness or fear could take over like that.”

So, like a true leader, this 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador set out to problem solve and help herself and other kids facing similar problems. And it turns out many teens are living with these types of issues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, three out of every fifty teens aged 13-18 are grappling with severe anxiety disorder.

“We used to have something called a ‘processing room’ at school, where kids could go and talk through their feelings with a teacher or a counselor, or write them down. But that’s not what everyone needs—in fact, if you’re freaking out, having to talk or to write something that makes sense can add even more pressure. That was the case with me, and I knew a few other kids who felt the same,” Kaitlyn says. “All I really wanted was an enclosed space where I could be by myself and chill for a few minutes so I could calm down and get back to my school work without having a bad incident.”

To read more of Kaitlyn’s story, visit GirlScouts.org. To stand with us as champions for girls, donate today.

Chicago Girl Scout Gives Back to Baton Rouge

Chicago Girl Scout Gives Back to Baton Rouge

When Mairead Skelton, a 17-year-old Girl Scout from Chicago, learned about the devastating flood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana earlier this year, she knew she had to do something about it.

“My daughter did something similar years ago when [Hurricane] Katrina hit and Mairead was one of the girls who helped her,” said Bernadette Colletti, Mairead’s Girl Scout troop leader. “On the second day of the flood [in Baton Rouge], Mairead asked if she could do something for the kids down there. So I contacted the diocese to see if there was a need and obtained a list of schools.”

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With the help of her troop leader, Sister Girl Scouts, friends, family, classmates and local politicans, Mairead collected more than 6,000 school supply items for students and teachers in Baton Rouge.

“We sent messages to the surrounding communities and churches asking for donations and my parish allowed me to put donation boxes in the back of the church,” Mariead said. “I asked my principal if this was something we could do and we organized a school supply drive. I also reached out to elected officials who represented my neighborhood and they made monetary donations.”

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In addition to the school supplies, Mairead and her Sister Girl Scouts made prayer cards for the schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge and decorated the bags with either an outline of the state of Louisiana or the state’s symbol, the fleur de lis. In October, Colleti and Mairead drove to Baton Rouge to personally deliver the items during a Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Praireville, Louisiana.

“I can’t describe the feeling because it was so amazing and life-changing to meet some of the families affected by the flood,” said Mairead. “My troop leader and the whole congregation stood up and started clapping for me during the Mass. I started crying, I was so overwhelmed.”

After the Mass, about 30 people came up to Mairead to express their gratitude and the principal of St. John’s Primary School, Kim Naquien, presented her with a big poster board signed by the entire third-grade class as a thank-you gift.

“She may have been inspired by us, but truly she is an inspiration to us to serve one another,” Naquin told the congregation, according to The Catholic Commentator.

And Mairead was truly touched by the gesture.

“It was such an inspiration to me,” Mairead said. “My favorite was a little kid who gave me a thumbs-up as he was walking out.”

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And Mairead’s desire to give back didn’t stop there. With encouragement from her troop leader, Mairead decided to turn the school supply drive into her Gold Award project and host emergency preparedness sessions at the Chicago Park District.

“That way, if something like the flood were to happen, people would be prepared,” explained Mairead.

The Gold Award is the highest award that a Girl Scout ages 14-18 may earn and recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more, dedicated toward their service project.

“I’ve made so many friends over the last 10 years I’ve been a Girl Scouts,” Mairead said, “and there are so many skills I’ve learned — from being a people person when selling Girl Scout Cookies to not being afraid to speak up when people are talking about an issue or doing a project like this to help others in my community and all over.”

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Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Kaitlyn Kropp knows what it takes to be a leader.

On Monday, October 10, 2016, the 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador received the Elena of Avalor Scepter of Light Award in honor of her ability to lead through everyday challenges  with the same attributes that define Disney’s Elena of Avalor.

Diane Ikemiyashiro, director of original programming for Disney Junior, presented Kaitlyn with the award on ABC7 and said it symbolizes the “true meaning of leadership.”

Earlier this year, Kaitlyn created an impressive sensory room at The Academy of Forest View in Arlington Heights as her Gold Award project to give those with autism the ability to minimize their stress before returning to class.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout between the ages of 14 and 17 can earn. The leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment required to complete the process set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.

Reactions to Kaitlyn’s Gold Award project have been so positive that other schools have contacted her about creating similar spaces in their schools. Click here to see Kaitlyn in action.

A BIG thank you to Roz Varon ABC7, Girl Scout alum and former troop leader, for having us on!

Girl Scouts Enjoy Juliette Day Out

Girl Scouts Enjoy Juliette Day Out

There are many ways to get involved in Girl Scouts. If a traditional troop doesn’t fit your needs, you can always register as an individual Girl Scout, also known as a Juliette (in honor of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low).

Last month, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) hosted its first Juliette Day Out at Camp Greene Wood in Woodridge, Illinois. The fun-filled day began with a traditional investiture and re-dedication ceremony, which highlighted the attributes that create the basis for the Girl Scout Promise and Law.

Afterward, the Juliettes had a chance to express gratitude toward their parents and mentors by giving them a single daisy, which symbolized the first level of being a Girl Scout and was also Juliette Gordon Low’s nickname.

Next up, the parents had a chance to connect with their daughters by pinning them with their Girl Scout level tab, WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and Girl Scout pin provided by GSGCNWI’s Innovation and Inclusion Department.

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Following the ceremony, everyone took pictures and enjoyed refreshments before continuing with a day filled with old-fashioned Girl Scout fun, such as making S’mores and participating in art and crafts. The Juliettes and their families were also able to make SWAPS (Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere), take a mystery hike, and have a chance to learn more about Girl Scout opportunities, such as the Highest Awards.

Recent Gold Award honoree Annie Vitti told the girls about her project, which involved building a habitat for chimney swifts, a protected bird species, and inspired many Juliettes to pursue their own Highest Awards.

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Many thanks to everyone who helped make the Juliette Day Out a success! For more information or to register for Girl Scouts, please visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

With a plethora of construction paper, scissors, glue and fun facts spread before me and my Girl Scout troop, we began the riveting task of creating the world’s best table display for World Thinking Day.

As a wide-eyed Girl Scout Junior, Thinking Day granted me the opportunity to taste new food, meet new people and explore a world of possibilities. It was there, at that glue-covered table, that I discovered my passion for other cultures and travel.

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Growing up, my troop and I would sing camp songs in Cherokee, make music with Lummi sticks, eat Irish soda bread and dream of traveling to the Girl Scout World Centers. We were courageous in spirit, compassionate by action and eager to meet everyone. Little did I know just how much the lessons I learned with my troop would impact the course of my life.

As I got older, I realized that not everyone was as compassionate toward other people and cultures as my troop and I were. So, in my final year as a Girl Scout Ambassador, I combined my passion for culture and the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Millennium Goal of achieving world peace to create the framework for my Gold Award Project.

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Through my project, I educated local students and my Sister Girl Scouts about the lives of people in other countries, especially children in war zones. As part of my project, I conducted a toy and school supply drive with the packaged donations being shipped overseas to military personnel so that they could give the donations to children in the surrounding area in order to promote goodwill between the community and our soldiers.

Additionally, I created a permanent “mailbox to the troops” so that much deserved, handwritten letters of appreciation can always reach our soldiers. By educating the community and encouraging participants to donate a toy or a book, I desired to spread the concept of being compassionate to the next generation and convey to the community that they have the power to make a difference in the world by spreading joy and world peace one toy at a time.

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With such a passion for culture and exploration burning inside, it seems only logical that I would travel abroad and at age 19, I embraced my first opportunity to do so. Through my university, I was able to spend two months studying at the Center For International Learning in Muscat, Oman. During my summer abroad in the Sultanate of Oman, I was able to see the world’s second largest chandelier, walked the worn streets of a nearly 500-year-old city and spend one crazy day exploring London, England.

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From making Diwali candles as a Girl Scout Junior to studying abroad in Oman, the passion for culture and exploration that I discovered and fostered through Girl Scouts continues to shape my life and take me on spectacular journeysNow, as a permanent Girl Scout at heart and world traveler, I hope to educate and inspire others to embrace life with open arms and a compassionate heart.

Megan Ramirez is a recent Gold Award honoree and rising sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.

Plainfield Girl Scout Creates Accessible Playground for Everyone

Plainfield Girl Scout Creates Accessible Playground for Everyone

No matter how old you are, you will always get a little excited seeing a swing set in your neighborhood park or school. Swings symbolize childhood memories and having a good time with friends. But sometimes it’s harder for some to use a playground than others.

Girl Scout Ambassador Rachel Lau dedicated her Gold Award project to making sure everyone could have a good time at the park by taking six months to raise money for the Plainfield Parks and Recreation team to buy ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-friendly swings.

In an interview with the parks district, Lau explained why she chose the swings for her Gold Award project.

“I am a huge advocate for children with mental and physical disabilities. I researched the parks within Plainfield, Illinois and found that several were not designed to be safe for children with mental and physical disabilities,” said Lau. “For that reason, I [wanted] to modify a playground in Plainfield to make it handicap-friendly for children.”

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The swings were also the most realistic and cost-efficient solution for this problem that she discovered in her community. The project is also very close to Lau’s heart because of a family friend who has Asperger’s syndrome.

“I was first inspired for my project when I noticed that a family friend, Holden, had trouble playing at public parks,” said Lau. “I often saw the heartbreak of his mom having to pull him off of the equipment.”

This project has made a significant impact in her community and she has truly seen the reward that comes with investing in a sustainable project.

“One of the most successful aspects of my project so far would be my fundraising efforts and finally being able to purchase the swings,” Lau said. “Watching all of my heard work come together was truly rewarding.”

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Rachael Lau’s family friend, Holden

“I hope that these swings will be sustainable for the future because they will stay permanently in their respective parks (Northwest Community Park and Renwick Park) so that children with any disability will be able to enjoy Plainfield parks, just like Holden,” said Lau.

The ADA swings are located at Bott Park,  24550 W. Renwick Rd., as well as Northwest Community Park,  127th St. Plainfield, thanks to Rachel’s fundraising and the Plainfield Park District.

To learn more about how you can earn your Gold Award, click here.