Girl Scout Gold Award project: Marieke van Erven, Brighton, “VOTE (Voter Outreach Through Education)”

What did you do for your Gold Award project?

For my Gold Award, I worked with the Adams County Elections Department to create VOTE (Voter Outreach Through Education). VOTE takes education about the elections department into high school government classes. The education includes the “behind the scenes” of a ballot, what happens during an election, security measures taken, and many other important aspects of the Elections Department. We also put on a student government to give students of all grade levels the experience of a “true” election.

How did you measure the impact your Gold Award project made on your target audience?

I measured the impact of my Gold Award by the number of students reached, 28 with education, and the feedback they gave on a survey. 26/28 felt they learned something they didn’t already know and better understood the Elections Department and what they do. VOTE will be continued through the Adams County Elections Department, which means that students will continue to be educated on the importance of voting, and the work the Elections Department does. Through feedback my team and I received from the students and the teacher, we revised the program to make it stronger for next year.

How is your project sustainable? How will your project continue to impact after your involvement?

My project will continue through the Adams County Elections Department and will grow to reach more students. The current goal is to have VOTE in every high school in Adams County boundaries, then looking for further growth options. We are hoping to reach four high schools next year and continue to expand after that. Our thoughts and goals for expansion include reaching beyond Adams County at the state level.

What is your project’s global and/or national connection?

Elections are a hot button topic for many people, especially after the 2016 General Election. VOTE addresses concerns that were seen at the national level. As a team, we are starting small with our education, but that will also grow to incorporate what is happening. High school government students learn about elections in the United States but may also look at elections abroad and the systems used, this helps to give them a deeper understanding and better connection to relate the electoral system to.

What did you learn about yourself?

During my Gold Award, I learned that I can work through obstacles. I hit several spots in my project where I could’ve easily given up. I had to change my project late in the year and then put a lot of work into making sure the VOTE program went into classrooms before the school year was over. Hard work pays off, and there is always another option when something seems impossible.

How will earning your Gold Award impact you in the future?

Earning my Gold Award has given me more confidence in myself and what I am capable of accomplishing. I will now look at projects with a different perspective knowing that I can push myself further than I thought was possible and overcome any obstacle put in my way. If you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. As I am heading into college, this will be an especially important reminder that I will carry with me.

Why do you feel the Gold Award was an important part of your Girl Scout experience?

Earning my Gold Award was an important part of my Girl Scout Experience because it was a good way to wrap up my time as a Girl Scout before moving to an adult member. I have been in Girl Scouts since Daisy’s and have grown up watching girls earn their Gold Awards. Watching my older Girl Scout sisters earning these awards and positively impacting the community around them was an inspiration to me. It taught me that I could one day have a similar impact on those around me, and it drove me to continue my Girl Scout journey even when I was busy with school and sports. I looked up to my Girl Scout sisters, and want to be that inspiration for other younger girls.

How did earning your Gold Award help you become a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)? 

Earning my Gold Award helped me learn to become a go-getter because of the challenges I faced. Changing my project in the middle of the year was not something I had planned on doing. I wanted to give up, but I knew there was still a difference I could make in my community. I had to look at the problem I had in a different way and see another issue that needed to be addressed. I, then, worked with the elections team to gain high school support. This project made me step outside my comfort zone and prove to many people that I am not just another high school student, I am a professional in this area. There was an obstacle proving this to my teachers and peers alike, as they have only ever seen me as a student.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: This blog represents only a small fraction of the hard work, dedication and requirements that go into earning a Girl Scout Gold Award. It is simply a brief summary, which is meant to inspire Girl Scouts to Go Gold in the future. For more information on earning your Gold Award, please email highestawards@gscolorado.org