Category Archives: Take Action/Highest Awards

Girl Scout Gold Award Project: Mika Zaharescu, Broomfield, “Smiling at Your Future”

What did you do for your Gold Award project?

For my Gold Award project, I partnered with my school’s chapter of National Honor Society to create dental care packets for kids in need. It included collecting recycled materials to make the actual bags, receiving donations containing toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash from the students of Prospect Ridge Academy, teaching the members of National Honor Society sewing skills, creating an instruction graphic, and presenting the project’s result in front of the entire student body for my school.

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

We will soon see how much impact this project made once we repeat the project. The main goal of the project was to create awareness, so if more people assist National Honor Society to repeat the project (which we have already had a lot of interest), it will show that more people were influenced and inspired by the project. Excitement for the project is already growing, because the day after I presented my project to my school, a girl I didn’t even know came up to me to tell me her excitement. She told me how she was willing to help, and her father was even a dentist willing to assist and donate more materials and spread more awareness.

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

The project is sustainable because National Honor Society at Prospect Ridge Academy will repeat the project annually. In addition to that, other interested parties outside of PRA could replicate or improve the project at https://sites.google.com/view/spreading-smiles

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

The website I created for this project links the community in Colorado to other inspired people across the country and around the world.

What did you learn about yourself?

This project was a wonderful experience and  journey of self-discovery. At the beginning of the project, I was nervous presenting projects to a small group of people. By the end, I presented my project in front of the entire student body of Prospect Ridge Academy during an assembly. My leadership skills improved immensely. I learned how to work with a large team, coordinate logistical information across different organizations, and how to not stress about things as much as I did.

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

Earning my Gold Award has changed my life. I am a more confident, caring, and strong girl. This also showed me I reached a goal I set for myself 12 years ago, and if I can do that, I can do anything.

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

The Gold Award was an important part of my Girl Scout experience because it showed me how I could change the world. A lot of times people don’t contribute or help other people because they figure someone else will do it. The Gold Award allowed me to not only become the “someone” to do it, but to inspire others to do the same.

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

I am a go-getter because, despite the many barriers both mentally and physically, I reached my goal after hours of hard work and determination.

I am an innovator because, even though my completed project was a different version of the one I initially planned on doing, I “rolled with the punches” and improved my project, so I could finish it to help kids in need.

I am a risk-taker because I did things I never thought I could do before, like presenting in front of hundreds of peers about something I am truly passionate about.

I am a leader because I have learned how to be confident, courageous, caring, kind, smart, honest, fair, friendly, helpful, and all of the qualities of a Girl Scout. Being a Girl Scout has given me all of the resources I need to be the best leader I can be.

**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

Save the date: 2018 Highest Awards Celebrations

Submitted by Aimee Artzer, GSCO Highest Awards Manager

We are thrilled to announce the dates for the spring 2018 Highest Awards Celebrations!

Friday, April 20, 6 p.m.
Center for American Values
Pueblo, CO

Sunday, April 22, 2 p.m.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Loveland
Loveland, CO

Sunday, April 29, 2 p.m.
Denver Marriott Tech Center
Denver, CO

Friday, May 4, 6 p.m.
Penrose House Garden Pavilion
Colorado Springs, CO

Sunday, May 6, 2 p.m.
Colorado Mesa University
Grand Junction, CO

Friday, May 11, 6 p.m.
Silverthorne Pavilion
Silverthorne, CO

These celebrations are an opportunity to recognize the outstanding Bronze, Silver and Gold Award Girl Scouts who have earned their distinction in the last year. All troops and/or girls who have earned their Bronze, Silver, or Gold since March 2017 are invited to participate in a celebration of their choice. Anyone planning to attend must RSVP online, the RSVP form will be made available on our events page in March 2018.

Gold Award Girl Scouts across the state will also be recognized at the “Gold Award Day at the Capitol” on Monday, April 9. Each Gold Award Girl Scout is encouraged to participate in both regional celebrations as well as the “Day at the Capitol.”

Please note that the deadline to notify GSCO that you have earned your Bronze or Silver Award and participate in celebrations is March 1, 2018. Notify us now that your girls have earned their Bronze or Silver: http://www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org/en/for-volunteers/forms-and-resources/bronze-and-silver-notification.html

Questions? Email Aimee Artzer at highestawards@gscolorado.org

Gold Award Girl Scout continues to give back

Submitted by Victoria Fedorco

Metro Denver

Denver

I remember working and earning my Gold Award like it was yesterday. Since May 2017, I’ve graduated from Eaglecrest High School and went on to attend Metropolitan State University of Denver. During my first semester, I’ve given multiple speeches about “Adopt Don’t Shop” and the care of senior pets and how those issues have influenced my Gold Award. I’ve been keeping tabs on the Adams County Animal Shelter and found that the PVC Pipe pet beds have made a great impact on the comfort level of the senior pets and others at the shelter. I continue to speak about senior pets and their struggles and have written a research paper on the subject to help continue to educate and raise awareness.

I’ve used the leadership and management skills the Gold Award program taught me to become more involved in my college as well. I have become the Director of Game Day Operations for the Metro State Men’s Hockey Team. I have organized an upcoming event for the team: The Metro State Hockey Teddy Bear Toss. My love of Girl Scouts has stayed with me as well, as I have registered as a co-leader for my little sister’s troop. I will continue to work with them and encourage them to be their best selves and go for gold!

Gold Award Girl Scout delivers featured speech at Women of Distinction Breakfast

Gold Award Girl Scout Kathleen Otto of Fort Collins was a featured speaker at Girl Scouts of Colorado’s Women of Distinction Breakfast in Grand Junction.  She told the audience of Girl Scouts and supporters about her journey through Girl Scouts.

My last 12 years as a Girl Scout has given me so many opportunities to learn and grow, making me the person I am today. This morning, I’m thrilled to share my amazing experience in Girl Scouting with you.

I remember the first Girl Scout meeting I attended. I was in first grade and a new Brownie. My troop would meet in the library of my elementary school and I remember we would have tables lined up in a big “U” shape so we could all see one another. We spent time learning the Girl Scout Promise and Law—and at every troop meeting we would stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance and then the Promise and Law to remind ourselves of how to behave toward one another and our community every day. Of course, being 6-years-old, I did not yet realize what a remarkable family and community I had joined.

Being a Girl Scout helped me learn important business and people skills and one of the most well know skill building opportunities is, as you all probably know, selling cookies. The first thing I learned about selling cookies was to be charming! This tip works well when you are still a Brownie, but as you become older, it gets a little trickier. Once I reached middle and high school, selling cookies door-to-door required connections and loyal customers that had known me since I was a little Brownie. But, the best way to earn and sell cookies was always at a booth. I remember I was in 4th or 5th grade, it was January, and snowing. My friend and I stood at a cookie booth outside of Safeway for 30 minutes, which seemed like forever at that age.  Over 45 minutes passed and we thought to ourselves, “Why did we sign up for a two-hour booth?!” My friend and I were shivering in our boots and snow pants, we were so bored, and no one was coming to buy cookies. Eventually, I was so cold and tired that I decides to let out my pent-up energy, by singing and dancing.

My journey through Girl Scouts did not stop at cookie booths. During my Junior and Senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.

The Gold Award gave me the opportunity to teach people about a topic that is very important to me – dyslexia. I wanted to educate both parents and teachers about dyslexia and how it impacts children in school settings. This is an important topic for me because I am dyslexic and without the teachers I had, who knew about dyslexia, my school experience would have been so much harder. Without the support system I had growing up, and the teachers I had I don’t think I would have graduated high school with a 4.0 GPA or would have been as prepared as I feel for college.  My Gold Award was a two-step process. First, I organized a viewing of the documentary “The Big Picture – Rethinking Dyslexia”, a story about of people who struggle with dyslexia, and their stories of how they overcame their disability. After the movie, I held a panel discussion with dyslexia experts, who included: a doctor, who specializes in diagnosing dyslexia; teacher, who works specifically with children with learning disabilities;  student and lifelong friend, who suffers from dyslexia; and representative from the Rocky Mountain branch of the International Dyslexia Association. The panel discussion was eye opening for everyone who attended and gave people the chance to connect with others in the community, whom they might have never met without my project. Many parents with children who have dyslexia were able to come together and find understanding with each other and help each other find support for their children.

Step two of my project was to create a Little Free Library in my neighborhood to promote literacy among both adults and children. In all the books that are in the library, I put informational bookmarks provided by the Rocky Mountain branch of the International Dyslexia Association in the hope that I could not only encourage people to read, more but also to continue educating people about dyslexia.

Through earning my Gold Award, I learned many skills required of a successful leader. I learned how to best communicate with my peers and adults, along with programing, public speaking, and marketing skills. I had tapped into each of these skills throughout my years as a Girl Scout and perfected them through earning my Gold Award.

These are the concrete skills that Girl Scouts has taught me, but it also opened doors to see the world. Last summer, I had the chance to go on one last trip with my Girl Scout troop and we decided to go to Europe. With the funds, we earned from the Girl Scout Cookie Program, along with our own money, we went on a 15-day trip across Europe. We went to amazing places and saw wonderful things. My favorite part of our trip was going to Adelboden, Switzerland, and visiting Our Chalet – one of five World Centers of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The beauty of Our Chalet and the town of Adelboden was incredibly stunning and peaceful. learning the history of how Our Chalet was founded was truly a learning experience and showed me that Girl Scouting really is an international sisterhood.

In addition to traveling around Europe, I had the opportunity to be a camp counselor at Tomahawk Ranch, one of the Girl Scouts of Colorado’s summer camps. After being a camper almost every summer and then a counselor in training, becoming an official counselor at 18 just seemed like the natural next step in my relationship with Girl Scout Camp. Becoming a counselor, I could, make sure that younger girls had the best summer possible. I remember the Director of Tomahawk, Monica Gray, aka Obi Joe, told us during our training – “Camp is a safe place for girls to come and be themselves.” That is what camp was like for me as a child and that is what I wanted camp to be for girls today. Working at Tomahawk is like being in a totally different world. The Director Team at Tomahawk does such an amazing job at making camp a wonderful and amazing experience for every girl. 

One day, half-way into a two-week session, all of the counselors are living off of coffee at this point I thought to myself at lunch, “I knew someone would do it! I knew someone would dip the lettuce in the chocolate!” This might seem completely odd statement, so let me explain. 

For lunch, we were having fondue and there was a chocolate fountain for dessert, our chef spoiled us, with all the fixings you would expect – strawberries, pound cake, bananas, and more. But, these desserts were set on a bed of lettuce, and I thought to myself watch one of these girls dip the lettuce into the chocolate and eat it up. Sure enough, one of my girls came back to the table with chocolate covered lettuce, and everyone started laughing as she began to eat it! I can tell you now that chocolate and lettuce is not a good combo, but everyone laughed, smiled, and tried something new and surprising.

This is the point of Girl Scout Camp – it is random and funny and sometimes completely unexpected. But, no matter how unexpected things are, you’ll always be met with a welcoming smile. Camp is one of the safest places for girls to go where they can be themselves without being branded weird or different. Girl Scout Camp is a safe place for girls to grow and find out who they would like to be and all the amazing things that they are capable of.

Each of these stories describe what Girl Scouts has done for me. Girl Scouts has been the place for me where I can be myself and grow into a person that I didn’t know I could be. Girl Scouts is the reason I can stand before you and speak clearly and with confidence. Girl Scouts is the reason I know I will always have a home and a family no matter where I am. The skills that Girl Scouts has taught me, has given me the self-confidence to live on my own, to start my freshman year of college with only a little trepidation.

This year, I am a freshman at Colorado Mesa University. As of right now I am just starting my core education classes, but my plans are to go into the medical field as a nurse. Girl Scouts has shown me that I love people and enjoy helping my community. Girl Scouts has help teach me that I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.

I want to remind you all the mission of Girl Scouts, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.” I stand before you this morning, a Girl Scout for over a decade and a woman with the courage, confidence, and character to continue becoming the best person I can be and make the world a little better every day.

Thank you all so much.

 

 

Gold Award Girl Scouts impact Colorado communities and beyond

Twenty-five Girl Scouts from across Colorado have earned the distinction of Gold Award Girl Scout, the highest honor in Girl Scouting, after completing take action projects benefiting their local communities and those around the world.

  • Meg Bleyle from Highlands Ranch, Highlands Ranch High School, worked to increase the bee population by teaching children about how people need and depend on bees.
  • Beth Bolon from Longmont hosted a workshop for sixth grade girls to help them improve their communication skills and bolster their confidence when interacting with others.
  • Cheyanne Bridges from Colorado Springs, Liberty High School, partnered with the Pikes Peak Humane Society to support their animal medical fund by providing a sustainable source of donations from her school.
  • Tara Butler from Denver, Overland High School, created a course and curriculum specifically for senior citizens to educate them on how to use their smartphone and better understand the technology.
  • Kayleigh Cornell from Aurora, Grandview High School, started the Colorado Book Bank and collected more than 1,300 new and gently used books for students in a summer lunch program.
  • Victoria Delate from Centennial, Cherry Creek High School, created a four-week self-defense course to give her fellow students the knowledge and skills to protect themselves from sexual assault.
  • Emma Deutsch from Denver, Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning, improved the cat rooms at the Denver Animal Shelter. By creating a more welcoming and colorful space, she encouraged more people to adopt cats.
  • Kamaryn Evans from Castle Rock, Douglas County High School, worked to raise awareness for victims of domestic violence and for the Crisis Center, which works to end domestic violence through advocacy, education, and prevention.
  • Rose Goodman from Boulder, Boulder High School, created a lesson plan, which meets common-core standards, to educate second grade students about the declining bee population and how they can help bees.
  • Elizabeth Hoelscher from Aurora, Grandview High School, partnered with Avanti House, which houses teenage victims of sex trafficking, to build a new library for the home and create welcome baskets for the girls.
  • Ashlin Hult from Niwot, Niwot High School, created a series of materials for middle-school girls to encourage healthy body image and increase self-esteem.
  • Zoi Johns from Golden, Lakewood High School, coordinated the installation of three 10,000-liter water filtration tanks in a school in rural Uganda.
  • Makayla Kocher from Monument, Colorado Springs Christian School, created an art program for nursing home residents.
  • Kayleigh Limbach from Niwot, Niwot High School, wrote aguidebook for incoming International Baccalaureate students to help them weigh their options for their academic future.
  • Alexis Montague from Castle Rock, Castle View High School, hosted a panel discussion so girls could learn more about career opportunities in STEM.
  • Sarah Ness from Centennial, Eaglecrest High School, hosted nearly two dozen after-school art therapy sessions to help kids at her school relieve and manage stress.
  • Gwyneth Ormes from Centennial, Cherry Creek High School, organized a series of after-school workshops to teach elementary school girls Processing (a basic programming language), along with the foundational concepts of computer science.
  • Emma Parkhurst from Centennial, Littleton High School, revitalized The Lions Cupboard, a local clothing closet, to make the space more accessible for families in need.
  • Makala Roggenkamp from Arvada, Faith Christian Academy, partnered with Hope House and created book templates for children to develop a love of reading.
  • Abagail Sickinger from Castle Rock, Douglas County High School, developed a curriculum to help high school students get a job. Topics included: resume writing, what to wear, conducting yourself during an interview, and how to answer interview questions.
  • Katrina Stroud from Boulder, Niwot High School, created an activity booklet for The Butterfly Pavilion to teach children about Monarch butterflies and bumble bees.
  • Grayson Thomas from Lyons, Lyons High School, designed a mural of diverse and significant members of the STEM community for Lyons Middle/Senior High School.
  • Marieke van Erven from Brighton partnered with the Adams County Elections Department to create VOTE (Voter Outreach Through Education), which takes education about the elections department into high school government classes.
  • Melissa Wilson from Castle Rock, Castle View High School, developed several materials to educate people who can hear about how to interact with those who are deaf.
  • Inspired by her mother’s battle with cancer, Susan Wilson from Aurora, Grandview High School, created a media center for cancer patients undergoing treatment at Parker Adventist Hospital.

The Girl Scout Gold Award culminates with a project led by one young woman between 9th and 12th grades who builds a purpose-based team to work with the larger community to meet a need. The focus of a Gold Award project is identifying and researching a community issue she is passionate about, developing a plan to address it in cooperation with her team and community members, establishing a global connection with others, and providing sustainability for the project.

“Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award designation is truly a remarkable achievement, and these young women exemplify leadership in all its forms,” said Stephanie Foote, President and Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Colorado. “They saw a need and took ownership of helping to develop a solution and took action to make it happen. Their extraordinary dedication, perseverance, and leadership is making the world a better place.”

About Girl Scouts of Colorado

Girl Scouts of Colorado is 32,000 strong—more than 22,000 girls and 10,000 adults who believe in the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ to change the world. Our extraordinary journey began more than 100 years ago with the original G.I.R.L., Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low. On March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Ga., she organized the very first Girl Scout troop, and every year since, we’ve honored her vision and legacy, building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. We’re the preeminent leadership development organization for girls. To volunteer, reconnect, donate, or join, visit www.girlscoutsofcolorado.org.

Mesa County Commissioners commend Girl Scout Troop 2214

Submitted by GSCO Team Lead Cindi Graves

Western Slope

Grand Junction

Mesa County Commissioners commend Girl Scout Troop 2214 for its devotion to the Girl Scout mission and values, and for earning the distinction of Bronze Award Girl Scout. The Girl Scout Bronze Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout Junior can achieve by completing a girl-led project to benefit the local community.

Charlotte A., Megan F., Braeleigh M., Preslee R., and Elizabeth S. have become Bronze Award Girl Scouts through recognizing a need for teens and tweens entering foster care and creating care packages filled with items to help with the difficult transition for youth entering foster care.

The Commissioners extended their appreciation to Girl Scout Troop 2214 for their innovative and compassionate effort to serve the youth in foster care in Mesa County.

This story was submitted using the Share Your Stories form. You can share your Girl Scout moments too.

Girl Scout Gold Award project: Makayla Kocher, Monument, “Art for the elderly”

What did you do for your Gold Award project?

For my Gold Award project, I created an enjoyable program for the elderly at a nursing home. I developed a resource book of painting and craft activities. Also, I conducted and coordinated classes once or twice a month for all levels of care such as skilled nursing, independent, and assisted living.

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

I knew my project made an impact because of the constant increase in participants and the strong desire to have more classes for different levels of care throughout the facility.  Also, many families began to schedule their visit in order to come and participate in the classes.  Due to the popularity of the classes, the nursing home began to offer more variety of activities for the elderly.

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

My project will be sustainable because the nursing home I volunteered has added more resources, such as Programs Director and Assistant Direct, who will carry out and plan activities for the elderly to enjoy. Also, the nursing home’s community room, which is where most of the activities for the elderly take place, is now equipped with more supplies than before. The nursing home has many different volunteers, some of which who have visited my classes and even partook in classes. In this way, my project will continue to impact after my involvement because the volunteers have seen how an arts and craft class is carried out. Along with my resource book, the volunteers and Programs Director and Assistant Director will be able to conduct classes and activities for the elderly.

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

My project has expanded beyond one nursing home. There are currently four other nursing homes interested in my resource book. I have reached out to different nursing homes through friends and the volunteers at the current nursing home. Also, I plan to give some of my resource books to other facilities in Colorado Springs and out of state.

What did you learn about yourself?

Through my Gold Award project, I have learned a great deal. I have learned that I am able to take on tasks that may seem difficult and terrifying. I know I can take charge of a project and keep it on track until it is complete. This experience has strengthened my love for the elderly. It has shown me that I have the ability to teach others. Ultimately through my project, I have gained a new sense of self-confidence.

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

The Gold Award will impact me in the future because it has made me more aware of my community and issue within. It has also given me the confidence to take on an issue and make a difference. As a result of my Gold Award project, I hope to always have time to volunteer and give back to others.

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

I feel the Gold Award was an important part of my Girl Scout experience. It gave me the ability to take on a community issue and make a difference. I was able to take my love of art and share it with others. The Gold Award was truly a highlight of my Girl Scouts experience.

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

By earning my Gold Award this helped me to become a go-getter. I identified an issue in nursing homes and developed a plan of action. By implementing my plan I was able to make a difference in the lives of others. My classes brought joy and new creative activities to the lives of the elderly, their families, friends, and the facility.

**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

Gold Award Girl Scout helps Brownies bridge to Juniors

Submitted by Chris Goodman

Northern & Northeastern CO

Boulder

2017 Gold Award Girl Scout Rose Goodman took a break from her busy life as a college freshman to help local Girl Scouts bridge from Girl Scout Brownies to Juniors.

Rose’s mom writes:

College can be overwhelming and present a tunnel vision of what reality is – it centers around one’s dorm, classes, and college athletic and social activities. What Girl Scouts continues to offer my daughter, is a connection to something greater and more vast than what the typical freshman in college experiences. By being invited by younger troops (and having activities work with both schedules), she experiences so much more and sees her value and contribution can make an impact on the lives and the direction of others.

This story was submitted using the Share Your Stories form. You can share your Girl Scout moments too.

Estes Park Girl Scout Troop 455 earns Bronze Award

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submitted by Jenny Miles

Northern & Northeastern CO

Estes Park

Girl Scout Troop 70455 has spent this year working on their Bronze Award. The Bronze Award project is a team effort by a Girl Scout troop undertaken to benefit the local community and is the highest award a Girl Scout Junior can earn. These girls from Estes Park worked to develop their idea, research, earn the money, and implement the project.

The troop hopes to make a difference by helping dogs and cats that are looking for forever homes. Troop 70455 worked to make adoption bags for dogs and cats that are up for adoption through the Estes Park Pet Association. The bags include toys that the girls made and received from donations, homemade treats, and other essential pet supplies. The girls also made the bags out of t-shirts purchased from Elizabeth Guild. Adoption bags will be provided with each dog or cat adoption.

The Girl Scouts were proud to be able to donate more than 50 bags to the Pet Lodge at the Animal Medical Center and the Animal Hospital of the Rockies for the adoption of dogs and cats through the Pet Association of Estes Park.

This story was submitted using the Share Your Stories form. You can share your Girl Scout moments too.

Gold Award Girl Scout gives featured speech at Thin Mint Dinners

Gold Award Girl Scout Emma Albertoni of Arvada was a featured speaker at Girl Scouts of Colorado’s Women of Distinction Thin Mint Dinners in both Denver and Colorado Springs.  She told the audience of Girl Scouts and supporters how Girl Scouts helped her find her voice.

As a 2017 Gold Award recipient and winner of the Stephanie A. Foote Leadership Prize for Gold Award Excellence, I am excited to share not only the work I have done through Girl Scouts, but the work that Girl Scouts has done for me.

I started Girl Scouts in first grade – a whopping 12 years ago. I joined Troop 1721 of Arvada, which met in the teacher’s lounge at my elementary school. All 17 girls in that troop would run around playing games, make a mess on the table doing crafts, and discuss cookie season with mouths full of snacks. I went to camps in the summer, learning a lot about myself along the way.  After a rainy mother-daughter camp experience, I learned my mom and I are more of a “spa-day and hotel” kind of campers than the “soggy sneaker and cold tent” kind of campers. I remember how I sold cookies, setting goals for the number of packages that I wanted to sell, and making posters for our booth– all while strategizing how placing cookie packages in the ROYGBV order would make our booth look enticing to customers. I remember making very… unique… outfits for World Thinking Day on my troop leader’s sewing machines, hoping that we didn’t mess up with the limited fabric we had. But the ‘fun’ things were not all that I did in all my years of Girl Scouts. Of course, I sold cookies, earned badges, and went to camp, especially when I was younger. But, these ‘fun’ things helped me later on, and I have come to realize the magic of Girl Scouts is how the things you do impact you on a deeper level.

My Girl Scout experience evolved as I got older and my troop began working on our Highest Awards. So you can understand the scale of each award, I’ll compare them to a body of water. First, the Bronze Award. Think Lake Michigan. For the Bronze Award, my troop paired up to do a “Charity Convention.” Each pair picked and researched a charity. We made posters, so our guests could learn about each one, what to donate, and how to donate. Next up, the Silver Award, which is like the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike other girls, my troop and I had difficulty coming to an agreement over what our project should be, so to appease everyone, I split off and did my project on my own. To earn my Silver Award, I collected more than 150 old t-shirts and upcycled them into bags. I gave these bags to an organization that was providing sanitary supplies to homeless women so it would be more private. I also gave some to a food bank in Arvada, and one in San Diego.

Last, but definitely not least (in any sense of the word), was the Gold Award. My Pacific Ocean. The Gold Award is the highest honor in Girl Scouting. It requires you to find an issue in your community and develop a solution. The Gold Award must be sustainable, connected nationally and globally, show leadership, and educate the public. Daunting, right? Ideas came and went, but nothing panned out. I finally found my project by looking at my own life. I was 16- years-old, buying my first car, looking at college tuition, and working a summer job. I was dealing with larger sums of money than ever before and I realized, I didn’t know anything about using it wisely. Talking with my parents about credit scores, loans, and budgeting made me wonder, where did they learn it all?

My project began by researching financial education in Colorado. I found fiscal topics are “woven” into K-12 classes, but the curriculum does not teach the students how to apply this knowledge. I discovered, through surveys and interviews, students didn’t even realize these principles were being taught. Since students weren’t learning the practical application, they would just leave the information behind. I didn’t believe this was right. Everyone needs to understand how to be responsible with their money, and that was not being addressed in Jefferson County schools.

I started by meeting with the principal and Family Consumer Sciences (FCS) teacher at Ralston Valley High School. The FCS class covered some financial literacy topics. But, it was an elective course taught to only 30 students/year. The teacher allowed me to create a new unit on financial safety online. It included PowerPoints, videos, discussions, and quizzes about things like identity theft, hacking, and password security. The teacher is now teaching my unit every year. I didn’t stop there. I proposed to the JeffCo School Board to make financial literacy a required class. The school board is now taking a closer look at how financial literacy is taught. Finally, I began working with Colorado legislators, including State Representative Lang Sias. They are interested in providing guidelines for educators on teaching financial literacy, as well as hosting a Financial Literacy day at the state capitol.

Finally, my brother and I started Down With Dough, a 501(C)(3) organization that seeks to inspire and advance knowledge of financial literacy through supporting, sharing, and improving education. Down With Dough will continue to partner with legislators, as well as other sponsors in order to one day see the improvement we need in education surrounding financial literacy. We have received tax exemption status, and are now looking for donors to help us fund curriculum development and further our work.

As I now look back, I see that Girl Scouts taught me skills that I never would have learned elsewhere. The magic of Girl Scouts is how the things you learn when you’re younger amidst all the fun, build on each other until you can accomplish a Pacific Ocean sized goal. The crafts we made in the teacher’s lounge helped me find individuality and creativity. The camps taught me how to make friends, be confident, take risks, and work as a team. I learned leadership through the Girl Scout Cookie Program, which included getting myself out of my comfort zone to sell a product by developing marketing strategies.  The Cookie Program also taught me how to be a go-getter by setting small goals in order to achieve a large goal. And, sewing outfits taught me how to solve problems and be an innovator. All these qualities I learned through the fun of Girl Scouts, and they all helped me get to where I am today.

Before Girl Scouts, I was very shy. In fact, I was talking with my troop leader the other day. We joked about how out of the five girls still in our troop at graduation, no one would’ve guessed it would be me standing here today. But, Girl Scouts brought me out of my shell. I was awarded the Prudential Spirit of Community Award in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. I met amazing young men and women from all across the country who are doing great things for their communities, just like I am. They taught me about different subjects like nonprofit classification, grant writing, and each other’s passions. I was awarded the Veterans of Foreign Wars Scout of the Year Award, where I stood in awe as veterans stood and applauded my hard work and dedication. I stood in front of Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps and Colorado Senators Cory Gardner and Michael Bennett with a confidence I would not have had, had I not been a Girl Scout. Because of Girl Scouts, I had the drive, passion, and confidence to audition for the University of Denver Lamont School of Music, where I am now a Classical Violin Performance major. I look forward to going through school, into my career field, and my future with Down with Dough with passion and leadership skills to be successful. Girl Scouts gave me a safe place to speak my mind and share ideas – it gave me the opportunity to find my voice.