The highest recognition a Girl Scout can achieve is the Gold Award, which honors senior Scouts who devise and complete service projects to benefit the community. Three of this year's recipients from the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida talked with tb-two* about their experiences. — Caroline Dunning, Lakewood High
King High IB senior
Project: Eat Right, Exercise, Have a Healthy Life!
What inspired this project? From my own childhood experiences, I learned the importance of eating right and exercising at a young age. Now, as an avid runner and dancer, I maintain an active and healthy lifestyle. I felt that it was my responsibility, through my Girl Scout Gold Award, to help others who are facing challenges in leading a fit life.
Talk about the results. I taught young students the importance of a balanced diet and the importance of exercise. I believe that teaching the young will have a stronger impact; they are more likely to follow through with what they have learned. Ultimately, my final goal is to help my community reduce the chances of developing obesity and obesity-related diseases. I was able to impact over 200 students in the United States and India.
What did you learn? That when you encounter obstacles, you need to find alternate methods of achieving your goal. My social, communication and leadership skills have improved from the start of my project. I have developed perseverance and tenacity to follow through with a community project.
How has your project changed you? I had a boost in self-confidence and I learned to seek the positive values in myself and in others.
What's next for you? College: University of South Florida.
What is your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Tagalongs
Strawberry Crest High IB senior
Project: Science Sisters
What inspired this service project? Science and math itself. I noticed that I was alone, or in a minority, when I went to math competitions, robotics competitions and engineering competitions. I was also one of those girls who loved to play with blocks and take things apart and put them back together as a kid. I noticed that girls are pressured to pursue other things rather than STEM, and that it starts from a young age. I wanted to push back against that, and encourage girls who could be our future scientists.
Talk about the results. I did a survey before and afterward of the girls' interest in math and science. At the beginning, most did not answer or gave a negative response. By the end of doing all the projects, they were much more confident, outspoken and I got a generally positive feedback about science and math.
What did you learn? I learned a lot of patience. Working with 5- to 7-year-olds will do that. I learned that for a lot of girls, all they need is a little encouragement to do things on their own because for so long others just did things for them, and they've learned to be dependent. The excitement in their eyes when they discover something for themselves is crazy amazing, and the glow in their faces at realizing their own capabilities is inspiring. I think a lot of adults have forgotten how cool that sparkle to learn and do really is.
How has your project changed you? It has made me more flexible and more determined. I didn't expect to be a role model; I was teaching the girls about older women who have become scientists and engineers. However, kids don't like listening to stories about adults. They were far more enthralled with my own stories of success at competitions and in my classes. When courses get tough, I have to remind myself that I'm not becoming an engineer for myself, but that I am becoming one for other little girls to look up to and to improve my community.
What's next for you? I want to work on alternative energy sources for large-scale industry. I'm working right now on Stirling engines that work off of excess heat. I also want to work on efficiency systems for bringing energy to the developing world. College: University of South Florida to study mechanical and materials engineering.
What's your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Dulce de Leche all the way. Kaitlyn Fuson
Bloomingdale High senior
Project: Renovated cafeteria at Rosa Valdez Early Childhood Learning Center
What inspired this project? My church was asked to sponsor a day care center in Ybor City, and I participated in a cleanup day. When I started looking for a Gold Award project I thought of the day care center and asked if there were any improvements they would like done to help the children. The day care center director told me that they would like to repurpose a room to be their cafeteria.
Talk about the results. The day care (staff) loved the new cafeteria and were so impressed they said they wanted to redo more rooms like it. Along with giving the day care a new cafeteria, I also made a nutrition activity book to educate the children on good nutrition. The day care sent home more nutrition info to the parents so the learning could continue at home.
What did you learn? That it takes a lot of planning to do a big project like this and that in anything you do, leadership skills are necessary. I also learned that many people are willing to help you reach your goals, you simply have to ask them.
How has your project changed you? I can now be more confident in my leadership abilities.
What's next for you? College: Florida International University to major in architecture.
What's your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Samoas