These ten exceptional change-makers took action to improve their local, national, and global communities while earning Girl Scouts’ highest award
Today Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) announces this year’s National Gold Award Girl Scouts (formerly known as the National Young Women of Distinction). These ten remarkable young women channeled their leadership, passion, work ethic, and creativity toward discovering innovative solutions for today’s most pressing local, national, and global issues. This year’s class tackled issues related to unnecessary plastic straws; human rights; mental health education; pollinator endangerment; menstrual health resources; art therapy; literacy; noise-induced hearing loss; girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and veteran visibility and appreciation.
The 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts were selected from thousands this year who earned their Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, and one that is only available to Girl Scouts. By designing and implementing extraordinary projects of measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching impact, these girls demonstrate a steadfast commitment, as well as a stunning ability, to create true change.
This year’s class of National Gold Award Girl Scouts will be honored on International Day of the Girl Child (on October 11), as their achievements tie in with this year’s United Nations’ theme of preparing girls for the world of work. Not only do the seven steps of a Gold Award project address a community or global problem—both in the short term and for years to come—but they also prepare girls to be leaders and hone skills that are important to all fields of work. The 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts exhibited business sense and an entrepreneurial mindset to help achieve their outcomes, such as by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding, working with politicians to create legislative change, and educating others. Their actions prove how girls are successful in their own right, how their financial decisions generate substantial economic impact, and how they are prepared to be our next generation of business leaders.
The October 11th celebration in New York City is made possible through generous support by the premier event sponsor, Toyota Financial Services. Through a multiyear partnership, Toyota Financial Services and GSUSA are helping girls become financially savvy leaders; obtain real-life, age-appropriate financial skills; and gain the tools necessary to make a positive influence in their communities.
The National Gold Award Girl Scouts will receive a combined $100,000 in college scholarships from Susan Bulkeley Butler, founder of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders and former member of the Girl Scouts of the USA Board of Directors; a combined $50,000 in college scholarships from the Kappa Delta Foundation; and a combined $50,000 in college scholarships from Arconic Foundation. Applications for the distinction were reviewed by a panel of previous National Gold Award Girl Scouts, leaders from a diverse array of fields, GSUSA executives, and a representative from the Kappa Delta Foundation.
“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. Earning the Gold Award also unlocks great opportunities for Girl Scouts, from getting into college and securing scholarships to entering the military one rank higher.”
Research verifies that participating in Girl Scouts and earning the Gold Award are linked to developing crucial leadership skills and advanced achievements. In addition to Girl Scouts being more than twice as likely than other girls to identify and solve problems in their communities, they over index when it comes to seeking challenges and learning from setbacks, having confidence in themselves and their leadership abilities, and forming and maintaining healthy relationships. The majority of women who earned their Gold Award display more positive life outcomes compared with women who did not participate in Girl Scouts in their youth, including being more optimistic about their future; seeing themselves as leaders; and being more civically engaged, particularly in politics.
Girl Scouts like the 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts will continue to defy expectations and act as outstanding change-makers. To join or volunteer with Girl Scouts, visit www.girlscouts.org/join.
Meet GSUSA’s 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts
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.
We’re Girl Scouts of the USA
We’re 2.6 million strong—1.8 million girls and 800,000 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, Georgia, 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. And with programs from coast to coast and across the globe, Girl Scouts offers every girl a chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure, and success. To volunteer, reconnect, donate, or join, visit www.girlscouts.org.