It’s no surprise that quite a few Girl Scout Gold Award projects are inspired by a young woman’s personal journey. Within this year’s class of Gold Award Girl Scouts from Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, many accepted the challenge to champion a cause inspired by their own experiences. The following Gold Award Girl Scouts proudly led their schools and communities to positive new perspectives and lasting solutions on topics from their hearts, ranging from health issues to children’s mental wellness to LGBTQ+ representation. gsema.org/goldaward
LGBTQ+ Inclusive Language
Jean A. of Boston created and shared a curriculum for teachers and educators on how to better support LGBTQ+ students and students with LGBTQ+ parents in school environments. Her Gold Award project’s curriculum focused on microaggressions that come as a result of subtle heteronormativity in school lesson plans and society as a whole. “As a person with LGBTQ+ parents, I have seen first-hand how isolating schools can feel at times due to simple things teachers say or do that seem harmless to them, such as asking for a mom’s signature,” said Jean. “Teachers at my school expressed frustration with the lack of support for them in this area, sharing with me that the legal speech they get about inclusivity is far from enough.”
Jean included data, survey results, tips for avoiding offensive scenarios, proper pronoun use, and examples of common microaggressions that she personally had experienced or witnessed. Jean provided the curriculum to COLAGE, an international organization by and for people with LGBTQ+ parents, along with a video recording of her final presentation for members of their staff. “LGBTQ+ students and families deserve to have a comfortable, safe, and productive learning environment free from heteronormativity and exclusive language,” says Jean.
Drawing from her own experience with celiac disease (in which digesting gluten can damage the small intestine, leading to medical complications)., Michaela O. from Franklin saw a chance to help her community. Her Gold Award project helped aid and educate those recently diagnosed with this chronic autoimmune disease, their families, and the wider community. “As someone who was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1st grade, I understand how hard the transition to a gluten free lifestyle,” says Michaela. “I also understand the health consequences of not living a gluten free diet, the social isolation celiac disease can cause, and the general lack of awareness regarding celiac disease.”
Michaela created a website with information on gluten free restaurants in the community, an explanation and symptoms of celiac disease, reliable resources, feedback forms, a video of her workshop, and more. Her workshop includes a PowerPoint presentation and facilitated discussions, which she presented to various local groups. Michaela also created posters and educational brochures, and distributed them around her community in order to increase awareness. The website and information are being maintained by Franklin Pediatrics and a local community member. “I aspire to go to medical school and become child psychiatrist,” says Michaela. “Working with my local pediatrician’s office and diving deep into the fascinating science of the villi of the small intestine helped me to see the rewarding effects of working in the medical field.”
Kids Serve, Too
“Growing up as a kid, my step father was a helicopter pilot for the Army and spent 2+ years deployed in Asia,” says Gold Award Girl Scout Grace H. of Natick. “Throughout his deployments, I was just 8, and 12. I didn’t get any extra support from the people outside of my family during these difficult times.” Wanting to help other children who have family members serving in the military overseas, Grace created an after-school club for military kids in Natick, working with the school superintendent and principal.
Together, the children engaged in a range of activities, including making posters for a school building, learning coping techniques through yoga, interviewing a Natick veteran, and more. A teacher in the Natick school system and her two children, who are a part of a military family, are continuing the club. “I hope to see more military kids join next year so we can keep showing Natick who these strong people are!” says Grace. “In Girl Scouts I’ve grown up looking up to older girls in my community, and now I am passing down these responsibilities to younger future leaders in my town.”