Nearly 70 local high school students recently earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s most prestigious national honor for girls, the Girl Scout Gold Award. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) honored their accomplishments during a special ceremony on June 4, 2016 at the Chicago Marriott Oak Brook.
“Girl Scout traditions, such as earning the Gold Award, provide a bond that unites generations of girls and women who stepped out of their comfort zones to defy society’s expectations of what women could accomplish,” said Karen Layng, president of the GSGCNWI board of directors.
The Girl Scout Gold Award, which is celebrating its centennial this year, is the highest award that Girl Scouts ages 14-18 may earn. The leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment required to complete the process set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship. Girls complete seven steps to earn the Gold Award, including the completion of a significant service project.
“I have no doubt that you are the generation that will continue to shatter stereotypes about what women can achieve,” GSGCNWI CEO Nancy Wright told the students. “Use the skills you have learned through the process of earning the Gold Award to change the world for the better.”
The Gold Award project fulfills a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global), creates change and is sustaining. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more, dedicated towards their service project. Girls complete a minimum of 40 hours in a leadership role before embarking on the final project.
Elise Mayfield, a former Chicago resident and finalist on MasterChef Season 5, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony and shared the importance of resiliency.
“I know that you all have experienced setbacks in your journey, both in your personal life and, I’d be willing to bet, in your pursuit of the Gold Award,” said Mayfield, who is also the founder and executive chef of Honey Baby Bakery in Homewood, Alabama. “But you bounced back. You took a hit and you kept on going and I know you’ll continue to do that throughout your life.”
According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s report, The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life, Girl Scout Gold Award recipients receive greater lifetime benefits than their peers with regard to positive sense of self, life satisfaction, leadership, life success, community service and civic engagement as a result of their experience in Girl Scouting, including earning their Gold Award.
Girls have earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s highest awards since 1916, just four years after the organization’s founding in 1912. These awards include the Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, First Class and the current Girl Scout Gold Award which was introduced in 1980. Over the course of the last century, millions of Girl Scout alumnae have positively impacted their communities and the world with their creative, impactful and sustainable community service, or Take Action, projects.
As awareness of the Girl Scout Gold Award continues to grow, so does its prestige. An increasing number of colleges are offering financial incentives to those who earn Girl Scout Gold Awards and admissions counselors view it as a sign of an individual girl’s ability to lead. This year, GSGCNWI announced a new scholarship for Gold Award recipients that was made possible through generous donations. The deadline is August 1, 2016 and information is available at www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org.
Photos courtesy of Lynn Renee Photography