Imagine this: A girl identifies a need in her community, whether it’s local, state, national, or global. She creatively identifies a way to fulfill that need. She rounds up a team of experts, community members, and helpful volunteers to turn her vision into a reality. When she leaves, her efforts do not. Her work is sustainable and does more than good; it makes the world a better, safer, happier place to live in. She is a Gold Award Girl Scout.
Therese, a Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana alum, was recently named a National Gold Award Girl Scout. She is a young woman who understands how to serve her community with her passion, know-how, and innovative spirit. She understands the power of a team and knows the value of hard work and resilience. It is her dedication to community engagement, and the continued act of service she spearheaded to earn her Girl Scout Gold Award, and led Therese to be nationally recognized by Girl Scouts of USA for her impressive work.
We had the special opportunity to sit down with Therese for an in-depth conversation about her Gold Award initiative, Project Dandelion, and the power of the Girl Scout in the mission toward equality and anti-violence. Please join us in congratulating and “getting to know” one of this year’s ten National Gold Award Girl Scouts!
Therese, 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scout
Therese is a bright young woman, hopeful aerospace engineer, and current first-year student at Purdue University, but she has been a part of the Girl Scout sisterhood since she started as a Daisy. Her Gold Award journey began early, when her troop was invited to a local Gold Award celebration as they earned their Silver Award.
“Looking at all the girls’ projects, I thought it was an amazing opportunity for girls to make a difference in their communities,” Therese explained. “I realized the Gold Award isn’t just about getting an award, but an opportunity to make the world a better place, and yourself a person who can go into the world and continue to make positive change.“
Therese may be aiming to change the world, but the root of her Gold Award initiative, Project Dandelion, is personal to her. The trauma of knowing a survivor of sexual violence at a young age made a lasting impression on Therese, and set her up to become passionate about justice for other survivors. And after watching the documentary, The Hunting Ground, which details the nationwide sexual violence crisis at colleges and universities, the issue became even more pressing.
“At the time, my friends and I were getting ready to pick our future colleges. We were passionate to find a school that was safe, and after researching the subject, found most of the information buried in hundred-page documents.” She saw a need: for order, for ease, for access to information, for herself and her peers to feel secure choosing their prospective schools.
Her vision culminated in the first resource of its kind, a database organizing information, resources, and statistics concerning sexual violence at colleges and universities in Illinois. Currently, the project encompasses every college in Illinois and is being continued in the future by the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
“If I was a high school student, I would absolutely want this resource. Because I knew I wanted it, and because other people wanted and needed it, I realized there were many people that could benefit. I didn’t want to keep the idea to myself. I felt like I had the capacity to make a lot of change.”
She did not keep the idea to herself, and with the help of a team of 25 high school students and several other professionals in the field of sexual violence prevention, researched, organized, and published mass amounts of data, now available for the public to easily look through and comprehend.
“I’m glad I got to earn my Gold Award doing something I care so much about,” Therese shared. “Hearing the stories of people with personal relationships to the issue of sexual violence, and hearing their enthusiasm for change, kept me going.”
For Therese, the importance of community engagement and social activism cannot be stressed enough. “Everyone has the capacity to make change,” she said, and to make the world a more accepting and positive place to live, all members of a society should strive to make their communities successful by expressing their beliefs. “Everyone should be an advocate for what they believe in, for the good of themselves and the rest of the world.”
Social equity and justice are especially important to Therese, and these beliefs are a core part of her drive to serve her community and set her on the path to earn her Gold Award. Now, as a National Gold Award Girl Scout, Therese sees a major opportunity to encourage young girls to follow the path of advocacy. “In the past, women and girls were told their voices don’t matter or aren’t as valuable, but every woman, and girl, has a unique perspective on the world.”
In order to create a safer, more accepting future for girls, Therese said, “it’s important for them to speak out and make a change,” and Girl Scouts can be an integral part of that. “Girl Scouts continuously provides programs for girls to experience leadership positions in their own communities and raises girls to believe they can make a difference. The skills you gain from Girl Scouts make you a better leader, a better doer, a better everything.”
Therese’s true secret to success lied in her ability to find empowerment in making mistakes. “In order for anything to succeed in a way that is meaningfully lasting, it has to fail first. Every time I heard the word no was a chance to grow.”
To Girl Scouts currently seeking a highest award, Therese’s advice is simple: do not be daunted by a task too big, or insecure about a task supposedly too small. “Any change is change, and that will make the whole world different.” Make a plan, stay focused on each step as it comes, and “follow yourself. You can do it because you can. There is literally nothing stopping you, and you will move mountains.“
Want to learn more about Therese and her project? Read the article in the Chicago Tribune.
Girls Change The World
Every year, Girl Scouts of the USA selects ten exceptionally inspiring Gold Award Girl Scouts, nominated by local councils, as National Gold Award Girl Scouts. Therese is just one of these amazing young women– meet all of this year’s National Gold Award Girl Scouts!
Join us in congratulating Therese and the other National Gold Award Girl Scouts at an International Day of the Girl celebration on Saturday, Oct. 10, where she and the other impressive young women will share their stories and motivations for making waves throughout the nation.
The Mark of the Truly Remarkable
Bronze. Silver. Gold. Three opportunities to make change, use your voice, and advocate for issues you care about. Three opportunities to impact the world through community service, civic engagement, and creative invention.
Are you ready to change the world? Learn more about earning a Highest Award at GCNWI.
Interested in meeting the other members of the GCNWI Gold Award Class of 2020? Read up on our blog series!