Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Kaitlyn Kropp knows what it takes to be a leader.

On Monday, October 10, 2016, the 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador received the Elena of Avalor Scepter of Light Award in honor of her ability to lead through everyday challenges  with the same attributes that define Disney’s Elena of Avalor.

Diane Ikemiyashiro, director of original programming for Disney Junior, presented Kaitlyn with the award on ABC7 and said it symbolizes the “true meaning of leadership.”

Earlier this year, Kaitlyn created an impressive sensory room at The Academy of Forest View in Arlington Heights as her Gold Award project to give those with autism the ability to minimize their stress before returning to class.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout between the ages of 14 and 17 can 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.

Reactions to Kaitlyn’s Gold Award project have been so positive that other schools have contacted her about creating similar spaces in their schools. Click here to see Kaitlyn in action.

A BIG thank you to Roz Varon ABC7, Girl Scout alum and former troop leader, for having us on!

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

With a plethora of construction paper, scissors, glue and fun facts spread before me and my Girl Scout troop, we began the riveting task of creating the world’s best table display for World Thinking Day.

As a wide-eyed Girl Scout Junior, Thinking Day granted me the opportunity to taste new food, meet new people and explore a world of possibilities. It was there, at that glue-covered table, that I discovered my passion for other cultures and travel.

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Growing up, my troop and I would sing camp songs in Cherokee, make music with Lummi sticks, eat Irish soda bread and dream of traveling to the Girl Scout World Centers. We were courageous in spirit, compassionate by action and eager to meet everyone. Little did I know just how much the lessons I learned with my troop would impact the course of my life.

As I got older, I realized that not everyone was as compassionate toward other people and cultures as my troop and I were. So, in my final year as a Girl Scout Ambassador, I combined my passion for culture and the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Millennium Goal of achieving world peace to create the framework for my Gold Award Project.

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Through my project, I educated local students and my Sister Girl Scouts about the lives of people in other countries, especially children in war zones. As part of my project, I conducted a toy and school supply drive with the packaged donations being shipped overseas to military personnel so that they could give the donations to children in the surrounding area in order to promote goodwill between the community and our soldiers.

Additionally, I created a permanent “mailbox to the troops” so that much deserved, handwritten letters of appreciation can always reach our soldiers. By educating the community and encouraging participants to donate a toy or a book, I desired to spread the concept of being compassionate to the next generation and convey to the community that they have the power to make a difference in the world by spreading joy and world peace one toy at a time.

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With such a passion for culture and exploration burning inside, it seems only logical that I would travel abroad and at age 19, I embraced my first opportunity to do so. Through my university, I was able to spend two months studying at the Center For International Learning in Muscat, Oman. During my summer abroad in the Sultanate of Oman, I was able to see the world’s second largest chandelier, walked the worn streets of a nearly 500-year-old city and spend one crazy day exploring London, England.

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From making Diwali candles as a Girl Scout Junior to studying abroad in Oman, the passion for culture and exploration that I discovered and fostered through Girl Scouts continues to shape my life and take me on spectacular journeysNow, as a permanent Girl Scout at heart and world traveler, I hope to educate and inspire others to embrace life with open arms and a compassionate heart.

Megan Ramirez is a recent Gold Award honoree and rising sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.

Local Foundation Awards College Scholarships to Gold Award Girl Scouts

Local Foundation Awards College Scholarships to Gold Award Girl Scouts

Four Gold Award honorees from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana have received college scholarships from the Corinne Jeannine Schillings Foundation in Frankfort, Illinois.

Alexandria Basset of Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Jaina Chu of Hoffman Estates, Illinois; Shannon Layng of Riverside, Illinois; and Jessica Zarik of Crown Point, Indiana were among 12 students who were awarded scholarships to study a foreign language. Six students were also selected to receive scholarships to study abroad.

The Corinne Jeannine Schillings Foundation was established to honor the memory of Corinne Jeannine Schillings, a former Girl Scout who was an avid traveler and believed strongly in higher education for all women. Corinne lost her life in the Baltimore Water Taxi accident in 2004.

“My husband, Denny, and I are extremely proud of how the scholarship recipients represent Girl Scouting and also Corinne’s legacy,” said Corinne’s mom, Karen M. Schillings, who is co-founder of the foundation and a longtime Girl Scout volunteer and historian. “Corinne was such a giving person, and I feel that the girls we ultimately choose have that same sort of characteristic. They’re able to give of themselves and really that’s what Girl Scouts teaches our girls.”

Bassett is attending North Central College where she is majoring in German/secondary education and minoring in English. Chu is attending Brandeis University where she is majoring in biology/Hispanic studies and minoring in health: science, society and policy. Layng is attending University of Chicago where she’s majoring in biological sciences and minoring in Latin/classics. Zarik is attending Aquinas College where she’s majoring in community leadership and minoring in Spanish.

Their submissions were among 115 applications from 24 states and were selected based on a rigorous rubric that included their transcript, a recommendation from a Girl Scout volunteer or staff member and a personal essay.

“It’s such a difficult decision selecting the girls because they’ve accomplished so much already,” said Schillings. “Every time we award a scholarship, it’s really heartwarming to see the girls write back and share how much it means to them. They’re carrying on Corinne’s legacy, sharing their aspirations and how they’re going to change the world.”

Since 2005, the foundation has awarded scholarships to more than 200 Girl Scouts who’ve obtained their Silver and/or Gold Award, which are the highest awards a Girl Scout can earn. To learn more about the foundation and the scholarship requirements, visit www.cjsfoundation.org.

Plainfield Girl Scout Creates Accessible Playground for Everyone

Plainfield Girl Scout Creates Accessible Playground for Everyone

No matter how old you are, you will always get a little excited seeing a swing set in your neighborhood park or school. Swings symbolize childhood memories and having a good time with friends. But sometimes it’s harder for some to use a playground than others.

Girl Scout Ambassador Rachel Lau dedicated her Gold Award project to making sure everyone could have a good time at the park by taking six months to raise money for the Plainfield Parks and Recreation team to buy ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-friendly swings.

In an interview with the parks district, Lau explained why she chose the swings for her Gold Award project.

“I am a huge advocate for children with mental and physical disabilities. I researched the parks within Plainfield, Illinois and found that several were not designed to be safe for children with mental and physical disabilities,” said Lau. “For that reason, I [wanted] to modify a playground in Plainfield to make it handicap-friendly for children.”

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The swings were also the most realistic and cost-efficient solution for this problem that she discovered in her community. The project is also very close to Lau’s heart because of a family friend who has Asperger’s syndrome.

“I was first inspired for my project when I noticed that a family friend, Holden, had trouble playing at public parks,” said Lau. “I often saw the heartbreak of his mom having to pull him off of the equipment.”

This project has made a significant impact in her community and she has truly seen the reward that comes with investing in a sustainable project.

“One of the most successful aspects of my project so far would be my fundraising efforts and finally being able to purchase the swings,” Lau said. “Watching all of my heard work come together was truly rewarding.”

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Rachael Lau’s family friend, Holden

“I hope that these swings will be sustainable for the future because they will stay permanently in their respective parks (Northwest Community Park and Renwick Park) so that children with any disability will be able to enjoy Plainfield parks, just like Holden,” said Lau.

The ADA swings are located at Bott Park,  24550 W. Renwick Rd., as well as Northwest Community Park,  127th St. Plainfield, thanks to Rachel’s fundraising and the Plainfield Park District.

To learn more about how you can earn your Gold Award, click here.

Gurnee Girl Scout Creates Honor Guard for Fallen Firefighters

Gurnee Girl Scout Creates Honor Guard for Fallen Firefighters

NBC certainly made a hit with their show “Chicago Fire” and helped bring awareness to viewers about the trials and dangers of being an active firefighter, but one Girl Scout wanted to make a deeper impression with her Silver and Gold Awards.

Lauren Constantino of Troop 41413 in Gurnee, Illinois wanted to honor fallen firefighters in her Gold Award project and founded the Girl Scout Honor Guard for Fallen Fire Fighters (GSHGFFF). Her mission as State Commander of GSHGFFF is to promote public awareness and honor those who have sacrificed their lives in duty, as well as the honor guards and families.

“While I was working on getting together my flag training and volunteers for my Silver Award, I had an idea of creating my own honor guard, and to make something bigger out of what we were already trying to accomplish,” Lauren said. “Honor guards are a large aspect of my life. My dad was my inspiration for the project, because not only is he a fallen firefighter, but also he began the honor guard at the Gurnee Fire Department and participated in the state and national firefighter honor guards.”

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Lauren and her GSHGFFF team proudly participate in the Annual Honor Guard Convention at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois.

Since GSHGFFF’s founding in January 2015, Lauren and her 15 other members have performed many flag ceremonies, led color guards, participated in Memorial Day parades, as well as multiple events with Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois Honor Guard (AFFI HG) since May 2015.

“The most defining moment is when we were at the Illinois Fire Fighter Memorial ceremony. Our state governor actually talked about us in his speech!” Constantino said.  “It has been so amazing just to see the acceptance and support for the Girl Scout Honor Guard for Fallen Fire Fighters.”

Lauren, as well as the other Girl Scouts who helped her on this journey, were not only able to honor the firefighters, but also the Girl Scouts as they completed trainings, drills and events. Her project has even brought her closer to pursuing a career in law enforcement and possibly ROTC as she enters college in fall 2017. Her family, including her brother, who is a firefighter, is very proud of her accomplishments.

“It is not just a Gold Award project,” said Lauren. “It is an official, established honor guard to support and honor those who put themselves before us every day and put their lives on the line for us, as well as the families who stand by them, and the honor guard members who never forget them.”

For more information about the GSHGFFF, an application to join, or to start your own chapter, email Lauren at gshonorguardfff@outlook.com.

Local Girl Scouts Earn Gold Award

Local Girl Scouts Earn Gold Award

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.

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Gold Award recipients recite the Girl Scout Promise during the ceremony.

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.

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Elise Mayfield addresses the Class of 2016 Gold Award recipients.

“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.

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Girl Scout Ambassador Allison Fron holds her Gold Award pin, certificate and program.

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.

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Girl Scout Ambassador Sonya Ajani proudly demonstrates her Gold Award project, which consisted of a 72-hour survival kit and workshops for her community.

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.

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Photos courtesy of Lynn Renee Photography

Join Us for #100DaysOfGold

Join Us for #100DaysOfGold

To commemorate the impactful work of all who have earned Girl Scouting’s highest awards, we’re celebrating with a council-wide service initiative known as #100DaysOfGold.

Service units, troops, volunteers, girls, families and supporters are invited to do good in their communities throughout our 100 days of service, starting on March 12 and going through June 20. Let’s show everyone what it means to go gold and make the world a better place!

Are you participating in #100DaysOfGold? We’d love to learn more! Please complete our quick online form and tag us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram when you share stories and photos.

Starting on March 1, anyone who participates can visit their local Gathering Place and grab a bright, fun and complimentary #100DaysOfGold slap bracelet!

 

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Need some ideas to get started? Take a look at the list below and check back as new ones are added.

Events:

April 15-17

Feed the Hungry: Join North Shore Seeds at Christian Heritage Academy to pack seeds to send to impoverished people around the world. Volunteers will work in two-hour shifts. For more information or to register, click here.

April 25

Chicago Youth Service Day: Join youth across Chicago for an interactive day of service and non-violent action. Projects are youth-driven and include beautifying community spaces, serving senior citizens and learning about world hunger. Click here to learn more.

April 30 and May 1:

Kits for Kids: Help Project C.U.R.E. through their Kits for Kids program by bringing “medicine cabinet supplies” and a nominal donation to give the gift of health to other kids around the world. Join the Packing Party on April 30 at the Friendship Center in Country Club Hills and May 1 at the Vernon Hills Gathering Place. Registration is $6 per girl.

May 7:

Run for the Kids: Join the Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley at their 13th Annual Run for the Kids: Superhero Hustle 5K Run/2 Mile Walk in Villa Park. Take part in the festivities or cheer along participants with pom-poms and colorful signs of encouragement.

May 9:

Almost Home Kids: This Illinois-based organization provides transitional care in a home-like setting to medically fragile children with complicated health needs and respite care in Chicago and Naperville. Help them celebrate National Nurses Week (starting May 9) by honoring pediatric nurses who provide important care for the children at Almost Home Kids. Troops can bring a meal to nurses during the day or night shift. Or create goodie bags containing chocolate, hand lotion, pens and small snacks for the nurses. For more information, please email Lisa Snow, community outreach coordinator, at lsnow@almosthomekids.org.

May 13-15:

All Things That Glitter: Do you have new or gently used accessories, such as handbags, jewelry and scarves sitting around the house collecting dust? Donate your items to under-served girls at Chicago Public Schools through All Things That Glitter’s accessory drive. You can drop off your accessories at our Vernon Hills Gathering Place (650 N. Lakeview Parkway). For more information, click here.

June 3-4 and June 10-11:

Forget-Me-Not Days: Help the Alzheimer’s Association raise awareness about the disease by collecting donations outside storefronts, business offices, tourist attractions and more. Chicago collections take place June 3-4 and collections in the suburbs will take place June 10-11. In exchange for a donation, volunteers will distribute Forget-Me-Not flower seeds to plant in honor of the more than five million people living with Alzheimer’s. To learn more or find a volunteer opportunity near you, please click here or contact Rebekah Marquez at rmarquez@alz.org.

June 11:

Beautify Your Gathering Place: Get your hands dirty planting flowers and spreading mulch at your Girl Scout Gathering Place, then make a recycled craft to take home. You’ll also receive a fun patch and a pair of gardening gloves. For more information and to register, click here.

Special Events for Girl Scout Alumnae:

 

June 18:

Chicago Park District Service Day: At Nichols Park in Hyde Park (1355 E. 53rd Street, Chicago) from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m., join your Sister Girl Scouts in cleaning up the park, mulching, weeding, gardening and other projects that may come up. It’s a great opportunity to work along with other Girl Scout alums to help make the world a better place. Suggested attire: closed-toed shoes, comfortable clothes and gardening gloves. Street parking is available.

To register, please visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org/alumnae. For more information, please contact Pat Broughton, VP of Philanthropic Innovation at pbroughton@girlscoutsgcnwi.org or 312-912-6342.

Ongoing:

Alexian Brothers: With locations throughout the Chicagoland area, there are plenty of opportunities to care and help others while learning about the healthcare field. For more information, click here or email Laura Ingrim at laura.ingrim@alexian.net.

American Heart Association Patch Program: A healthy heart is critical to a healthy lifestyle, which is why we’ve teamed up with the American Heart Association to promote heart awareness. To learn more about the program and to register, visit our blog.

Amnesty International: There are plenty of ways to get involved with Amnesty International and lobby for human rights. Sign a petition, attend an event or start a campaign at your school. Learn more here or email Emily Walsh at ewalsh@aiusa.org for details.

Bernie’s Book Bank: Want to share your love of reading with at-risk children throughout Chicagoland? Volunteer for Bernie’s Book Bank in Lake Bluff, IL. You can drop in at the warehouse or collect books on the bank’s behalf. Learn more here or email volunteer@berniesbookbank.org.

Bridge Communities: Connect homeless families to a better future by volunteering with Bridge Communities in Glen Ellyn, IL. You can also earn “A Heart for the Homeless” patch. For more information, click here.

Chemo Survivor Kits: If you’ve ever had a family member or friend diagnosed with cancer, you know how difficult the process can be. By collecting a few simple items in a small tote bag, chemo patients will know the small difference you made. Register here.

Chicago Cares: Volunteer at locations around the city, such as Mercy Homes, local schools, and Garfield Park Conservatory, with Chicago Cares. Details here.

Clean up your playground or park: Make the world a more beautiful place by picking up trash in your neighborhood.

Clean your closet: Get a head start on spring cleaning by donating your gently used clothes to a local family or refugee shelter. Click here to find out how Girl Scout Madison Fanta started a clothing drive in Saint John, Indiana.

Connection of Friends: Enrich the lives of teenagers and adults with special needs by volunteering with Connection of Friends in Wheaton, IL. Learn more and apply today here.

Connections for the Homeless: Team up with your troop to host a donation drive for this nonprofit organization that helps people dealing with homelessness in Evanston. The most commonly needed items include household size toiletries, cleaning supplies, linens and blankets. You can also gather a group to cook and serve dinner at Hilda’s Place Shelter or sign up for a Second Saturday for Service where you can help clean the shelter, sort donations, organize the food pantry and more. For more information, click here.

Cradles to Crayons: Looking for a fun and easy way to give back? Create customized “KidPacks” for children in need. Click here for more details or email Kelsey Miklos at kmilkos@cradlestocrayons.org.

Cuddle Comfort: Create cuddly small pillows or lap blankets as welcome gifts for pediatric patients, senior citizens, homeless shelters and emergency rooms. Register here.

Deborah’s Place: Help women heal, grow and lead at Deborah’s Place, a safe community for women experiencing homelessness in Chicago. With ongoing, individual and group opportunities available, there’s a chance to give back for everyone.

Donate gently used books, toys and games: Make another kid’s day by donating items you don’t use anymore to a children’s hospital or family shelter.

Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry: Volunteer during client shopping hours and food deliveries at the Elmhurst-Yorkfield Food Pantry. For details, click here.

Gilda’s Club Chicago: There are different ways to help people who’ve been affected by cancer by helping at Gilda’s Club Chicago. Whether it’s greeting members at the reception desk or playing with children and teens, find out how you can get involved here.

Girl Scout Help: If you want to give back and you’re not sure where to start, begin with Girl Scout Help, which connects Girl Scouts with various volunteer opportunities.

Greenheart Travel: Want to rescue animals in Costa Rica or save elephants in Sri Lanka? You can make a difference by volunteering abroad with Greenheart Travel.

Honor Flight: Pay homage to the brave women and men who served our country by becoming an Honor Flight volunteer. Help these heroes get their day of honor in Washington, D.C. by clicking here or emailing Kathi Krankoski at hfcscouts@gmail.com.

Humanitarian Service Project: Support families in need by volunteering with Humanitarian Service Project in Carol Stream, IL. Opportunities include food and toy sorting.

Host a bake sale or lemonade stand: Whip up a batch of your favorite sweet treat and donate the proceeds to your visit charity.

La Casa Norte: Serve youth and families facing homelessness by getting involved with this Chicago-based organization. Learn more about open volunteer positions here.

Little Hands – Big Hearts: This volunteer opportunity is perfect for little ones who want to make a big difference. For more information, click here.

Meals on Wheels Chicago: Visit with seniors residing in independent living communities with Meals on Wheels’ Friends Beyond the Years program. Details here.

Midwest Soarring Foundation: This nonprofit is dedicated to “educating the public about various American Indian cultural issues, environmental issues, and building community among all people.” To learn more or to volunteer, click here.

Northern Illinois Food Bank: Help the hungry by volunteering at one of three locations in Northern Illinois. Children ages 8 and older can volunteer with families or in groups with adult chaperones. For more information, click here.

Jamaica Volunteer Expeditions: Learn about agriculture and farming, environment and conservation and more when you volunteer abroad in Jamaica. Find out more here.

Organize a blood drive in your community: Recruit donors and help schedule appointments. Create thank-you cards to hand out at the drive. Visit the American Red Cross to learn more.

Restoration Workday: Make use of your green thumb and help restore biodiversity and function to our native ecosystems with the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

Ronald McDonald House Charities: Support the families staying at your local Ronald McDonald Houses and Ronald McDonald Family Room by collecting wish list items, volunteering in the Houses to bake sweets and creating a craft for patients and siblings to enjoy. Each location has specific needs that groups can directly help with and support. Register here.

Send cards to soldiers: Thank women and men in the armed forces for their service to our country. While you’re at it, send cards to veterans, too!

Share Your Soles: Help provide shoes for children and adults in need by volunteering with Share Your Soles. Learn how you can get involved here.

The Puppy Mill Project: If you’re a passionate animal lover, check out volunteer opportunities with this Chicago nonprofit. To sign up, click here.

Visit a local nursing home: Take some time to visit senior citizens at a nursing home in your community. You can read with them or have fun making crafts. Don’t live near a nursing home? Offer to help an elderly neighbor with household chores.

Volunteer at an animal shelter: Help cute critters ready for adoption by volunteering to play with them and groom them. Or you can collect items for the shelter, such as food and supplies, or make toys for the animals.

 

 

 

 

 

Arlington Heights Student Spearheads Project for Autistic Classmates

Arlington Heights Student Spearheads Project for Autistic Classmates

Creating a sensory room for students on the autism spectrum at The Academy at Forest View in Arlington Heights was a cause close to Kaitlyn Kropp’s heart.

Kropp, 17, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, said she knows all too well the struggles she and many of her classmates face during the school day, particularly when they are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

“Sometimes we get sensory overloaded or we just can’t stay still,” said Kropp, a junior at the academy in Township High School District 214. “Instead of buying junk food, I thought to myself, ‘why can’t I buy something else that everyone would benefit from?'”

This month, as Autism Awareness Month celebrations across the world aim to educate people about a disorder that affects one out of 68 people, Kropp is sharing her story with hopes of inspiring other teens like herself to advocate for their community.

On a recent morning, she was delighted to be excused from class to give a visitor a quick tour of the sensory room that opened earlier this year, and which she has named, “Chillax,” shorthand for “chill-out and relax.”

After district administrators agreed to her project and she was awarded a $1,000 IDEA grant, Kropp said she researched sensory rooms, compiling a list of features she liked and which would be suitable for the space, a former storage room.

Determined to accommodate every sense but smell and taste, she sought out an array of materials that provide calming and tactile experiences and protect students with padded mats in a muted gray color on the walls.There’s a “bungee chair,” which Kropp described as feeling like “a warm hug,” and manipulative features like Play-Doh, stress balls and weighted blankets.

“A sensory room should not be too cool, but not too hot, we have a dimmer switch for the lights, and a music player so we can listen to something simple and soothing, like ocean sounds or white noise,” Kropp said.

When asked what kind of events or situations might trigger the need for a student to visit the sensory room, Kropp described a social scenario common to all teens, which she sums up as “too much drama.”

“When my friends fight, sometimes they want me to choose sides, but I’m more like Switzerland,” Kropp said. “It makes me feel like I want to cry, or to punch something. I just feel very, very overwhelmed.”

Kara Kendrick, director of The Academy at Forest View and Life Transition Program, said the sensory room project is being recognized with a prestigious Girl Scouts Gold Award. It will be presented to Kropp in June.

“We have never had a student earning a Gold Award, so this is a big, big deal for us, and we certainly wanted to support her,” Kendrick said. “Through Kaitlyn’s efforts, we were able to give this sensory space to our students, and she did all of the work.”

To read the full story, visit chicagotribune.com.

Photo via Karen Ann Cullotta / Pioneer Press

Gold Award: A Look Back

Gold Award: A Look Back

I can still remember 2008 when I was asked what my greatest accomplishment was for my college essay, and I wrote, getting my Gold Award.

Very few people at the time stayed in Girl Scouts to get their Gold Award. The cute faces no longer sold all of those Girl Scout Cookies and the stigma of being a good girl “Girl Scout” wasn’t very popular in high school.

I was part of the cool Girl Scout group. We liked volunteering. We spent our Girl Scout money on a cruise to Mexico and we stayed at Embassy Suites rather than a campsite for our annual Girl Scout meeting. Girl Scouting really is what you make it and it can be cool at any age.

I love volunteering and building community and that desire began with Girl Scouts – it began as my sister did her Silver Award project cleaning a home for pregnant teenagers and sewing baby bags for them with her troop. It began as we planned a trip to Savannah, Georgia to visit Juliette Gordon Low’s House or the Kennedy Space Center where we slept under a rocket. It began as I worked on badges to learn how to cook.

When I was 17, I started working on my Gold Award project. I was one of two girls in my troop to get her Gold Award. This service project for a Gold Award had to be over 60 hours and had to be something that lasted. So, if it was an event, it had to be an annual event. To start, I had to analyze my community and various issues within my South Florida community. I was more involved with my church community as a Sunday School teacher. I decided to make a mural of all of the kids in my Sunday School class for my Gold Award. I’m not the best artist, so I worked with other artists to help draw and paint my students. I think when we are young, we see our limits and don’t realize how powerful and impactful we are. It was rewarding to have my students represent a piece of the church and be a visual reminder to the diversity different voices within the congregation.

As an adult, I wanted to volunteer in my community, and I did a Google search for empowering women organizations to volunteer. The first result was Girl Scouts. I was afraid to be a Girl Scout leader because I didn’t have children, and I didn’t know if I could still relate to children. But I pursued that option.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana paired me with another single twenty something, and we started a new Girl Scout troop in Edgewater, Illinois. We started in the middle of Girl Scout Cookie Season and thankfully sold all of our cookies and made more in donations than in profits, so we could buy books and Girl Scout uniforms for every girl in our combination Brownie and Junior troop.

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My girls constantly surprised me with their insight, their energy, and their creativity. We participated in World Thinking Day by choreographing a dance, learning about Ivory Coast, and making too many plantains to share with the other Girls Scouts. We took a day trip to the Art Institute and completed our first Girl Scout badge. I got to teach and prepare the financial statements and most importantly, I got to know kids and families in my community.

It was a great experience and the four troop leaders who replaced us also were twenty-somethings without kids. I like to think we started a trend.

Amanda Elliott is a Chicago-based marketing professional and blogs about city life and the Chicago start-up community for Windy City Cosmo

Become a Superhero with the Girl Scout Super Gold Power Patch Program

Become a Superhero with the Girl Scout Super Gold Power Patch Program

If you’ve ever wanted to become a superhero, now’s your chance.

In celebration of the centennial of the Highest Award this year, we’ve developed a program for Daisies, Brownies and Juniors to learn about what it takes to be a super Girl Scout!

The Super Gold Power Patch Program features fun, high-energy games about the history of the Highest Awards in Girl Scouting; colorful comic strips featuring real-life examples of Bronze, Silver and Gold Award projects that have had a deep impact on the community; activities for girls to create their own one-of-a-kind superhero comic strip and emblem – and envision their own Highest Award project for the future.

The curriculum and patches are $5 for each Girl Scout participant. To learn more about the Super Gold Power Patch Program and to register, click here.