Since 1916, Girl Scouts have been making meaningful, sustainable change in their communities and around the world. The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn, acknowledges the power behind each recipient's dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. Recipients of this award are courageous leaders and visionary change makers.
This year, Girl Scouts will celebrate the Gold Award Centennial - 100 years of creating change and acting as leaders in their communities.
The Gold Award project is the culmination of all the work a girl puts into "going for the gold." The project should also fulfill a need within a girl's community (whether local or global), and create change that has the potential to be ongoing or sustainable.
The Gold Award requires a Girl Scout to identify an issue and investigate it to understand what can be done to address the problem. The girl forms a team to act as a support system while she leads the project, then creates a plan for the project, which is used to educate and inspire others about the cause they are addressing.
In 2008, April Zendarski with the assistance of Ashley Schichtel and Holly Zendarski of Troop 44 in Franklinville, created a Gold Award project focused on gaited horses - animals that are bred for a smooth ride. The girls were incensed. They claimed gaited horses were being abused for horse shows with chemicals, caustic agents and mechanical devices that are attached to hooves to make the horses step higher, which will earn higher points at shows.
Teaming up with Friends of Sound Horses, the Scouts learned more about this process and created a YouTube video, which has received more than 380,000 views and was also turned into a DVD, which has reached international distribution. The girls were asked by then-FOSH President Lori Northrup to present the video at the Sound Horse Conference held in Gainesville, Florida, in March 2009. In 2015, the DVD was still receiving attention and informing the public. The project was recently entered into the Equus Film Festival NYC, held in Brooklyn, as a piece of a three-part documentary.
Zendarski's project was a sustainable effort to create change in both her community, and potentially anywhere the video was viewed. Her project provides resources to help others encourage change and attempt to end the cruelty of horse soring.
The Girl Scout Research Institute's report, "The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life," stated 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, thanks to their experience in Girl Scouting (including earning their Gold Award).
When compared to non-Girl Scout alumnae, the report found Gold Award recipients soar when it comes to seeing themselves as a leader, providing service to others through volunteerism, and positive attitudes about themselves and the lives they lead. More generally, over 90 percent of Girl Scouts not only attributed their success in life to Girl Scouts, but they also said they could not have had access to the same experiences anywhere else.
It's not only Girl Scouts who understand the value of the Gold Award. Some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements.
"Celebrating 100 Years of Changing the World" will be observed at the Gold Award Ceremony on June 4. For more information, visit gswny.org.