Ridgefield Girl Scouts earn Gold Award

Ridgefield Girl Scouts Lauren Ahern, Alexandra Caruso, Emma Cowles, Ameesha Dugal, Megan Keough, Emma Lee, Michelle Legan, Nina Moss, Elizabeth Sacchi, and Juliana Waite of Ridgefield have earned the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn.

The Girl Scout Gold Award requires Girl Scouts grades nine through 12 to spend at least 80 hours researching issues, assessing community needs and resources, building a team, and making a sustainable impact in the community. A Gold Award recipient’s accomplishments reflect leadership and citizenship skills that set her apart as a community leader. Nationally, only 6 percent of older Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award. Girl Scouts of Connecticut recently honored the 71 Girl Scouts in Connecticut who have achieved this honor on Sunday, June 4.

For her Gold Award project, Lauren started a club at her high school where students met monthly with comfort dogs and discussed how they can reach out and comfort others in their community. Lauren and her group painted plaques with positive messages and delivered them in person to those in need of encouragement in their town, and organized workshops where the club and comfort dogs met with other organizations to spread happiness. Lauren will continue to run her club during her last year of high school. Her club is getting national attention and serves as a model for other Comfort Clubs throughout the country.

Alexandra addressed the issue of a rise of depression and anxiety among teens by establishing an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) camp where teens who struggle with social interactions can learn how to care for, interact with, and ride a horse. Alexandra’s research showed that those who may have trouble communicating with other people can develop a sense of responsibility, confidence, and trust with an animal, and translate that success when interacting with people. The owner of the local farm where the camp was held will continue to offer her farm as a location for the camp, and members of Alexandra’s team will continue to be counselors for those who want to participate in the future.

Emma created and implemented vaccination kits to help pediatricians distract younger children between the ages four and ten receiving procedural vaccinations. The kit consists of frequently asked questions, a small children’s book in English and Spanish describing the benefits of getting a shot, and a pinwheel for children to blow on during the shot. Emma distributed over 300 kits as well as instructions and digital files for doctors’ offices in the area to continue the program.

For her Gold Award project, Ameesha tackled the global issue concerning quality education for girls in developing countries. She traveled to India and spoke with girls at a village school in Alwar, Rajasthan about the resources they need. Ameesha founded a Girls Learn International Chapter in her town and held two events where she showed the film Girls Rising and brainstormed ways to help support the construction of the infrastructure of the school in India. Ameesha is still in contact with the girls from the village school and will continue to visit them. The Girls Learn International Chapter at Ameesha’s school continues to run under new leadership.

For her project, Megan addressed the generational gap between senior citizens and the younger generation by gathering a group of students to volunteer at her local nursing home.  Megan’s hope was to bring the two generations together by engaging conversation and participating in different activities. Megan went out into her community to encourage other Girl Scout troops and others in her community to visit the nursing home. Part of her project will be passed on to a local Girl Scout troop in Danbury who will continue to visit the nursing home on weekends.

Emma spearheaded a book drive to help donate books and resources to school districts and students in Africa. Emma publicized and spread the world about how people in her community could help get more students in Africa into classrooms. Emma read to second graders about this issue, wrote and conducted a TED Talk for middle school students, and held a Skype call between students in Africa and a sixth-grade class in her town to educate the culture and education gaps in different countries. Emma hopes that spending time educating the younger generations will help them understand and spread the message with others.

Michelle worked with a local neurologist in her town and created an activity book for residents at her local senior living center to help keep their minds active. Michelle and a group of student volunteers visited the senior living center and worked one on one with the residents.  hosting game and movie nights to form positive relationships between the generations. The residents loved the activity book so much that they asked Michelle to make another. Michelle’s activity books will live at multiple doctors’ offices in her community along with a digital file on the neurologist’s website. Students from her high school also plan on continuing Michelle’s project after she graduates.

Nina worked with her local food pantry and created the “Healthy Food Pantry Cookbook.” She volunteered with the pantry to get a feel as to which foods were chosen by families, and what the pantry’s needs were. Nina used this insight to create 16 dietician-approved recipes for her book, and provided cooking demos and samples to people who were picking up their food. Nina printed multiple copies of the book for distribution at the food pantry and it is posted on the Ridgefield Social Services webpage for all to access.

In order to help children reduce their anxiety when undergoing MRI or CT scans, Elizabeth created a YouTube video for children ages 4-12 and their families to access on their smartphones in the pediatric waiting room. Elizabeth also created activity booklets that provided entertainment and information for children about those types of procedures. The directions to access Elizabeth’s YouTube video will continue to hang in the pediatrics’ office for future use and her activity booklets will continue to be provided to patients.

Juliana’s project, “The Bitter Sweet Taste of Chocolate,” increased awareness of the issue of child labor on cocoa farms in Western Africa. She held an expo which included a presentation on human rights violations, the showing of a documentary about cocoa farm workers, and tasting of fair trade chocolate. The attendees reported it was an eye-opening experience. In addition, Juliana has started a campaign to make Ridgefield a Fair Trade Town, a cause which will continue to be promoted by two other Girl Scouts.

“I am beyond proud of our Girl Scouts as we celebrate another century of young women taking the lead and making a sustainable change in our communities,” said Mary Barneby, CEO of Girl Scouts of Connecticut. “By earning the Gold Award, Girl Scouts set themselves apart as top achievers, and are incredible go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders. I can’t wait to see what they will accomplish in the future!”

For more information about the Gold Award or how to become a Gold Award volunteer or mentor, visit gsofct.org.