Driven by passion and focused on sustainability, three local Girl Scouts have earned a Gold Award — the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve.
To earn the award, a Girl Scout must choose a problem in society, devise a solution, make it sustainable and reproducible, and have a connection beyond her local community to a national or global link.
“(The project) has to be something that’s sustainable so that when the project is done it can continue after the Girl Scout has moved on,” said Ellen Govan, a local Girl Scout volunteer who lives in Edmonds.
Three girls from Edmonds-based troops — Sam Ayers, Emma Sturgill and Maia Aikens — received the award after taking an idea and turning it into an actionable plan with far-reaching results.
Ayers and Sturgill are both in Troop 41002, while Aikens is an alumna of Troop 52837. The troops fall under Girl Scouts of Western Washington Council, which includes 18 counties and serves 21,500 Girl Scouts and 5,000 adult volunteers. The local Service Unit 245, Cedar and Sound Service Unit, encompasses all of Edmonds School District and is home to over 600 Girl Scouts and 1,000 adult volunteers.
For her project, Working Wardrobe, Aikens — a Meadowdale High School Class of 2020 graduate — partnered with Washington Kids in Transition to create a professional clothing closet for students who are homeless or in foster care so they can access clothes to wear to job interviews or for starting work. Students also receive employment interview tips.
“I chose this project because after working with Washington Kids in Transition for my Silver Award I learned about the immense need for professional work attire for homeless and foster teens in the Edmonds School District so they could have the right clothes for job interviews and starting work,” she said. “I wanted to provide a way for them to get the support they need.”
According to Aikens, the project took three and a half years and received supplies and donations from various community members and businesses. She also enlisted the help of younger Girl Scouts to sort and label the clothing. Aikens said she hopes to see the project in other school districts.
Ayers — a Shoreline resident who graduated from Shorewood High School last year — also received a Gold Award in 2020. She created a website, called Help Me See Myself, aimed at offering LGBTQ youth role models. During the project, Ayers asked more than a dozen LGBTQ adults questions created by LGBTQ youth. The website also includes a comprehensive list, with links, of resources for LGBTQ youth.
“I chose my Help Me See Myself as my Gold Award project because I wanted there to be a place where LGBTQ+ teens could see and learn from older people within the LGBTQ+ community, be connected with amazing LGBTQ+ organizations here in the Pacific Northwest, and know that there is a future for them after high school,” she said.
Visit the website by clicking here.
Aiming to educate students about the affects humans have on oceans, Sturgill created an Ocean Literacy Curriculum that covers both the positive and negative impacts.
Sturgill — a senior in Edmonds-Woodway High School’s International Baccalaureate program — said the curriculum is designed to get students involved in the environment and teach them about how they are connected to the world around them. It focuses specifically on ocean literacy and teaches students the Ocean Literacy Principles, based on those developed by ocean scientists and educators.
“We are so fortunate to live beside a beautiful ocean with fascinating creatures,” she said. “I wanted to teach other students how to care for it so that future generations can enjoy it.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the curriculum was boosted by an online learning module and has been used by schools and youth groups from Alaska to California.
To learn more about the curriculum, click here.
In addition to the satisfaction of achieving the award, Govan said recipients are able to access certain scholarships only available to Gold Award recipients. She added that recipients are also able to enter the military at a higher rank than most others, if they choose to join.
Less than 6% of Girl Scouts receive the honor annually. According to Govan, Girl Scouts who decide to pursue the Gold Award begin during or after ninth grade. They must first earn two other leadership awards and other prerequisites that take roughly one to two years to complete.
“Usually, in a five-year period, we have one Gold (Award recipient) a year out of our service unit,” she said.
What makes the Girl Scout Gold Award different from the highest honor in Boy Scouting – achieving the rank of Eagle Scout — is the Gold Award’s emphasis on leadership, Govan said.
“Leadership is huge and in an all-girl environment we’ve had research shown that most girls do better in a single-sex environment to let their true selves grow and shine,” she said.
–By Cody Sexton