Spreading the Buzz: Elizabeth K. Helps Protect Bees Worldwide
Elizabeth chose to address the public’s lack of knowledge and fear of bees, especially among children. She then took it a few leaps further by addressing the need for legislative awareness and support for bees on a state and local level, and the need for habitat protection. Her efforts to “Educate! Legislate! Populate!” began with training a team to present dozens of fun, hands-on educational activities, displays, and workshops. She then connected with environmental education organizations, museums, community gardens, and farms, as well as other groups who rely on bees and the environment.
Through her efforts, she was able to reach thousands of people across New York, Europe, Japan, and Australia directly—and thousands more worldwide through social media. She taught adults and children about bees, and showed how anyone can help them by taking action. She then teamed with local and state legislators, writing and promoting bee-friendly legislation. She brought pressure through grassroots advocacy, including petitions, emails, and phone calls—resulting in Pollinator Awareness Week being established in towns and villages across the state. She then had a bill passed in the New York State Assembly and Senate and signed by Governor Cuomo. Funding for bee research is also being passed in the state budget. To continue her work, she is creating a nonprofit geared at continued public education on the importance of bees.
Q: Tell me about your Gold Award project and why you chose it.
A: For my Gold Award, I did a project called New York is a Great Place to BEE. I wanted to teach people about bees and why they’re super important. In my project, I educated people about honey bees and native bees, focusing more on native bees because people know less about them as compared to honey bees. I worked on native and honey bee-friendly legislation with legislatures to get passed through in both the New York State Assembly and also some proclamations from smaller legislatures. I then, with the help of people who are bee helpers and have bee houses, helped populate local nature reserves around my area with more bees. I was really passionate about this. I love bees and I heard they’re dying out and I wondered why it was happening. Bees are super important because they are responsible for pollinating every third bite on our plate. I realized I needed to do something now.
Q: Do you think Girl Scouts helps nurture your interest in the environment and outdoors?
A: Girl Scouts has definitely nurtured my interest in the outdoors because of all the activities I did as a Daisy and by doing these activities with other people. Since my experience with Girl Scouts, I’ve always liked going to the Outdoor Discovery Center and Nature Museum, hikes and camping trips with other Girl Scouts. We did a couple when I was younger and those were awesome—I liked them a lot.
Q: Why do you think it’s important for girls to be exposed to the outdoors?
A: If you’re exposed to the outdoors, then you have a connection with the planet and the environment. This encourages girls to go outside, play, look around and discover things for themselves that you can’t necessarily learn unless you go outside.
Q: What does your Gold Award mean to you?
A: To me, my Gold Award means so much because getting your Gold Award is the biggest deal in Girl Scouts. It’s opened up so many doors for me. After my Gold Award came, I put it on all on my [college] applications and I got into my top college. This has meant the world to me. I’ve received scholarships with all the community service I did with my project, been able to talk to lot of organizations, and have had so many opportunities to speak with places that I can go into and influence.
Q: What college are you going to? Has being involved in Girl Scouts all these years prepared you for this moment?
A: My top college was Cornell University, where I will be studying biological engineering at their College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Through my Girl Scout projects, I did a lot of presentations and public speaking, which will be very helpful to me at Cornell to speak up in class or in a group. Girl Scouts has helped me out a lot with group discussions, brainstorming, and so many ways that girls get prepared to work in teams.
Q: Has Girl Scouts transformed your perception of what you’re capable of?
A: I thought I would never be able to finish my Gold Award, do all these presentations or talk to people and have them listen to me about bees or why they are important. I thought people didn’t care about bees and they weren’t going to listen to me. Now I know that lots of people care about bees. I have a voice and am able to talk to people about things that are important to me.
Q: What was your biggest challenge with your Gold Award Project?
A: My biggest challenge was that I was afraid of talking to authority and speaking to people who I consider to be really important. For instance, I worked with a local assemblyman James Skoufis in New York, he came to our fall festival in Cromwell and he was lobbying. I was so scared. I had to have my dad introduce us first. I was just so nervous. I couldn’t go up and talk to him.
Going through my Gold Award, I’ve become more comfortable with approaching people for things that I need. One of my biggest insecurities was asking people about things that would help me because I don’t like to feel like I’m imposing.
Q: What advice would you give to a girl who wanted to go for her Gold Award but was nervous about it?
A: My advice would be to pick something that you would be proud of accomplishing when you’re done. When you do your Gold Award, you want to look back and say I did that and that’s awesome! If you can’t look back and say that, then I would say to try to find something that fits you better. It should be something that you can get into and that you are passionate about. People will help you if you have a passion.
Q: How does Girl Scouts teach you resilience?
A: Girl Scouts brings out resilience because you are exposed to new things to try. You get the opportunity to keep trying them until you succeed or you feel that you’ve gotten where you want to be. Resilience is all about sticking with something.