2020 National Gold Award Girl Scouts Tackled Pressing Issues in Uncertain Times, from Healthcare Access, to Food Deserts, to Distracted Driving

Ten innovative National Gold Award Girl Scouts earned the organization’s top honor for powering sustainable change for some of today’s greatest challenges—and even saving lives.

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NEW YORK, NY (October 6, 2020)—Ahead of the International Day of the Girl on October 11, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) announced its annual top ten teen activists and change-makers: the 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scouts. To be recognized as National Gold Award Girl Scouts, the organization’s highest distinction, these girls showed extraordinary leadership and created change with lasting impact on pressing issues Americans face today—including healthcare access and education, food insecurity, campus sexual assault, menstrual equity, and distracted driving. And Gold Award Girl Scouts not only create immediate positive change, but they make a sustainable impact that will continue to benefit others for years to come.

The world has experienced significant change this year, and Girl Scouts are continuing to transform their communities in thoughtful, innovative ways. Even during a global pandemic, shelter-in-place orders, and remote learning, these remarkable leaders addressed root causes of important issues that in some cases have affected them personally—engineering a solar-powered helicopter pad for more efficient critical medical care, creating a database resource for students that seeks to reduce campus sexual assault, developing a kid-friendly insulin calculator for diabetics, advocating for legislation to end distracted driving and period poverty, and more. As our country looks to today’s youth as tomorrow’s leaders, Gold Award Girl Scouts continue to lead the change they want to see in the world.

“We are immensely proud of the 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scouts! They are addressing issues that impact their community and matter to them,” said interim GSUSA CEO Judith Batty. “To earn the Gold Award, Girl Scouts must identify the source of a problem, develop a sustainable solution, and engage their communities in bringing about that solution. These ten remarkable girls are proof that Girl Scouts gives girls the tools to harness their inner power and make a meaningful difference in the world. In this difficult year and always, Girl Scouts are our hope for the future.”

On October 10, girls are invited to attend the Girl Scouts Change the World virtual celebration ahead of International Day of the Girl to meet the ten 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scouts as they share their projects to inspire a new generation to step up in unique ways and transform the world around them. The event is powered by technology sponsor Microsoft. It is specially designed for Girl Scouts in grades 4-12 but is open to caregivers, volunteers, and girls who want to get inspired.  

“Microsoft believes in inspiring girls to become the next generation of innovators and leaders,” said Olga Lymberis, Sr. Director, Community, Small Business, Education and Cloud Marketing, Microsoft. “For the second year, we are sponsoring the National Gold Award Girl Scout celebration because we know that closing the gender gap in fields like STEM requires tapping into girls’ creativity, providing encouragement, and highlighting real-world role models like these Gold Award Girl Scouts. By highlighting girls’ incredible achievements, Microsoft is continuing its efforts to promote diversity, inclusion and gender equality now and in the future.”

Thousands of Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award each year, the highest achievement a Girl Scout in high school can earn for tackling an issue that is dear to her and driving lasting change in her community and beyond. Annually, GSUSA recognizes ten of these girls as National Gold Award Girl Scouts for completing projects that exemplify strong leadership and sustainable impact. Earning the Gold Award opens doors to scholarships, preferred admission tracks for college, and amazing career opportunities—as well as skills that set girls up for success, like strategic thinking, communication, collaboration, problem solving, and time management.

Meet the 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scouts

Abigail P.—Theatre Access for Children with Disabilities
Girl Scouts of San Jacinto

Alarmed by the lack of access to the stage for young actors with disabilities, Abigail created the Curtain Call For All program at a local community theatre to open up opportunities, ultimately increasing representation on the national stage. First, she installed an ADA-approved wheelchair ramp so that mobility challenged actors could access the stage. She then consulted with a pediatric physical therapist and special education professionals, recruited and trained teen acting assistants, and produced a two-week summer theatre camp program for children with cognitive and/or physical disabilities that culminated in a performance for friends and family. The program boosted campers’ skills and confidence to continue in theatre, gave the teen assistants valuable experience engaging with people with disabilities, and will be sustained by the theatre.

Alex R.—Distracted Driving Education and Lobbying
Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama

Every day in the United States, 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver. After experiencing the pain of losing her cousin to distracted driving, Alex started a petition and created educational materials to teach people about the many dangerous distractions behind the wheel, including but not limited to texting. She created videos that local businesses have shown to over 40,000 employees and that have been incorporated into statewide drivers education training. Alex also advocated to every Alabama state legislator to pass House Bill 74 banning the use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle; the bill is currently slated to be voted on by the Alabama House of Representatives. She will continue to lobby elected officials until Alabama becomes a “hands-free” state, which will save lives.

Callie M.—Engineering an Insulin Calculator App
Girl Scouts of Central California South

After her younger brother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Callie saw how difficult and stressful it was for him and his caregivers to calculate how much insulin he needed at meal times and to correct for high blood glucose levels. She developed a formula that would make the calculations easier for people who want this support, refined it in consultation with her engineering and math teachers and her brother’s endocrinologist, and piloted it among Type 1 diabetics in her community. Callie is now leading a team at a tech company to develop her formula into an app for mobile devices. Because diabetes is such a prevalent condition—Type 1 diabetes affects 1.6 million people today—and because not everyone is eligible for or can afford an insulin pump (which does the calculation automatically), Callie’s easy-to-use, cost-effective tool will have far-reaching impact for diabetics who need help calculating the necessary units of insulin.

Carly N.—Rethinking Book Access
Girl Scouts of Wisconsin Southeast

Books change kids’ lives: research shows that children who grow up with books at home perform better academically, yet socioeconomically disadvantaged children are less likely to have books in the home or to read at home. Distance to the library and late fines can be a barrier to access, so Carly created a book room at a local school where students can borrow books without penalty. She led a team to collect book donations, organize the space, and plan family literacy events. Eighty-four percent of the school’s students regularly checked out five or more books. School leaders will continue running the book room and hosting events, and Carly created resources that were shared with hundreds of literacy experts, educators, and others who want to replicate the idea in their communities.

Julia T.—State Legislation for Menstrual Equity
Girl Scouts of Colorado

People worldwide experience period poverty and stigma, and research shows that one in five teens in the U.S. has struggled to afford period products and 84% have either missed class time or know someone who has because they didn’t have access to period products. After a successful eight-month campaign to get her high school to distribute free menstrual products in bathrooms, Julia helped draft and testify on behalf of Colorado House Bill 1131, a grant program that would award funding for menstrual products to Colorado high schools with large populations of students receiving free or reduced lunch. Although the bill ultimately stalled due to COVID-19 related budget cuts, the impact of her advocacy has been widespread: she rallied community support for the issue of period poverty, gained commitments from several legislators, and got the two largest school districts in the state to agree to make menstrual products available in their schools.

Kennedy J.—Youth Service-Learning Activism
Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont

Research shows that students who participate in service-learning opportunities report an increased commitment to addressing social issues and experience a lasting influence on identity formation. Kennedy noticed that many students at her school shared the same service-learning goals that she had but lacked the tools or resources to break down years of social injustice among under-represented groups locally and globally. She took matters into her own hands by founding a club for young civic-minded leaders who addressed issues such as menstrual equity in Kenya, affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness, and environmental conservation. Kennedy also created a framework composed of 50 local partners which paired student interests with needs in the community. Not only did the club members report an increase in service-learning hours, but three students received a service-learning diploma at graduation. The club will continue carrying out this important work under the leadership of the current president.

Kiara B.—Combatting Food Deserts
Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast

Without accessible and affordable fresh food options, many people living in food deserts rely on cheaper, less healthy options, which is interconnected with educational attainment, health, and economic prospects. Kiara partnered with a local organization to address this issue in her own community and promote affordable access to healthy food options by funding and building a wheelchair-accessible community garden. She and her team harvested and delivered over 600 pounds of produce from the garden to a local food pantry. Community gardens also have positive implications for well-being, teamwork and relationship building, and the environment. Local organizations will sustain Kiara’s garden, which will be a source of fresh food for the community for years to come.

Natalie A.—Engineering for Healthcare Access
Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails

Research estimates that around 600,000 people are injured at ski and snowboard areas in the U.S. each year. Natalie, a National Ski Patroller with the Rocky Mountain Division, recognized that the ski hill she monitored needed a faster, more efficient way of transporting injured people to medical care. With the help of local air medical services, she engineered a new solar-powered helicopter pad that enabled people to be taken directly from the point of injury to air ambulance medical services. Additionally, concerned about the lack of female peers in her robotics and engineering courses, Natalie hosted an all-girls engineering workshop to demonstrate concepts like circuitry, drafting, and 3D computer-assisted design to encourage STEM mentorship with younger girls. She also uploaded a tutorial of basic wiring techniques for the solar powered landing zone to a website for girls to access engineering demonstrations.

Siya K.—Pediatric Dental Disease
Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta

Pediatric dental disease affects one in five children and is the one of the most chronic childhood diseases in the U.S., while oral cancer kills one person per hour per day. Siya addressed oral healthcare inequalities among underserved populations in both the U.S. and India by developing a three-pillar model of education, prevention, and treatment—ultimately collecting 130,000 hygiene supplies from community donations and corporate sponsorships, educating 5,650 children about oral health through 110 seminars, distributing thousands of pamphlets and hygiene kits, and leading 175 volunteers. Siya has connected families to her national online registry of providers and to a network of mobile clinics, dental offices, and hospitals offering affordable treatment and oral cancer screenings in Georgia and India. She has expanded her model to four other states, and her nonprofit, the Neelok Foundation, supports the project’s continued growth.

Therese M.—Campus Sexual Assault Database
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana;

After her friend went through a sexual assault crisis in eighth grade, and knowing sexual violence affects hundreds of Americans every day, Therese became passionate about advocacy and justice to widen information access and discussion about this issue. Learning that campus sexual assault statistics are often purposefully covered up and resources for students are often buried online, she created a database that promotes sexual assault information transparency and safer schools to help students understand the reality of the issue. She collaborated with a mentor from the Family Shelter Service of Metropolitan Family Services DuPage and built a team that organized and compiled a database encompassing crime statistics, reporting history, student resources, and general information. Therese’s advocacy brought local and statewide attention to the issue, and the database currently is listed as a statewide sexual assault resource through an Illinois organization.

This year, National Gold Award Girl Scout nominations underwent a rigorous multi-round review process, with finalist applications reviewed by a panel of previous National Gold Award Girl Scouts, leaders from a range of professional fields, GSUSA staff, Girl Scouts’ national volunteer partners, and representatives from the Kappa Delta Foundation and Arconic Foundation. The 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scouts will receive a combined $100,000 in college scholarships from Susan Bulkeley Butler, founder of a women’s leadership development organization and a former member of the Girl Scouts of the USA Board of Directors. The Kappa Delta Foundation and Arconic Foundation also each generously contributed $50,000 in college scholarships.

Girl Scouts—like these incredible young women—make the world a better place every day and will continue to act as bold advocates for a brighter future. To see how you can get involved and make a difference as a member or volunteer, visit www.girlscouts.org/join.

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