In preparation for International Day of the Girl on October 11, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is announcing this year’s National Gold Award Girl Scouts—ten teen activists and change-makers who created innovative and sustainable solutions for today’s most pressing issues and are being honored with the organization’s highest distinction. While people worldwide are feeling the effects of urgent local, national, and global challenges, including LGBTQ representation, mental health, food deserts, ocean pollution, and access to education, these Girl Scouts found ambitious ways to lead the charge and transform the world.
Fueled by passion, persistence, and a resistance to accept the status quo, the National Gold Award Girl Scouts were selected from an impressive pool of this year’s Gold Award Girl Scouts nationwide for their extraordinary leadership and ability to develop lasting solutions—and achieve remarkable results—for critical issues in their communities and beyond. Girl Scouts who earn the Gold Award not only change the world for the better, they change it for good.
“This year’s National Gold Award Girl Scouts have truly distinguished themselves as visionary leaders,” said GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. “In a time when an increasing number of young people are using their voices to come together and take action, these girls stand out. They have made an incredible impact in the worlds of STEM, education, agriculture, the environment, civil rights, and beyond. While they are making the world a better place, they are also investing in themselves; Gold Award Girl Scouts are more likely to earn college scholarships and achieve higher education and career outcomes, and they can enlist in the military at a higher pay grade. We’re proud to support Girl Scouts across the country as they drive meaningful and lasting change in their communities and beyond.”
With support from Microsoft, the event’s premier sponsor, the National Gold Award Girl Scouts will gather on International Day of the Girl at the flagship Microsoft Store on Fifth Avenue in New York City for a ceremony celebrating their efforts. In addition to viewing the new Gold Award PSA, those interested in attending are invited to register online to watch these bold leaders speak via livestream at their local Microsoft store.
“Microsoft is deeply committed to inspiring all girls so they can pursue large ambitions,” said Sandra Andrews from Microsoft Store. “By sponsoring the National Gold Award Girl Scouts celebration, we’re making bold, female role models more accessible to girls of all ages. When girls are given the right tools, they can change the world, and we look forward to expanding our work with GSUSA in the future to continue to support girls everywhere.”
Meet the 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scouts
Ana D.—Combatting Racism in Education
Girl Scouts San Diego
The lack of diverse perspectives in education contributes to institutional racism and a system of oppression. When Ana realized her high school was made up of more than 80% students of color and yet offered no clubs or courses that celebrated diverse cultural identities, she developed the school’s first ethnic studies course. By focusing on historical oppression, marginalized groups, and one another’s cultures, the students were taught to identify injustice historically and in their own lives and were empowered and unified to change it. To better equip educators in combatting racism in education, Ana ran seminars for educators about culturally responsive teaching to include the perspectives and experiences of people of color in every school subject.
Grace G.—Food Deserts
Girl Scouts of the Commonwealth of Virginia
Over 23 million people in the United States live in food deserts, where access to affordable, healthy food options is limited or nonexistent. After Grace created a new breed of chicken—the Goodpasture Breed—to provide a heartier and healthier food source, she expanded her impact by educating her community about the importance of farm-to-table living and healthier food sources by teaching how to hatch, care for, and raise chickens. Grace’s curriculum, which includes a mobile chicken tractor, became the statewide standard for teaching agriculture in the classroom.
Isabella M.—Representation of Indigenous Peoples
Girl Scouts of Orange County
A member of the Cahuilla tribe, actress and storyteller Isabella struggled to find roles on the stage that fit her own experiences. To address the lack of indigenous peoples’ representation in the U.S. media and cultural narrative, Isabella wrote, directed, and performed in a play about missing and murdered indigenous women. Her fellow actors included Native American tribal members and community participants, whom she brought together through workshops which not only exposed them to the art of performance, but also to traditional stories and the need for activism that addresses social injustices for indigenous peoples.
Kai Z.—Access to Music Education
Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida
Despite the fact that music education is imperative to students’ academic and social-emotional growth, Kai noticed that it was scarce in her Florida county—so she took action by creating an orchestra for low-income minority students at a local middle school. To ensure no one was left out of her program, Kai even fitted a prosthetic hand to a violin to enable a student without a left hand to play it. Kai presented results to the school board about the positive socio-emotional impact on the students, and the school is now offering orchestra for the first time as an official class.
Lauren V.—Mental Health of Cancer Patients
Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri
Recognizing that cancer is a traumatic diagnosis for millions of people worldwide, Lauren addressed the mental and emotional health of cancer patients and their caregivers by collecting and delivering thousands of letters with messages of hope. The letters forge connections among patients, survivors, and caregivers as they share experiences, concerns, and hope for the future—ultimately reducing stress and improving mental, and potentially physical, health. To increase her reach, Lauren taught hundreds of students cancer etiquette and letter writing skills, developed an interactive website for people to write or request a letter, and authored and distributed a book, Stories of Hope: Be the Light, which includes 10 families’ stories and advice to inspire those affected by cancer.
Mary Katherine F.—Ocean Pollution
Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas
Sunscreen is a major cause of coral bleaching, which affects oceans, aquatic wildlife, and worldwide food security. Mary Katherine educated thousands on the topic by creating a public awareness campaign to curb the release of chemical-containing sunscreen into oceans. Through her advocacy, she convinced Biscayne National Park, the location of the third-largest coral reef in the world, to discontinue selling chemical-containing sunscreens. Additionally, the scientists behind Hawaii’s ban of oxybenzone-containing sunscreen circulated her infographic around the Caribbean and South Pacific, influencing change at the state level.
Megan L.—Girls in STEM
Girl Scouts of Orange County
Megan addressed the underrepresentation of women in technology careers by forming GEARup4Youth, a nonprofit that supports girls’ interests in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) while encouraging them to pursue related career paths. She initiated the first girls-only robotics classes at local Boys & Girls Clubs and partnered with over 200 organizations—from national STEM groups and the LA County of Education to children’s museums and public libraries—to host presentations, family STEM events, and expos about her technology curriculum. She also published a book, Easy STEM Activities You Can Do at Home!, which reached a broad audience and stimulated more girls’ interests in STEM.
Minely M.—Legal Rights for the Deaf
Girl Scouts of Caribe
After a pattern of misunderstandings between law enforcement and deaf citizens because of communication barriers, Minely sought to advance equality for deaf citizens in Puerto Rico, who are often isolated and segregated because of their different abilities. She worked with legislators to draft and submit a bill that would add the international symbol for deafness on deaf people’s driver’s licenses, providing them with the means to quickly communicate to any public or private service official that they are deaf. This would prevent confusion and conflict, and it can be used when interacting with the medical, legal, law enforcement, educational, and employment systems. Minely also created a virtual course to teach basic sign language to Puerto Rican police officers so they can more easily communicate with the deaf community.
Phoebe W.—LGBTQ+ Representation
Girl Scouts of Western Washington
It can be difficult for LGBTQ+ teens to find examples of experiences relatable to their own lives because of a lack of representation in literature and media. To address this, Phoebe founded Glitterary Magazine, an online literary magazine that publishes work written both by and for LGBTQ+ youth. The magazine celebrates the diversity of the LGBTQ+ spectrum across many genres, validating readers’ lived experiences. Glitterary reaches readers in over 40 countries—including in nations where people are persecuted for being LGBTQ+—filling a worldwide gap of representation in literature and digital media to counter homophobia and heteronormativity.
Taryn-Marie J.—Higher Education for Foster Care Youth
Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay
Less than 10% of youth in foster care transition to college because they face roadblocks such as a lack of adequate support, resources, and a solid foundation. Taryn-Marie tackled this issue by creating a web playbook and brochure featuring links to relevant agencies, advocates, and organizations that foster care youth can reach out to for help as they transition to college. She also collected and distributed “college kits” and funding to support these individuals so they can pursue higher education, including items such as linens, gift cards, and a suggested to-do list, as well as a compilation of inspirational quotes for encouragement.
National Gold Award Girl Scout nominations underwent a rigorous multi-round review process. Finalist applications were reviewed by a panel of previous National Gold Award Girl Scouts, leaders from a diverse array of fields, GSUSA staff, National Volunteer partners, and representatives from the Kappa Delta Foundation and Arconic Foundation. This year’s 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 for the 2019 cohort.
Girl Scouts—like these young women—make the world a better place every day and will continue to defy expectations and 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.