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Hanna's Story

Highest Awards Highlights

Making a Difference Around the World: USA Girl Scouts are making a difference in over 80 countries around the world!  Take a look at some of the ways Girl Scouts Overseas are making positive change in their community.

2019 Highlights

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USAGSO Gold Award Spotlight

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the most prestigious award in the world for girls—and the most difficult to earn—and it’s only available to Girl Scouts! At USA Girl Scouts Overseas, we are excited to highlight Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, and Leaders living overseas who are thinking big and making sustainable impacts in their communities and countries all around the world. 

Gold Award Girl Scout: Tegan

For our very first USAGSO Gold Award Girl Scout story, we are featuring Tegan from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and her Gold Award Girl Scout project called: Ocean’s Alive. Congrats Tegan!

Gold Award Girl Scout Project Title: Ocean’s Alive

Realizing how the world’s oceans are struggling to survive because of plastic waste, Tegan’s Gold Award Girl Scout project focused on educating people about the issue and developing solutions to make easy changes that will help minimize waste and trash, and in turn, positively impact the future of our environment. As a Girl Scout located overseas in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, Tegan’s Girl Scout Gold Award project benefited people all over the world as they learned how they are part of the problem, how to help, and why it is so important to have clean oceans.

Her Gold Award Girl Scout project was developed as a combination of online informational sites and multiple zero waste events to help educate people on the issue that oceans are being destroyed and what changes an individual can take to make a difference. In addition to the zero-waste events and informational games, Tegan developed a website to make the information easily accessible to anyone who had an interest in positively affecting our shared environment. Her project will continue on through environmental clubs at her schools as well as the individuals who are now educated on how plastic waste is damaging our environment and what steps they can take to make a difference. 

According to Tegan: “The issues the oceans have will be a lifelong journey to fix, and I will continue throughout my life to help educate people to make changes in their lifestyle and participate in helping to solve an issue so very important to all the world and people’s well-being. When I started my project, I knew that I wanted to be able to have a reliable and sustainable aspect that would keep my project alive, hopefully for many generations, so I focused on the highly sustainable aspect of education. Knowledge empowers people and once you educate one person there is a multiplier effect where they will educate others and then those people will educate even more people until we get to the point where everyone is aware of the issues at hand. To educate I have created and dedicated a few portions of my project to learning and teaching in various forms for different ages. I thought that creating many aspects to my project that were educational, online, and accessible for people worldwide would help to have a long-lasting and sustainable effect.”

You can learn more about this G.I.R.L.’s hard work in environmental advocacy and awareness-raising, by visiting her website. USA Girl Scouts Overseas is proud of your leadership and can’t wait to see what you do in the future to help generations to come! 

Gold Award Girl Scout: Michelle
Michelle530x220 (002)

For our second USAGSO Gold Award Girl Scout feature story, we are excited to introduce you to Gold Award Girl Scout, Michelle, from USA Girl Scouts Overseas – Paris. Congrats Michelle!

Gold Award Girl Scout Project Title: Mental and Physical Well-being in the Boarding House

Recognizing that students today are struggling with stress now more than ever, and do not always have the skills or support to appropriately handle it, Michelle’s Gold Award Girl Scout project focused on changing that by providing information and techniques to help alleviate students’ stress and focus on their physical and mental well-being. As a student at a boarding school participating in the International Baccalaureate program, Michelle witnessed how many teenagers, especially those who just left home, lacked the skills in self-care and didn’t know how to balance schoolwork and personal time. This combination had a negative effect on their grades and increased their stress level. Further motivated to make a difference was Michelle’s understanding of how stress can cause mental and physical isolation, which can cause depression and/or suicide.

As the ultimate overseas G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™, Michelle was compelled to address this issue and make a positive change for her fellow students after observing how many students were concentrating on their workload at the expense of their wellbeing during the most stressful parts of the school year. Her Gold Award Girl Scout project focused on three main components: a website, a series of workshops, and a parental guide. The website was designed in consultation with psychologists, staff, and students to be used as a quick, sustainable reference for other students. The workshops she led were centered on providing techniques and concrete tools for students to use during stressful situations. The workshops continue to this day as a support for students throughout the school year. The parental guide was shared with parents, so they can also understand the harm stress causes and learn what they can do to best support their children.

According to Michelle: “Governing bodies are realising that students are more stressed today than ever before and that this leads to many mental health issues, unruly behaviour and lower rates of achievement. An unhappy country of students means an unhappy future. Thus, my project directly targets the resolution of this problem: ensuring mental wellbeing and thus avoiding a deterioration in educational attainment. By undertaking this project, “I discovered that I am a leader who leads primarily by example. I myself attempted many of the wellbeing techniques and have passed on my knowledge to others.”

You can learn more about this G.I.R.L.’s important work in the issues of stress management and  mental health for students, by visiting her website.

Way to go Michelle! USA Girl Scouts Overseas is proud of your leadership and can’t wait to see what you do in the future to help generations to come!

Gold Award Girl Scout: Sarah

We are excited to feature Gold Award Girl Scout, Sarah from Cobham, England, and her project “Knit for the Children” for our next installment of USAGSO’s Gold Award Girl Scout Spotlight. Congrats Sarah! 

Gold Award Girl Scout Project Title: Knit for the Children

Upon learning about how refugees were fleeing from Syria with nothing more than the clothes upon their backs, Sarah decided she needed to take action to make a difference. Through her initial research, Sarah discovered that many refugees were in desperate need of winter clothes. The aim of Sarah’s Girl Scout Gold Award project was to find an innovative way to provide much needed assistance to refugees by helping them stay warm during the winter.

Utilizing a charity connection through her church, which was already supporting Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey, Sarah ensured that these families were given the means to stay warm during the cold winters in Turkey by sending over 175 pieces of knitted winter hats and scarves. Sarah was able to provide all of these knitted materials because she recruited many knitters to help her with her project. She started a knitting club at her high school and she reached out to nursing homes and other community groups to find volunteers with knitting skills. Through her entire project, Sarah remained focused on who would ultimately benefit from her project and through this focus, she persevered through difficulties. Beyond providing people with a way to stay warm in the winter, Sarah also used the time knitting with others to enlighten them on the issues that refugees face on a day-to-day basis. Sarah’s impact continues today through the knitting club she started at her high school. They have knitted items for both local and international charities and hospitals—including over 20 hats that have been donated. Due to her strong leadership, the knitting club will continue even after Sarah’s graduation from her high school.

According to Sarah: “Before this project, I have mostly been reserved and willing to let others step forward and take the lead in many situations. However, this project has taught me that if I want something to get done in line with my vision, I have to be the one to lead in delegating, making decisions and to being responsible. Although I am not the most comfortable person making presentations or volunteering to lead, as I have had to do, I now realize the necessity of leadership skills and have learned that I am capable of leading a project like this if need be. I was initially very nervous about this project, as I knew it would involve public speaking and thought I might be able to avoid it. However, I have learned the importance of delivering a message with the passion that can only be accomplished in person and that of public speaking skills through this project.

Congratulations Sarah on your successful Girl Scout Gold Award project! The impact that you have had on both the refugee community and your local community will be felt for years to come. 

Gold Award Girl Scout: Emma

For the next USAGSO Gold Award Girl Scout story, we are featuring Emma from Yokota, Japan and her Gold Award Girl Scout project. Congrats Emma! 

Gold Award Girl Scout Project Title: The Enchanted Sensory Garden at Yokota Air Base

According to research, when stationed on a military base overseas, there is a greater risk of being faced with long work hours, extended time away from family, and deployments, all of which can lead to anxiety and depression. Upon learning this, Emma wondered, “Where are we falling short in helping the men and women who are serving our country? Sometimes it is not just the active duty member who is suffering, what about their families…wives, husbands, children? What can I do to help?” Emma then took action through an innovative approach that addressed the identified issues by building a self-sustaining, interactive sensory garden to support the military community stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan for her Gold Award Girl Scout project.

What is a sensory garden you ask? It is a garden that stimulates the five senses: Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell, and Taste. The real focus of the garden is to teach “Grounding,” a technique used to help anxiety, depression, autism, and sensory processing disorders. Grounding techniques are an important component of Emma’s sensory garden as they can immediately connect someone with the here and now. For example, listening to the buzzing of a bee, touching cool moss, smelling lavender bud on on your hands, or tasting fresh mint are all grounding techniques that produce sensations that are difficult to ignore or distract you from what's going on in your mind. This helps you directly and instantaneously connect with the present moment. Emma hopes that people will visit the garden and enjoy the time away from the stresses of their daily lives. She wants to help people see that nature can help relax the body and mind and, even if they do not have a lot of time to spend there, it can still offer a quiet place to think.

Through a partnership with the American Red Cross on base, Emma has ensured that her project will be sustained for years by utilizing volunteers who already maintain a garden for the Red Cross. Therefore, the sensory garden will continue to be a positive addition to the base and one that offers a safe, quiet, and interactive place for people to visit for many years to come.

According to Emma: “My sensory garden, like many other projects of this magnitude, taught me some valuable lessons that I plan to carry with me and help make me a better leader and manager in the future. Some of the skills I learned are how to effectively budget time and money, plan a community-wide event, and work with different personality types and harness each of their strengths. Through this process, I learned that my versatility and ability to effectively problem solve are both great assets and I was also reminded that I am most effective when I maintain a positive attitude and don’t let myself get overwhelmed by too many details.”

Gold Award Girl Scout: Laura

For the next USAGSO Gold Award Girl Scout story, we are featuring Laura from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and her amazing Gold Award Girl Scout project!

Gold Award Girl Scout Project Title: Build a Playground for KG Children in Colegio de Las Mercedes

When Laura was spending time in her home country of Colombia, she noticed that children attending a public kindergarten in the city of Lebrija did not have a place to play during recess. Upon further investigation, she discovered that while the school administrators felt positively about the impact of exercise, they just did not have the funds to build a playground. So, this G.I.R.L. decided she was going to do something about it! Because Laura believed that every kid needs a place to play and develop mentally, socially, intellectually, and physically, she focused her Girl Scout Gold Award project on building a playground where these kindergartners could play freely and safely.

In order to raise funds for this project, Laura provided swimming lessons for children (continuing that exercise theme) and also sold used items online and at yard sales. It took over a year and a half to complete the project, which included purchasing thousands of dollars of equipment, organizing 50 volunteers, and then building the actual playground; but now 160 kids at Colegio Las Mercedes use the playground every day at recess and they feel their playground is like a "dream come true", as one of the teachers told Laura. With the new playground, kids are now able to enjoy recess, exercise, and learn new games like four-square. Parents, teachers, kids, school maintenance staff, and the school principal are already taking care of the playground. They even installed a new shadow-net, so the kids can spend more time outdoors on hot days.

Laura also has an additional hope and, it is, that the children who benefited from her project, or other Girl Scouts in Colombia, will be inspired in the future to take action and make a difference in their community. According to Laura, “I also hope I made an impact on these kids and families so when they grow up they can give back to their communities. In Colombia people are not used to donating and volunteering, but with the example I set, I hope they start a trend of giving. I can say this since people were really surprised with my project, and many helped, maybe not with money, because they can't, but by volunteer their time working in the construction.”

Gold Award Girl Scout: Iona

For the next USAGSO Gold Award Girl Scout story, we are featuring Iona from USA Girl Scouts Overseas – Cobham and her amazing Gold Award Girl Scout project!

Gold Award Girl Scout Project Title: Adoption for the Non-Adopted

Iona was inspired to create her Gold Award project because she has a younger sister who was adopted from China and witnessed firsthand how questions or comments about adoption were often very hurtful. Instead of getting angry, this go-getter decided to do something about it. Iona realized that many of the offensive comments about adoption were not said with the intent to hurt, they were said because people were not educated on the topic of adoption. Through her research, Iona found out that it wasn’t just other students who needed to learn; adults like teachers and counselors were also not aware of how to discuss adoption in the most appropriate manner. Iona created her Gold Award Girl Scout project to provide a set of easy tools for non-adoptive parents, teachers, and children as a way to raise awareness and help others understand the issues surrounding adoption and how to appropriately discuss adoption.

Iona developed several resources that highlight the various topics surrounding adoption and how to discuss it appropriately. She created a series of six animated videos that are short and simple with a recurring group of characters who explain complex issues in a fun and easy way. She designed the videos so they can be shown, and encourage discussion, in a variety of settings. What is amazing about this experience is that prior to this project, Iona did not know how to do animation and actually had to teach herself new software in order to develop the best possible presentation. She also created a fantastic website that is an easy-to-use resource and available to anyone wanting to learn more about sensitivity when it comes to discussing adoption.

According to Iona, “As a result of this project, teachers, both non-adoptive and adoptive parents and even a clinical psychologist have reached out to me and stated that they plan to share these videos with their classes, schools, and clients. The videos reached parents not only in the UK but in the USA, Canada, NZ, Australia, and France. The children at these schools will benefit from them, as hopefully these videos will play a part in changing the way in which children use their language when discussing such complex topics as adoption. If children learn how to discuss this issue at a young age, it can affect how they treat others later in life, as well.”

USA Girl Scouts Overseas is proud of your leadership and can’t wait to see what you do in the future to help generations to come!

Gold Award Girl Scout: Lauren

For the next USAGSO Gold Award Girl Scout story, we are featuring Lauren from USA Girl Scouts Overseas – Camp Zama and her amazing Gold Award Girl Scout project!

Gold Award Girl Scout Project Title: Junior Youth Warm Up Program

A Gold Award Girl Scout project must be centered on at least one of the four National Program Pillars of Girl Scouts.  For her Gold Award Girl Scout project, Lauren was interested in developing a project that would target the Life Skills Pillar, specifically its healthy living focus. With this as her interest, Lauren developed a project around injury prevention in young athletes by developing a warm-up/stretching routine to help girls. To ensure the benefits of her routine were sustainable and assisted as many people as possible, Lauren produced and edited a video featuring her routine.

Lauren was able to further develop her leadership skills by working through her routine with more than one culture, as she speaks both Japanese and English. She brought both American Girl Scouts and Japanese Girl Scouts together to test out her routine. She received very positive feedback and her project was shared with the athletic department at her Japanese high school as well as with all of the Girl Scout Troop Leaders at Camp Zama. By participating in Lauren’s project, runners saw quicker running times and gymnasts reported an improvement in their flexibility.

According to Lauren, “While I have always been confident in myself, this project provided additional confirmation that I can do anything with planning and preparation—and through building relationships that provide support needed for those challenges.”

Gold Award Girl Scout: Jasmine

Gold Award Girl Scout Project Title: She Thinks Everyone Matters (STEM)

When Jasmine was a young girl, she was very interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), but she could not find many organizations or opportunities to help support this interest. While there has been more progress in STEM today than there was during Jasmine’s youth, women are still vastly underrepresented in this field. Given her experience as a child and understanding there are still hurdles for girls today, Jasmine decided to take on that challenge and developed her Gold Award Girl Scout project to advocate for better representation of women in STEM by empowering young girls to see themselves as capable and confident stakeholders in the field.

To step up and make a difference, Jasmine overcame her initial shyness and discomfort to create a series of educational videos, explaining a scientific concept in each one. The videos were posted on a YouTube channel for everyone to watch. Through the support of her overseas community, USAGSO – Paris, Jasmine was also able to share her interest in STEM, and her project, with younger Girl Scouts at community events.  

Jasmine developed her project to address the issue of gender imbalance in the STEM workforce. In order to do this, she naturally needed to start at the root of the problem: the stereotype girls might have concerning certain subjects like math or, later on, physics. Her videos explain an "easy" scientific concept, each one on a different theme.

Links to Jasmine’s YouTube channel “She Thinks Everyone Matters” with videos:

S is for Quantum Physics

T is for Magnifying Glass

E is for Robotics

M is for Multiplication

While she has seen the direct impact of her videos with multiple views and even interest from other international communities, Jasmine also learned a lot during the implementation phase of her Gold Award project. According to Jasmine: “I hope that some of the girls will gain a newfound interest in STEM subjects. Who knows, I will maybe have encouraged the new Marie Curie or Barbara McClintock?

On a more serious note, I hope that the young girls I aspire to inspire will learn stand up for them and realize that they too have a right to "do science". I believe my leadership skills will grow because what skills I learnt through this project are going to stay with me for a long time. I know that concrete skills like organizing an event need to be adaptable to the situation, so I have no doubt I will be learning more about that particular skill in the future.”


How can you support Highest Awards Girl Scouts?  

Whether a Project Advisor, Troop Leader, or Gold Award Committee Member and mentor, there are many ways to support USA Girl Scouts Highest Awards Projects.  Contact us  to find out more about the opportunities available to support Girl Scouts in earning their Highest Awards!