Guest columnist Joan Vohl Hamilton: Girl Scouts lead the way

AP FILE PHOTO/ELAINE THOMPSON

AP FILE PHOTO/ELAINE THOMPSON

By JOAN VOHL HAMILTON

Published: 06-10-2024 6:26 PM

 

The decision by Boy Scouts of America to change its name to Scouting America intrigued me. This decision is, in part, to include girls and young women.

A recent Associated Press article mentioned girls who have achieved the “vaunted Eagle Scout rank” of BSA, but there was no mention of the equally vaunted and equally rigorous Girl Scout USA Gold Award.

It was as if Girl Scouting no longer existed.

As if.

Girl Scouting is alive and thriving, as is its Gold Award program. The Gold Award launches distinguished, creative, self-motivated and world-changing young women into our communities as problem-solvers and contributors.

Your next strong, empathetic, go-getter leader? She’d be a Gold Award Girl Scout, and she carries her remarkable leadership skills with her for life. The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Ninety-nine percent of Gold Award Scouts take on leadership roles in their everyday lives. Ninety-six percent of Gold Award Scouts say their experience in earning Gold inspired their ongoing commitment to service or volunteering.

And their work changes our communities and our world.

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A couple of local Gold Award projects for just this year? Via “Period Products for All,” Verana tackled the issue of menstrual equity. She raised this issue with legislators and advocated to address root causes that lead to period poverty and access to period supplies through letter-writing campaigns to support passing the “I AM” bill (H.534.) “I AM” would require providing menstrual products to all public schools, prisons, and shelters in Massachusetts. Verana collected and distributed period products to unhoused families and nearly 1,250 students, with products placed in her high school bathrooms and offices.

Here’s another: “Virtual Activities for Senior Citizens.” In this, Aanya used her Gold Award to support the mental well-being of vulnerable seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic by producing videos for an online series tailored specifically for the seniors. The ongoing video series is available through senior centers across Massachusetts, is broadcast on Aanya’s local access cable channel, and is available online worldwide.

Verana and Aanya are two of the 16 young women of central and western Massachusetts who will be justly honored on June 12 at Worcester’s Mechanics Hall at the 2024 Gold Award ceremony. Hundreds and hundreds of hours of work will be represented through these 16 awardees. (As background, the national Gold Award class of 2021 contributed 350,000 hours toward creating long-term solutions to issues about which they’re passionate.)

Gold Award Girl Scouts aim for the stars, and know how to reach them. It’s kind of the Boy Scout organization to strive to be more inclusive, but girls have had GSUSA to advocate for them and launch them forward for over 100 years. Here’s to another 100!

Joan Vohl Hamilton is a former Girl Scout and Girl Scout leader who lives in South Hadley.