Since 1916, Girl Scouts have been making meaningful, sustainable change in their communities and around the world through their Girl Scout Gold Award projects. The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn, acknowledges the power behind each recipient’s dedication to not only empowering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. As the Girl Scout Gold Award celebrates 100 years of girls changing the world, Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI) will highlight some of our shining stars who exemplify the greatness of this award.
Jennifer Thole from Trenton, IL grew up knowing the importance of health care. Her mom is a nurse and Jennifer herself was working as a nurse assistant in high school. When contemplating her Girl Scout Gold Award project, it was a natural fit for her to choose a project related to health care. Jennifer brainstormed some ideas and decided to develop a health fair for kids that focused on making smart food choices, staying active and proactively combating diabetes.
Jennifer’s Girl Scout Gold Award project was titled "Sugar and Spice is Not Always so Nice." Jennifer got the ball rolling by setting up meetings with the Diabetes Educator and Dietitian at her local hospital. She took the knowledge she had gained and developed a health fair in which parents and their children could learn more about healthy and easy after school snacks, fun exercises and games, calculating body mass index and visual representations of sugar amounts in various candies and sodas. Jennifer’s project was a great success.
After graduating from Mater Dei High School in 2009, Jennifer continued to pursue the health care field. She graduated from Quincy University Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing in 2013. Today, she is a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit at Anderson Hospital in Maryville, IL.
One of the requirements of the Girl Scout Gold Award is that the project must fill a need in the girl’s community. “Giving back” has always been one thing Girl Scouts, especially Girl Scout Gold Award recipients, excel in. Jennifer didn’t stop “giving back” once she completed her Gold Award. In fact, her project not only paved the way for her career but also for how she is now able to be of service to others. This spring, Jennifer was part of a team that went on a surgical mission trip to Bohol, Philippines. This team spent 12 days in Bohol where they performed 115 surgeries ranging from goiter removals to hernia repairs to hysterectomies. “The people there have so little yet are so grateful for everything,” said Jennifer. “It was the most eye opening experience I have ever had,” Jennifer added.
The Girl Scout Gold Award recognizes a Girl Scout's commitment to excellence as she develops skills and values to meet present and future challenges in her life. To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, a Girl Scout Senior or Girl Scout Ambassador must design and carry out a project that fulfills a need within a girl’s community, creates change, and is sustainable. The project must be completed with a suggested minimum of 80 hours of work. Only about 5 percent of eligible girls earn the prestigious Gold Award.
“You will not regret doing it, but you will regret NOT doing it,” are words of advice Jennifer offers to Girl Scouts who want earn the highest award in Girl Scouting. “It will be a lot of work but you never know the networks you may build and the things you will learn that will shape your future,” adds Jennifer.
Today, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is the largest voluntary organization for girls in the world. Its sole focus is to meet the needs of all girls (ages 5-17) from diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Today’s Girl Scouts not only enjoy camping and crafts, but they also explore math and science and learn about diversity, good citizenship, leadership and teamwork. Girl Scouting is the place where girls experience the fun, friendship and power of girls together.