Monday, April 10, 2017

GSSI's Girl Scout Gold Award Committee Guides Girls Towards Girl Scouts' Highest Award

by Nicolle Patton, GSSI Intern

(L-R) GSSI Program Manager Courtney Schaefer, Anne Haltenhof,
Elizabeth Burr, Mary Ann Hopper, Cheryl Heimerman

The iconic Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. Its prestige is built upon the considerable commitment, foresight and hard work it takes to achieve. A girl must complete a service project of a suggested minimum of 80 hours, and her efforts must be sustainable and valuable to her community. 

Of course, doing the project and getting the hours isn’t all a Girl Scout has to do to earn her Gold Award. She has to give a presentation detailing her project in front of the Gold Award Committee - a group of equally hard working, time-giving women who review girls’ projects as they present them, making suggestions and helping them towards success.

I personally earned the Girl Scout Gold Award in 2012. Presenting my project in front of the committee was a bit unnerving since public speaking wasn't really a forte of mine, but it was empowering to talk about the hard work I put into my project. Even though I was one of those girls presenting years ago, sitting there as a spectator got me thinking about the Gold Award Committee's perspective on everything.

GSSI’s Girl Scout Gold Award Committee is made up of Cheryl Heimerman, Penny Pejka, Anne Haltenhof, Marry Anne Hopper, Betsy Murphy, Chelsey Banaskavich and Carla Nilson. These women volunteer their time and talents to ensure that each girl gets individual attention to help make her Gold Award project the best it can be. 

Seeing these women go over paperwork describing girls’ projects, asking question after question to each girl that filed into the room and making sure that the girl got the most out of her Gold Award project, got me thinking about how they saw this whole process and how exactly they got involved in such a huge task in the first place.

It was enlightening to see the different range of experiences and reasons why they joined the Gold Award Committee.

When asked how she got involved with Girl Scouts and then later joined the Gold Award committee, Mary Anne Hopper said, “I was a Girl Scout for 8 years as a girl. When my daughters were in first grade, I registered them in Girl Scouts. My older two daughters’ troops met right after school. Since I worked out of town, I couldn’t help at their meetings. When my youngest daughter registered, I was asked to be a leader. Since another woman had volunteered to assist with an evening troop, I accepted the leadership of her troop.”

“My oldest daughter, Michelle, earned her Gold Award in 1996,” Hopper continued. “As my youngest daughter, Amy, approached her Cadette years, I decided I wanted to know as much as I could about the Gold Award. So I became a Gold Award trainer as well as part of the Gold Award Committee around 2000 and have continued for 16 years or so.”

Anne Haltenhof said, “I was a Girl Scout in grade school and now that I am retired I wanted to give back to the organization that helped me be who I am today.”

“My background is in project management and one of the staff members suggested that I get involved with the Gold Award since what the girls do are projects.”

Now, I know these ladies do more than sit in a room and review Gold Award projects all day and I wanted to know exactly what all their responsibilities entailed, because I know it’s more than going over a few files.

Carla Nilson explained, “I do Gold Award training. I participated in designing the Gold Award requirement paper work in the Shagbark legacy council. I read and evaluate proposed Gold Award projects with phone interviews. I offer suggestions and ask questions. I participate in interviews of final Gold Award projects. I help facilitate the awards at All That Glitters.”

Mary Anne Hopper added, “As part of the Gold Award Committee, I review Project Proposals about projects girls wish to do to earn their Gold Awards. With the committee, I help to interview the girls via phone conference calls to determine if their projects are acceptable Gold Award projects, not just a good service project. We make suggestions, and often requirements, which we feel will make the projects better.”

Seeing all of these responsibilities that the committee does really says something about their character and how much time and effort they put in for these girls. I’m sure over the years, they’ve had some memorable projects.

“All projects are memorable,” said Nilson. “I have even made special trips to see the finished product of some Girl Scout Gold Awards.”

Hopper said, “Two projects come to mind immediately. One project was done by two girls, assisting Habitat for Humanity in building a home for a family. The girls spent one Saturday for each of six months providing the volunteers and equipment as well as feeding the volunteers. The second project provided a free spay and neuter clinic for dogs and cats to eliminate overpopulation by unwanted dogs and cats. The young lady was very passionate about this project!”

When the women on the Girl Scout Gold Award Committee discuss their roles, their passion and excitement is obvious. With passion comes wisdom, so I asked these ladies to share advice for any Girl Scout who is about to present a Gold Award project in the near future. 

Haltenhof said, “Details, details, details. Make sure you are providing as much information about your project as you can. Often times, we get very sketchy reports and it’s hard to determine if they qualify for the award.”

Nilson added, “Allow plenty of time and be flexible. Before you speak to a group about your project, go over the points, have notes, take notes on suggestions and be prepared. Don't forget to write thank you notes to those who helped you with your project.”

“I would tell girls to find an issue about which you are passionate,” recommended Hopper. “Give yourself plenty of time. Choose people you can count on to help you. Ask for help when you need it. Set a timeline to achieve small goals in order to achieve the ultimate goal. Admit when something isn’t working and try doing it a different way.”

With the wonderful women of GSSI’s Girl Scout Gold Award Committee helping guide girls, there's so much knowledge and ideas to go around if any girl feels as though she's stuck at any point in her Gold Award. They want to help in any way they can to make these young women succeed in any way they can.