To the core of my being—I am a Girl Scout. Some of the best experiences I’ve had and the people in my life are because of Girl Scouts:
- My longtime fearless troop leader, Nancy (a.k.a. Mom), held the best meetings, took us on amazing adventures, and taught us that we could achieve anything we set our minds to.
- I met my two best friends when we were kindergarteners as Daisies.
- Who has a fear of heights, yet managed to climb a 100-foot tree at camp because Girl Scouts can do anything? This girl, right here.
I can thank all of those life-forming moments in my youth and those lifelong relationships I’ve made to Girl Scouts. But my Girl Scout journey didn’t stop after my descent from that 100-foot tree. In my former role as program staff at Girl Scouts River Valleys, and in my current role serving on the Highest Awards Committee, I have been lucky enough to mentor and advise some incredible and ambitious young women working toward earning the highest award in Girl Scouting, the Girl Scout Gold Award.
It has become a passion of mine to help the girls in green who came after me to achieve such a prestigious and complex award. You might hear tidbits about a Gold Award project here and there—maybe there was a park clean-up or a sporting equipment drive—but those stories never really get to the core of what these girls are achieving. The park clean-up or the supplies drive on its own is just a Band-Aid on the problem they are really trying to solve.
The Gold Award Girl Scout who held the park clean-up? She also held classes at city hall to educate the community about pollutants in surface runoff (water from rain, snowmelt, or other sources that flows over the land surface) and how it affects the local ecosystem and water supply. She also recruited volunteers to create sustainable green walking paths to prevent erosion, provided community members with resources on how they can help, and got a commitment from the city to maintain the walking paths and continue the educational classes.
Oh, and that project with the sporting equipment drive? That Gold Award Girl Scout is developing a soccer program for a small community in Nicaragua that doesn’t have any organized sports or activities for girls—only boys. She is educating girls, families, and local stakeholders about the importance of getting girls to participate in organized activities and how it benefits the community. A local agency has committed to continuing the program when she is complete, and is confident the city will create a field space just for the girls.
Right now, you’re probably thinking, “Whoa! A 16-year-old did that?” I feel you. I think it all the time! These girls are true superheroes in the world. (Note to self: These girls need capes or something.)
These girls are seeing issues in a community (of their choice!), identifying a root cause of that issue, AND THEN developing a project to help address that root cause. It has to be something where they need to be an active leader—I like to have girls think about themselves as the director on a movie set and that they are calling the shots by recruiting, educating, and leading the community to achieve their project goals.
One of the biggest and most challenging aspects of their Gold Award project is making sure that whatever they do—it lasts! I remember one project from a few years ago where this Gold Award Girl Scout developed an early learning literacy program for children where Spanish was the primary language at home. To ensure her curriculum would continue to be used, the local Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program took it on and she was able to train the instructors and provide them with the resources they would need. True story!
On this crazy journey, a Gold Award Girl Scout learns more about who she is and the world around her. There will be ups, there will be downs…and yes, even some upside-downs. She learns to problem-solve and how to advocate for herself and others. The tenacity, determination, and drive a Gold Award Girl Scout has is an inspiration for all those who get to be a part of her experience.
Not all Gold Award projects look the same, but what they do have in common is an amazing young woman making lasting and meaningful impact in her community and in the world.
I am blessed to know and support that girl, and we are all blessed to benefit from her hard work. Thank you for supporting your girls on their path to Highest Awards by rooting for them and being their biggest fan!
Amber Karcher-Ramos – Amber is longtime Girl Scout, has served on the Highest Awards Committee for several years, and is a Juliette mentor to her daughter, who is a Brownie. She is the program manager at Ann Bancroft Foundation and facilitates growth and long-term development of granting programs, alum engagement, and partnerships. Prior to her current role, Amber worked in the Program and Troop Support departments at Girl Scouts River Valleys. She is also the ice skating director for the city of St. Louis Park where she resides with her husband, Keith, daughter, Scarlett, and cat, Luna.