I am Going for the Gold in a Pandemic


The notable Gold Award Logo.

Sophia Kroe, Staff Writer

PASADENA, California- On the evening of November 18, 2020, I was clad in my Girl Scout vest and sitting before my computer screen, which showed the words, “Please wait, the meeting host will let you in soon.” Butterflies fluttered in my stomach, my heart was beating out of my chest, and my hands were sweating so much that I had to constantly wipe them on my clothes. I was about to embark on a moment that would change my life forever—my Girl Scout Gold Award interview. My mind raced with questions in the days leading up to my interview— What will the interviewers think of my proposed project? Will they like it, or loathe it? Will I breathe a sigh of relief after tonight, or will I throw myself onto my bed in tears? Even though I was told that my Gold Award interview was going to be 45 minutes, I thought that it would feel like 45 years. Looking back, I am proud to say that I survived.

For my Gold Award, I will be working with other Girl Scout troops and close friends to make chunky, hand-knit blankets that will benefit the homeless population served at the St. Francis Center.  Once all the blankets are made and delivered, I will be creating a webpage that will have who I am, what my Gold Award was, who the St. Francis Center is and how they address the issue of poverty, materials and instructions on how to make the blankets I donated for my project, who the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles are, and how viewers can take action with me.  To comply with safety measures, I will be working with the Girl Scout Troops and friends on Zoom and showing a video on how to make the blankets and a presentation that will provide information on the issue my Gold Award will address.

Whenever I heard the words “Girl Scout Gold Award” in my early years of Girl Scouting, I envisioned myself explaining my project to community partners and other Girl Scout Troops feeling determined to work with them to leave a lasting impact on the world. I thought I would be wearing my Girl Scout vest with pride and traveling from one public setting to the next, encouraging others to take action with me and form a stronger perspective of the world.

I never imagined myself encountering multiple speed bumps while working hard to earn the highest achievement in Girl Scouting and did not expect to have limited resources and ways to get the community involved. Now here I am, completing my Gold Award project in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.

The Gold Award is the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, recognizing girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable take action projects that have a lasting impact on their communities and beyond. With this achievement, girls gain skills in leadership, career exploration, personal growth, and community action. They have the courage to identify an issue they care about, invite others to support and take action with them, submit a concise Project Proposal to their Girl Scout council, take the lead to carry out their plan, and inspire others by sharing their project beyond their community.  

In a year of unexpected change, Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA) has modified activities and suspended all in-person events until the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided. One of the main programs that has been adjusted is the Gold Award process. Prior to embarking on this journey, a girl is required to complete a Gold Award Workshop, which would normally be held at local Girl Scout centers and hosted by trainers who discuss each step to take for going for the Gold. The in-person workshop was replaced with a pre-recorded webinar explaining the requirements for a strong Gold Award project, selecting the project, and ensuring its measurability and sustainability. Instead of being in a room with interviewers explaining every aspect of her proposed project, the girl has her interview on Zoom and is encouraged to create a digital presentation to refer to while talking about her planned Gold Award. If a girl’s project requires her to lead in-person meetings, she should consider virtual options, such as Zoom. A Girl Scout can add components to her project, within the range of her main project idea, that allow her to work on the project while at home. For example, if she were to be working with the Humane Society for her Gold Award, she might consider making and donating treats, toys, and blankets as well. To protect the health and safety of their membership, GSGLA is not permitting girls to host restaurant nights or other in-person events to raise money for their project, and they encourage scouts to find alternative ways to fund their project, such as recycling, chores, dog walking, selling jewelry or other crafts, and asking for donations from family and friends. When a girl has completed this individual leadership project within at least 80 hours over a minimum of 3 months, she is eligible to celebrate her achievement at the Gold Award ceremony in June. Last year, when it was clear that the usual assembly, with girls proudly receiving their pins and taking pictures with other recipients, could not be held, GSGLA created a virtual ceremony by having the 2020 Gold Award recipients send short videos of themselves briefly explaining what their projects were.

“To the 2020 GSGLA Gold Award recipients, you have made an impact on all of us, and I’m certain the process has made an indelible impression on each of you” said GSGLA CEO Theresa Edy Kiene. “More than ever, the wisdom and leadership you’ve gained are critical. Our world needs empathetic, resilient, purpose-driven influencers just like you.” 

Girl Scout Troops have turned to virtual platforms to stay connected and to make meetings interactive while physically apart. Leaders have worked hard to implement online activities into meetings in lieu of the usual pool parties and trips to local museums- virtual museum and national park tours, online yoga sessions, and resources for learning science at home were included in the replacements.  

I was not initially affected by the difficult decisions made by GSGLA, but as the months pass, it is starting to take a significant toll on me. I miss being physically present at Girl Scout meetings, celebrating the end of the year with another pool party, and feeling the joy of serving the community with my other troop members. I want to go back to how things used to be–developing more confidence, meeting new people of all faiths and ethnicities, and having the kind of fun that happens when my Girl Scout Troop and I work together to make a difference.  

When I was finished presenting my proposed project to the Girl Scout Gold Award Council, it was as though a rock had been lifted from my shoulders. I finally felt relieved that what seemed to be the worst part of the process was over. As I looked at the interviewers, they told me that they were happy that my project involved the community and featured a subject I was passionate about. Although the interviewers told me to adjust some aspects of my project so that it could rise to the level of Gold, I was still proud of myself for overcoming the interview process and the initial thought of it being as hard as a college interview.  I am now determined to make the world a better place, and, once I complete my project, help other Girl Scouts go for the Gold and achieve their goals.