Picture a Girl Scout. Most likely you’re conjuring up the image of an angelic seven year old wearing a brown vest adorned with patches, smiling up at you as she tries to persuade you to buy an extra box of Thin Mints with the sheer power of her cuteness. I was once that girl, but I’m not anymore.
I’ve grown up since then and let’s face it, if I came knocking at your door, you probably wouldn’t buy cookies from me. Peers sneer when they find out I’m a Girl Scout, wondering why I still bother with an activity where they assume I spend my days making friendship bracelets and singing campfire songs. I’ll admit that there were times when I doubted my decision to continue with scouting, but when I completed my Gold Award, I remembered what being a Girl Scout is all about.
A Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can receive. It requires you to tackle an issue you find meaningful and address it through a project which will have a sustainable impact on your community. Even out of the small percentage of girls who withstand the social pressures and continue with Girl Scouts through high school, only ten percent of them earn their Gold Award.
I chose to relate my Gold Award project to children and literature. It hurts me when I see kids turning away from my beloved paperbacks in favore or video games and TV. Books had brought me so much joy over the years, and I wanted to make sure every child got the chance to experience the same love for literature I have.
I set out to put on a literacy day event for elementary schoolers. Armed with children’s books and strategically planned activities, I was determined to show these kids that reading can be fun.
I’m not going to try and paint myself in a rosy light and say I enjoyed all the prep work. As I made call after call, wrote emails that led to dead ends, and sat down for entire weekends at a time to fold hundreds of pamphlets for my event, I wondered if my event could ever be worth the nearly two years I’d spent preparing for this project.
I got my answer in the proud smiles of a third grader as he showed me the children’s book about a ninja named Tom he’d written himself and in the squeal of delight that came from a second grade girl as she spelled out the word fig with giant scrabble letters. I got my answer in the form of reader’s theater skits that started out as Cinderella and ended up with a pirate and an elephant taking on a gaggle of squids and in group stories containing too many plot twists to count.
When I’m handed my award for completing my Gold Award in May, I will be proud. But I won’t be nearly as proud as when I dropped off over nine hundred books at the Global Book Exchange and was told that the books I’d donated would go to help children in an orphanage in Kenya, a school in Liberia, and a library in Cambodia. I won’t be as proud as I was when I held my event and saw a love for literature ignite in the children I worked with.
Because I saw myself in these kids. I saw the shy little girl who came into her own when she found her passion in literature. I thought of how I’d grown since the days when I was a Daisy acting out reader’s theater skits and writing children’s books that I swore would make me famous. I thought of how far I’d come and I felt a sense of euphoria knowing I’d helped these kids set out on their own journeys.