Monday, April 27, 2015

Gold Girl Spotlight: Claire Kurio

Introducing Claire!
It’s always an honor to share the accomplishments of our Girl Scouts and today we’re highlighting Claire Kurio. Always striving to fulfill the Girl Scout Promise to help people at all times, Claire created an opportunity for fellow youth to serve their community through the Interfaith Hospitality Network. We could go on and on about Claire’s amazing Gold Girl project, but we’ll let her tell you more!

A Rewarding Journey
My name is Claire Kurio and I’ve been a member of Troop 484 in the Bluebonnet Valley service unit for almost 12 years now. I worked on my bronze and silver awards, completed a journey and have just recently finalized my Gold project. I would encourage all girl scouts to complete each project and award opportunity along the way because it really prepares you for the 80+ hour Gold Award later in high school.

Leading With Faith
For my project, I added a high school youth volunteer component to an already very successful program called Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN). IHN includes over 30 host churches, temples, synagogues, etc. in the Austin area that welcome homeless families into their buildings and congregations for 4-5 weeks each year. These families are able to stay free of charge while they meet with counselors and advisers helping them look for a stable job that can fully support their family again. While the program already used adult volunteers to set-up for their stay, provide dinner to the families each night, stay overnight with the families, do laundry, etc., none of these positions catered to the children. I saw the need for this component after volunteering with my parents to take dinner each time IHN visited Covenant Presbyterian Church over the past 5 years. Each time I noticed that the homeless parents were tired from a long days work or searching for work and wanted to relax, while their kids were longing for attention and someone to hang out with after school!

Getting Others Involved 
I recruited high school volunteers from the Covenant Pres youth group along with National Honor Society students from Anderson High School who volunteered 1-2 hours of their night during IHN’s stay at Covenant to hang out with, mentor and tutor the homeless children. Additionally, as part of my project, I provided a supply box with school supplies, board games and balls for the volunteers and kids to enjoy. The youth volunteer component of IHN will be sustained by the Covenant Student ministries for many years to come!

You Can Do it Too! 
My advice is to pick something you love and are extremely passionate about. I built incredible friends with these homeless kids during their stay and I wanted to give my peers an opportunity to do the same!  But most importantly, choose something that you personally see a need in. It’s crucial that you believe what you are doing is worthwhile and seeing the direct impact afterwards is the best feeling in the world.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Leader is Special Because...

Girl Scout leaders are the unsung heroes of the Girl Scout movement!  They work tirelessly to make sure our girls are learning, growing and, most of all, having fun as a Girl Scout!  Each year around the nation we celebrate these amazing women (and men) on April 22, the official Girl Scout Leader Appreciation day.  This year we polled girls to find out what they think is special about their leader.  Below you will find some of their answers.  As you can see their reasons are can be silly, fun, and heartwarming.  The common thread is that the girls recognize that the leader is the person that makes the experience one that they will remember!  Thank you, troop leaders for all you do! 

My Leader is special because…

(About a college student that is their leader)
…She has endless patience. – GS Junior
…She has good style! – GS Junior
…She is really really beautiful! – GS Junior
…She is funny and cool! – GS Brownie
…She works very hard to help all of us! – GS Junior
…She can take care of us. – GS Junior
…She is awesome and fun. – GS Brownie

(About a Troop leader/Cookie mom)
…She works very hard and lets us do stuff at her house – GS Junior
…She can be very serious and fun! – GS Junior
…She knows how to get stuff done! – GS Cadette
…She is the best cookie mom ever – GS Junior
…She is funny and fun to hang around with and the BEST cookie mom ever! – GS Junior
…She is fun, funny and the BEST cookie mom ever because she is sooo encouraging and teaches us new things! – GS Cadette

(About a Troop leader/Treasurer)
…She is great and nice and funny.   – GS Brownie
…She makes really great animal impressions – GS Junior
…She has a funny personality and is also AWESOME! – GS Junior
…She is sooo kind! – GS Brownie
…She is really kind and sweet! – GS Junior
…She keeps track of our troop money and helps us know how to use it like budgets and plans and stuff. – GS Cadette

(About a Troop leader/Mentor)
…She is the one that keeps things going and teaches us so many wonderful things. I think we appreciate her more than she knows.  GS Cadette
…She puts in a lot of work, goes out of her way to help us and makes things fun and interesting.  - GS Junior 
…She is smart, kind and funny. - GS Junior
…Today is her birthday and she is here, she goes on every trip, and she is appreciated. - GS Junior
…She chose to be our troop leader and it takes a special person to lead a troop of girls. - GS Junior
…GS Junior says, "My leader is a great leader because she is fun and humble and knows a lot about Girl Scouts." Mom says: I think by modest she means more like humble because [the leader] was saying last night, "Don't write stuff about me on the board, just [about the other leaders]." 

Please take a minute today and often throughout the year to tell your Troop Leader why she is special to you.  It will make all the difference to her!! 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Gold Girl Scout Spotlight: Gwendolyn Cochran

Today's Gold Girl Scout Spotlight is Gwendolyn Cochran, who empowered middle and high school girls in her community to be more engaged in the fields of math and science.  Congratulations on earning your Gold Award, Gwendolyn! 

The Dripping Springs community lacked a strong foundation of young women interested in the sciences. There was an absence of female members of the Robotics Club, the Physics Club, and active member’s math and science UIL events.

I targeted this problem in a two part project, first by implementing the Women in Math and Science clubs at the Dripping Springs High School. And secondly, by organizing and leading a symposium to rally young women together and engender them to be more active in the science communities at the middle and high school levels. With this project I engaged young women in my community to be involved in the math and sciences and give them useful contacts and opportunities to get involved in Dripping Springs. 

My club at the school will continue to engender school age girls to be active in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and expand their horizons.  I created a sustainable and beneficial foundation of girls to be inspired and get involved in expanding female influences at school and around our community. 

While the symposium was a one day event, it created a foundation for the group to begin being noticeably active and emphasized the importance of participating in math and science-based extracurricular events occurring locally. The club will be sustained at the high school level by new members taking over as seniors graduate, our teacher sponsor’s continued support, and the affiliation with the longstanding Inventor’s Club on campus. The community now has, and will continue to have, a larger amount of girls empowered to take action in math and the sciences. 

My advice for younger girls would be to first and foremost pick a topic that you feel passionate about, because you will devote a large majority of time and soul into this project. Secondly, never be afraid to ask for help from volunteers and troop members. Chances are if you are passionate about something, so is someone else who would love to get involved. Lastly, keep your head up! This isn’t a project to get just for the prestige of saying you earned it, it is a chance to inspire change. When you face a great challenge, which you undoubtably will, do not give up. Look for a different perspective, because from a different angle a mountain might seem like a molehill.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A New Way to Meet Seniors' Needs

Today's featured Gold Girl Scout is Ella Fischer who created a program to rent medical equipment to senior citizens. Congratulations, Ella, on earning your Gold Award!

My name is Ella Fischer. I am from Troop 1473 out of the Pecan Trail Service Unit. For my Gold Award project, I worked with Drive a Senior to create Ollie’s Closet. Ollie's Closet loans medical equipment to senior citizens who do not have access to medical equipment due to various financial situations. In the process I helped write a grant to pay for the building and purchase software for an inventory and asset control program.  

First, I moved, cleaned, inventoried, barcoded, and entered all of the equipment into a barcoding system. Next, I added a loft and braces to hang walkers and crutches and started moving all of the equipment inside. Lastly, I trained personnel at the Drive a Senior office on how the system works.  This all will allow the organization to better serve their 500 clients and to help them keep track of what is needed in their loan closet for the future.

 My journey towards earning my Gold Award is one that I will never forget. Through Girl Scouts, many new doors have opened for me and even more now that I have earned my Gold Award. The adventures and experiences that I have been able to be a part of, as well as all the things I've learned, all became possible by being in Girl Scouts and striving for Gold. I have also met many inspiring and interesting individuals along the way. There are always challenges involved in accomplishing great things, but the feeling I have now that I've earned my Gold Award is very rewarding. My encouragement towards others to pursue earning their Gold Award is tremendous based on the amazing experience I had and the feeling of happiness I gained from helping others. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gold Girl Scout Spotlight: Hannah Buffington

Today's Gold Girl Scout Spotlight is Hannah Buffington, who established a letter-writing campaign for elementary school children to send notes to soldiers stateside. Congratulations on earning your Gold Award, Hannah! 

At the beginning of my project, I knew I wanted to pick an issue that I really cared about; and something that was going to make an impact on many people. I chose my project because our soldiers are something that are truly close to my heart, and I personally know many people who have fought for our country. Once I had my issue, I started thinking about ways that I could potentially impact our troops. Which is where my project, Letters to Soldiers, originated. 

Many of our troops overseas receive letters and care packages and reminders that we are very appreciative of their service; but what about our troops back home? What about our troops who have been wounded in service? 

So I decided to address this issue directly by writing letters to these soldiers that would hopefully show them that they are appreciated and cared for. But I did not want to just do this alone. I wanted to tell more people about my project and spread my enthusiasm for it to many others as well. 

So I thought, what better way to impact two groups of people than teaching children about our troops and helping them write the letters. This worked out perfectly. I was able to teach the second grade classes at Blackland Prairie Elementary School how to write a friendly letter, and then to put those skills to work by writing letters to the wounded soldiers at Brook Army Medical Center. 

Working with the second grade students was really such a wonderful experience because I got to talk about something that I cared about and watch a group of children start to learn and want to make a difference also. I hope that in my setting an example of how even a teenager can make a difference, these children will grow up and take issues that they care about and also work to make a difference. It doesn't matter how old you are, or how large or small the issue is. Anyone can make a difference; all that’s needed is the motivation and the will to make a change. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Gold Girl Scout Spotlight: Priya Ramamoorthy

Today's featured Gold Girl Scout is Priya Ramamoorthy, who created a documentary on Title IX, a part of the Educational Amendments of 1972 and integrated her documentary into the No Place For Hate program at a local middle school. Congratulations on becoming a Gold Girl Scout, Priya!

For my Gold Award project, I created a documentary on Title IX and collaborated with the No Place for Hate Chapter at Grisham Middle School to implement a sustainable activity consisting of the documentary and discussion questions. To create my documentary, I gathered historical information about the federal law, created a script for the documentary, and sought feedback from experts.  I went through multiple rounds of editing for my documentary and had to establish new connections at Grisham, as there was a leadership change for the No Place for Hate chapter. The students that I trained will present my documentary to the entire student body (around 700 students) every year. These students will be in charge of training the next set of students and sustaining the project. 

Since creating my documentary, I along with friends, have been able to expand upon the work done in my Gold Award through appearing on a Nickelodeon News segment on Title IX and through a presentation at the Women’s Empowerment Conference in Austin.

By watching the documentary and reflecting about Title IX, I hope students are empowered to speak up if they encounter gender discrimination in their school. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

It's a Wrap: 2015 Girl Genius STEMfest

On Saturday March 21st the fourth annual Girl Genius STEMfest was held at Texas State Technical College for a day filled with hands-on, minds-on experiences for girls’ grades 6-12th to better their minds with STEM careers. This year was especially exciting because of the great partnerships with not one college in the area but three!  We partnered with Baylor University for the second time and for the first time McLennan Community College, all three colleges provided support to make the event possible by providing volunteers, workshop instructors, and college swag.

 “The STEMfest was an incredible event this year and I had a great time!  I participated in “Bubble Pack” which was about medicine, “Are You My Blood Type?” which was about blood types, ”Fossils and Chocolate” which I loved, and “Water you waiting for” which was all about water pollution.  I learned all about medicine and how they packed it, I learned how you get your blood type from your parents, and I learned about the different types of rocks and fossils.  I will definitely be returning so that I can learn some other cool new things, meet more new people, and go on new adventures on campus.  Walking around the school was cool because it gets us to understand what walking around college might be like.  My most favorite part though was the fossils and chocolate because I have a passion for all kinds of rocks.” -Ravyn Dietzman, Girl Scout Cadette

Our goal was to reach 175 girls this year at Girl Genius and we not only achieved our goal, we exceeded our goal by having 183 girls attend this year.  The girls participated in a full-day conference that was designed to allow fun, hand on experiences in a real lab setting in various STEM fields taught by college instructors.  Much like a professional conference that adults attend, the girls registered and chose their own workshops.  Workshops covered an array of diverse STEM fields from welding, automotive mechanics, pharmaceutical technology, biology, geology, engineering, veterinarian technology and more.  Girls were able to practice “blister packing, “which is the method pharmacist use to package medication.  Girls learned that surgical technology is more than just what the TV shows portray in the “This Ain’t Grey's Anatomy” workshop, and mastered the art of circuits by powering LED lights through conductive and insulated play dough. 

“I am very grateful to Time Warner Cable and the Girl Scouts of Central Texas for making such a wonderful event possible.  Girls having a great time and learning so much in the process is a winning combination!  We are certainly looking forward to next year!”  -Melissa Dietzman, Girl Scout Volunteer

This event would not have been possible without the generous support from Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds initiative, which is an initiative to address America’s declining proficiency in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which puts our children at risk for not competing successfully in a global economy. Thank you Time Warner Cable! 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Gold Girl Scout Spotlight: Isabel Prado

My name is Isabel Prado, I am a 17-year-old high school junior, getting ready to start applying for college. For my Gold Award, I created and taught 10 different lessons about the environment to children ages 5-12. I taught at the Turner-Gibbons Recreation Center as part of the Austin Parks and Recreation Center Summer Program. All of my lessons have been put into their database for use in the future.
When I first started the project a year ago, I thought I would never actually get it done, but with support from my family and friends, I managed it. It was a long and often challenging process. I switched what I wanted to teach at least twice. When I finally nailed down a subject, I had to create lessons plans for 10 classes. It took a lot of hard work but the end result was worth it.

Many times along the way I wanted to quit and I was told that it was okay if I did not want to do it. I am so glad I decided to finish it. My experiences teaching the children were so remarkable that when it ended I was sad because I had so much fun doing this project. It was tough and took a good deal of time, but it made me a better person. I learned so many valuable skills that I cannot imagine learning anywhere else. Doing the Gold Award was a journey that I will never forget and it is one of the best ones a Girl Scout can experience.