Girl Scouts of Western New York is proud to announce Arianna McKnight of Rochester, NY, as a 2021 Gold Award Girl Scout. Arianna is from Troop 60671 and has been a member of Girl Scouts for 9 years.
What Arianna said about Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts has helped to distinguish me from those who are not in Girl Scouts. I have grown my skill set through Girl Scout opportunities, such as my leadership, public speaking, and collaboration skills have increased. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with other girls through camping and mentoring opportunities, and have loved being a part of Girl Scouts. I have also enjoyed taking greater leadership roles through Girl Scouts and growing as a person. I am glad that I have been a part of Girl Scouts since I was a Brownie in 2nd grade, and look forward to more exciting opportunities as I continue Girl Scouts.
Project: Promoting Positive Mental Health Within My Community
I decided to initiate my Girl Scout Gold Award project after I became aware of the staggering mental illness statistics in the United States. According to NAMI.org, 1 in 6 kids have experienced a mental health illness each year. This is a very large problem, especially in the United States.
After years of volunteering with the Henrietta Youth Asset Team and learning about various organizations such as the National Association of Mental Illness and Stop the Stigma ROC, I learned about how mental health illnesses have increased in severity and frequency in youth. I became determined to make a change and provide resources for youth regarding this issue.
My Gold Award project was aimed at providing resources for youth dealing with mental illnesses, and it took place within my community in Henrietta, NY. When my project was approved in December of 2019, my goal was to host an in-person mental health forum with different organizations and professionals available for students to access. I also was planning to create a pamphlet providing resources for students to utilize. When the COVID-19 pandemic came and I was no longer in school, I realized that I had to think outside of the box and be innovative if I wanted to continue my project. I started thinking about how I could still make an impact virtually and contacted my project advisor, Betsy Liano, regarding ideas on how to continue.
After collaborating, I decided to continue the plan of hosting a forum, but instead of in-person, I decided to do it online. This is the same as with the pamphlet, as I created it online. Not only did I create one pamphlet, but I formed three different pamphlets that I shared with my school. They provided resources such as mental health organizations with their contact information, mental health helplines, and a list of the different mental health professionals in the Rush-Henrietta High School. It was created virtually, so recipients could print many copies and distribute them to the public.
Not only did I host one forum, but I hosted a variety of forums/activities virtually, such as having a yoga session led by Jennifer Gaul and inviting a school nurse teacher, Jeanne Schwasman, and a school social worker, Mike Elphick, on a panel discussion centered around coping strategies during the pandemic. I collaborated with the Henrietta Youth Asset Team and Marybeth Recore, coordinator of the Henrietta Youth Asset Team, in order to help organize these online sessions. My school principal Dr. Timothy Shafer, as well as my school community, helped me to expand the reach of my project.
I also filmed and edited two Girl Scout activity videos to encourage Girl Scouts during the pandemic. They were posted on the Girl Scouts of Western New York Facebook Page (and YouTube, available here: video 1, video 2) and helped to spread positivity. There were over 1,000 views on my videos, and I was able to reach a wide variety of people in the online community. I hosted a prayer group both in-person and virtually after being sent home, as well as being a part of a group called HowToLife.
Through all of the activities that I took part in and helped plan, hundreds of lives were impacted. In being able to reach my community virtually, I was able to provide a wide variety of resources to many people. In this way, through resilience and perseverance, I was able to positively impact the town of Henrietta and Rush-Henrietta School District, as well as the vast virtual community.
About the Gold Award
The Gold Award project is the culmination of all the work a girl puts into “going for the Gold.” A Girl Scout’s project should be something that a girl can be passionate about—in thought, deed, and action that encompasses organizational, leadership, and networking skills. The project should also fulfill a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global) and create change that has the potential to be on-going or sustainable. Approximately 80 hours of community service are involved in the project. Completion of the Gold Award also qualifies the Girl Scout for special scholarship opportunities and she can enlist in the military at a higher starting pay grade.
The Girl Scout Gold Award, the most prestigious award in the world for girls, acknowledges the power behind each recipient’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. These young women are courageous leaders and visionary change makers.
The Gold Award requires a Girl Scout to identify an issue and investigate it to understand what can be done to address the problem. The girl then forms a team to act as a support system, including a project advisor close to the issue who is not a troop leader or family member, while she leads the project. The Girl Scout creates a plan to ensure they know what steps they must tackle while working on the project. The Girl Scout submits a proposal for her project to her local Girl Scout council. After acceptance, the girl begins to work through the steps of their plan utilizing the assistance of her support team where necessary. Lastly, the project is used to educate and inspire others about the cause they are addressing.
For more information on the Gold Award, click here.