A golden accomplishment
To many people, Girl Scouts are synonymous with cookies, but that's not all they do, Woodbury resident and Girl Scout member KC Hemstreet said.
"Girl Scouts is so much more than cookies," she said. "It's instilling values in young girls and guiding them."
A group of eight Girl Scouts from Woodbury -- Hemstreet, Cassie Cedarholm, Jessica Schrimp, Clarissa Odin, Ashley Weeks, Ambika Patpatia, Megan Snyder and Molly Greenshields -- recently achieved the highest honor of earning the Gold Award.
"A lot of times the Eagle Scout Award gets all the attention, but the Gold Award is just as prestigious," Girl Scout troop leader Nancy Schrimp said. "But a lot of people just don't know about it."
A Gold Award ceremony was held May 23 at Woodbury United Methodist Church.
In order to earn the award, a Girl Scout must complete various pre-requisite work including leadership, community service, career exploration and self-assessment.
The culmination of the Gold Award is the service project.
In order to achieve the award a Girl Scout must identify a service project in the community that is unique, sustainable and addresses a community need beyond girl scouting.
The project requires creativity, development of leadership skills, as well as at least 80 hours of work.
"Girl scouting really addresses citizenship in the girls," Nancy Schrimp said. "It makes them strive to be strong women leaders."
Only about 5 percent of Girl Scouts earn in the Gold Award nationally.
"To have all eight of them get it is quite an accomplishment," Nancy Schrimp said. "I think part of it is their friendship bonding them and that really made them work harder towards their goal."
All of the Gold Award recipients have been Girl Scouts for at least seven years, some all the way up to 13 years.
The importance of Girl Scouts
Many of the activities that take place during Girl Scouts include community service projects, crafts, nature activities, athletic activities, recreation activities, field trips and college and career planning.
Many of the girls said they decided to join Girl Scouts because it was an opportunity to make new friends and get out into the community.
"It's a cool place where we can come together and learn through the earning of the patches," Hemstreet said. "You get a good mix of activities so it's a fun place to bond with everyone, but it's also a place to grow up together and become independent women."
"From all my years of scouting I can take away the strong bond between my troop," Weeks said. "They have always been there for me; our troop is like one big family and we will always stick together."
For many of the girls, Girl Scouts has helped them develop their goal-setting skills, responsibility, and independence, among other life skills.
"The biggest focus of girl scouting is leadership," Nancy Schrimp said, "and all of these girls have been leaders in their schools.
"They're incredible students, leaders now and the future leaders of tomorrow."
"It has greatly influenced my life choices," Odin said.
Going for the Gold
All of the girls said advancing toward the Gold Award wasn't always easy.
Greenshields said there were definitely times when she considered quitting.
Pursuit of the Gold Award was cemented when the girls visited the birthplace of Girl Scouts, Savannah, Georgia.
"That really inspired all of us to finish and go get it and made us think, 'We can do this," Greenshields said. "It gave us a final push."
When starting to plan for the Gold Award project, the girls first began making lists of what needs they saw in the community.
The girls said some of the biggest challenges associated with their projects included funding, finding the appropriate contacts, time management and maintaining their motivation.
"One challenge was definitely staying on top of our project because it's very easy to just sit and let time pass by," Jessica Schrimp said. "If you have the motivation, you have the momentum to complete your project."
Now that all eight girls have essentially reached the end of their Girl Scouts careers, all that's left is to become a Girl Scout for Life and maybe a troop leader someday, but the memories will always remain.
"We are all more than just best friends, we are a troop," Patpatia said. "We stick together, we respect one another, and we share similar values.
"Why would I ever give up such an amazing part of my life?"