Two local Girl Scouts in Troop 142 recently both succeeded in attaining their Gold Awards, the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve.
The Gold Award, comparable to the Boy Scouts of America’s Eagle Scout, is awarded to fewer than 6% of Girl Scouts annually, according to Girl Scouts of the USA.
Both Hailey Johnson, 17, and Arianna Diaz, 18, individually completed their Gold Award projects, pushing through the challenges put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tech for seniors
For Johnson, it was before the pandemic when she was at the Bella Vida Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center that the idea for her project came to her.
“I noticed that their bus check-in system was on a computer, and I saw them all around this one lady who was trying to show them how to do it because none of them knew how to do it on their own,” she said. “I thought, if this is happening when I’m here, I can only imagine how many times it happens every day.”
That’s when Johnson decided she’d like to help them learn about technology, “since I know their generation doesn’t necessarily have the same knowledge as I — who was able to grow up with it — do, it’s harder for them,” she added.
Though she was originally supposed to do in-person workshops, the pandemic threw a wrench into her plans, forcing her instead to do them via Zoom.
“It was a little bit of a struggle, especially since I was there to teach them about technology,” she said, “and I basically was, like, ‘Yeah, so now you have to go onto Zoom to get onto the workshop before you even get to learn how to use the technology.’”
Even so, Johnson succeeded in completing four workshops, each geared toward different subjects, such as how to use a digital camera or download apps. She also provided participants with a 40-page workbook, filled with step-by-step explanations on how to use multiple functions of iPhones, which is now also available on the Senior Center’s website.
“I think they learned a lot,” she said. “They all said I helped them a lot, and that they still carry around their little notes with them so they can remember how to use their phones.”
For Diaz, the idea for her project came easily, as she was able to use her career aspirations as inspiration.
“This all started because, in the future, I want to become a pediatric dentist, so I wanted my project to revolve around that,” she said.
Diaz partnered with the Kids’ Community Dental Clinic, a nonprofit that provides low-cost dental services to children of low-income families.
“They also give presentations to schools, Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs about how to properly clean, what foods are good for the teeth, which ones are not, which ones are making the teeth feel rotten, what is a cavity, just to educate kids,” she added.
While Diaz was supposed to do a toothbrush drive, gathering supplies for goodie bags filled with toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss that are typically given to kids at these presentations, the pandemic instead forced her to get creative.
“I personally went to every single one of the dentists’ offices and collected the toothbrushes myself,” she said, adding that she succeeded in putting together 300 bags.
In addition, Diaz created new presentation slides for the clinic, updating the outdated information and creating a fun learning tool for the kids.
“With the presentation that I had made, I actually got to go to five different Boys & Girls Clubs and present my actual project to them, so that was really cool,” she added.
Using stuffed animals with built-in teeth, along with LEGO sets filled with playdough, Diaz kept the kids engaged, while teaching them how to brush in circles and floss out plaque.
“It was a humbling experience just because, as I was presenting, they were so interested in something so simple that I take for granted,” Diaz said. “A bunch of them were just asking great questions, and most of them can’t actually afford floss, so they were so excited to learn.”
Time and effort
For both Johnson and Diaz, the projects were a culmination of the time and effort they had put into Girl Scouts through the years.
“It’s just crazy because I remember in kindergarten, thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to go to Girl Scouts and pick something out of the treasure box,’ and now here I am, completing an 80-hour project, which is really cool,” Johnson said. “It’s shaped me into who I am, and it’s showed me how good it can feel to give back to the community, not just to receive the praise for it, but to make others feel good and help others.”
“Many people just think that Girl Scouts is just a service project, but it’s really a way to engage with the community,” Diaz added. “It just opened up so many new opportunities for me that I definitely don’t think I would’ve had if I wasn’t a Girl Scout.”
Jennifer Johnson, troop leader and Hailey’s mom, agreed, adding, “It’s been amazing to see them all complete this honor because, for so many girls, that’s their end goal for Scouts and they don’t make it that far.
“So to see them actually reach that and to go out and be independent and know how to talk to adults and know how to get things done, even with COVID,” Jennifer added, “I’m beyond proud of them. It’s a great honor to see them finish and complete this.”