The 2019 Girls Scout Gold Awards were given out June 15 at a ceremony at the Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines, and among the 61 recipients for their excellent community service projects were La Jolla Girl Scouts Laura Bryant and Lily Stratton.
The Gold Award is the highest honor achievable in the program, earned when a Scout identifies an issue in the community and creates a sustainable project to solve it.
According to press material, for her Gold Award project, Bryant designed and led character education workshops, games, fairs and assemblies for K-6 students of The Evans School in La Jolla, through a program she created called “Values Ed, Student Led.”
Stratton held a modified baseball tournament for children with special needs to give them the opportunity to experience playing sports competitively. She teamed up with parents, volunteers, field management, insurance companies and public agencies to complete her project — and used her earnings from the Girl Scout Cookie program.
Bryant told the Light that she chose to focus her Gold Award project on leadership development because “many people are of the impression that being a leader is the same as being in charge. But young people can learn about leading by example in their thoughts and actions. The qualities I’m teaching will stay with them for their whole lives.”
Through her program at the Evans School, sixth-graders partner with kindergartners for peer-mentoring exercises. For example, one group made cookies and created talking points by having each cookie ingredient represent a character trait. “Brown sugar represented the Golden Rule,” Bryant explained. “So when students added the brown sugar, they talked about the importance of treating others as you would want to be treated and how they could incorporate that trait into their daily lives.”
A Girl Scout since Kindergarten, Bryant said she’s embraced the leadership development that comes with the organization. For her Silver Award project in eighth-grade, she created a detective-themed summer camp dubbed the “Clued-In Detective Academy.” The camp offered forensic science-based activities at the La Jolla Historical Society.
“I selected middle-schoolers to be counselors because they modeled good character, which in turn helped foster leadership,” she said. “They got more responsibility than they would at other camps where they might be counselors-in-training or junior counselors, and the kids in the camps got to see the reachable steps to leadership. It doesn’t seem that far off from them when it comes from someone close to their age.”
During her freshman year of high school, Bryant stepped up to lead her younger sister’s troop when the previous leader was stepping down — making her the only Girl Scout in San Diego to have led a troop since she was a cadet.
And while she is “glad” she attained the Girl Scout Gold Award, Bryant said it represents more than a project. “I don’t think of it as something I can put on my college applications, it’s more about helping people learn and grow. It’s the little moments that count, and there are so many small moments in my time in Girl Scouts that really helped me grow, and I feel good about having mentored the kids.”
To read more about Bryant’s Gold Award project, visit valued.weebly.com To learn more about the Clued-In Detective Academy (next session in summer 2020), visit cluedindetectives.weebly.com
For Stratton’s “Tournament of Champions” project in March 2018, players with special needs were placed on baseball teams, and more than 40 volunteers were on hand to help the participants, based on their abilities. Some needed to be pitched to or use a tee and have someone run with them. Stratton also made signs for each player, so everyone would have a fan in the stands. In April 2018, she created a video outlining her process, sharing her motivation for this project and clips from the Tournament (grab your tissues!): youtu.be/XfY8R3lWMgA
“I’ve always been super passionate about helping people with special needs,” Stratton told the Light. “I met someone with Down syndrome when I was in seventh grade, and we’ve been super close ever since. That sparked my passion for wanting to help people with different needs. Plus, my brother was on a baseball team and he had a teammate with autism, and I watched as he played and found a lot of joy in it, but eventually had to step down because it got to be too much for him. It made me really sad to see someone have to step away from something they loved because of their disability.”
To meet the sustainability requirement of the Gold Award, Stratton put together a presentation that includes all of the details needed to host this tournament in the future — flyers, waivers, items purchased, items donated, finding participants and volunteers, etc. And she already has a volunteer to lead the tournament next summer.
“I would love to do it, but I’ll be going off to college,” she said. She’ll attend USC this fall for its Occupational Therapy Bachelor’s to Master program.
Having been in Girl Scouts for the last 12 years, Stratton said the Gold Award experience has been rewarding on many levels: “Through this process, I learned that if we look past each other’s differences, we’re all basically the same on the inside. People think everyone is so different, but I know people with physical or mental setbacks that are still funny, intelligent and have wonderful personalities. We just have to look past our differences.”
She added that she also learned the value of seeing a project through from start to finish: “There were times when I thought it was too much work and didn’t know if I could pull it off ... but I was really proud of myself at the end. I planned it and it could turn into an annual thing. Personally, I feel stronger following my time in Girl Scouts. There were times when I needed help, and I got it, but I also did a lot by myself to see you can do anything if you work hard and are passionate about it.”