The Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama recently celebrated 23 Girl Scouts who earned the program’s prestigious Gold Award.
The award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn. Scouts ages 14 to 17 years old are required to create a meaningful and sustainable project that helps the community locally, nationally or globally.
According to the organization, earning a Gold Award is an achievement that stands out in the college admissions process, often leading to scholarships and advanced rank when enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces.
“Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award is truly a remarkable achievement, and these young women exemplify leadership in all its forms,” said Karen Peterlin, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama. “They saw a need in their communities and around the world and took action. Their extraordinary dedication, perseverance and leadership is making the world a better place.”
Of the 23 Gold Award recipients this year, seven are from the Over the Mountain area.
Holly Brown, a senior at Mountain Brook High School, earned a Gold Award for her project, “Picnic for the Kids.”
Her project aided The Bell Center for Early Intervention Programs, in Homewood. The program provides therapeutic and educational programming for young children with developmental delays.
Brown has volunteered with the Bell Center for years and saw the need for an outdoor space for children to have therapy sessions.
Brown created a safe, child-friendly outdoor space by building a picnic table as well as a sensory garden.
“Growing up I really valued my relationship with the outdoors and felt that every kid should have the same ability despite their differences,” Brown said. “I believe my project will inspire other developmental delay centers to put an emphasis on spending time outdoors.”
Bell Center participants were able to be a part of the project by adding their handprints to the picnic table and learning about the three plants included in the sensory garden – lavender, rosemary and lamb’s ear.
Brown noted that she believes that providing an outdoor space for developmentally delayed youth provides a tactile and alternative opportunity for therapy.
Brown’s project will affect Bell Center participants as the organization continues to carry out therapy sessions and classes outside, providing a break in their daily routine.
According to Brown, the process of earning her Gold Award paired with her time in the Girl Scouts has better prepared her for her future.
“As a Girl Scout, we’ve been given a lot of opportunities to work with younger kids but also develop important leadership skills,” Brown said.
Abigail Courtenay, a senior at John Carroll High School, earned a Gold Award for her project, “Outdoor Classroom.”
Courtenay focused her project on issues created when children spend too much time indoors, which can lead to a decrease in creativity, concentration and social skills.
To tackle these issues, she created an outdoor classroom at the Mountain Brook Girl Scout House for the local community as well as the Girl Scouts who use the space.
The classroom is available for activities such as art and music lessons, community group meetings and elementary school classes.
“There is a limited scope of activities available inside a confined, traditional classroom,” Courtenay said. “People react positively to an outdoor space that gives them the opportunity for multi-sensory learning, physical activity and the ability to connect with nature.”
Courtenay’s project will continue to help people as more of them have the chance to use her outdoor classroom to get children outside and immersed in nature.
“Going through this process has really given me confidence to know that I can do something that’s bigger than myself,” Courtenay said.
Lydia Estes, a junior at Homewood High School, earned a Gold Award for her project, “The Message is Clear.” Her project focused on confidence and self-esteem among elementary-aged girls.
Estes wanted to provide other girls with frequent reminders of their value to help them realize their full potential and feel empowered.
She hosted seminars for girls in inner-city schools and held surveys to see how girls viewed themselves. She then painted the school bathroom stall doors and around the mirrors with positive words such as “brave,” “strong” and “smart.”
“It’s one thing for an adult or teacher to say positive things, but it’s another level to have the words right on the mirror so you say them to yourself,” Estes said.
She believes her project made girls feel more empowered and act more kindly to themselves and others. She believes her project will have a ripple effect as these girls go into their schools and the world with more confidence and knowledge of their power.
Staff at the schools also indicated that the words had a positive effect on them.
Estes said Girl Scouts strongly influenced her own self-esteem and will hopefully affect new girls in the school for years to come.
“I’ve grown up knowing that I can make a difference and have a voice,” she said. “Girl Scouts has allowed me to have so many great female role models, including my mom, who is my troop leader.”
Rachel Estreicher, a senior at Mountain Brook High School, earned a Gold Award for her project, “Reachable Resources for Non-Reading Students.”
For her project, Estreicher partnered with Start the Adventure in Reading, a nonprofit with 13 sites in Birmingham that works to improve the reading skills of underserved second graders who are reading below grade level.
Estreicher has volunteered with Stair for five years, during which she noticed an influx of students who had no reading ability at all. To address the issue, she created an accompanying program that allows students to partake in the tutoring services with a more focused set of guidelines that allows them to catch up to where other children are when they enter the Stair program.
After extensive research, she developed a prototype kit, tried it out in her own tutoring, expanded it and improved on the prototype.
Each kit includes flash cards and Lego blocks to help students understand reading and new ways of learning letters, the sounds they make, and how to use those sounds to produce words.
“I took action in my community because I saw a need and I wanted to help fix that need and make it better any way that I could,” Estreicher said.
Her project will have a lasting influence because the kits and materials she created for non-readers will remain at all the Stair of Birmingham sites. All of the materials, guidelines and lesson plans are available for future tutors to use to aid non-readers.
Taylor Player, a senior at Oak Mountain High School, earned a Gold Award for her project, “The Four Little Girls Patch Program,” which focused on the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing.
The bombing occurred in 1963, with members of the Ku Klux Klan targeting the church because it served as a meeting place for civil rights leaders. Four girls from the congregation were killed in the blast, marking a turning point in Civil Rights history and leading to more support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Player was touched by this story – particularly by one of the girls, Carole Robertson, having been a Girl Scout – and wanted to take action to spread awareness so the four little girls’ story would not be forgotten.
She learned more about the girls by meeting with their families and hearing firsthand accounts of their lives.
She also met one-on-one with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, R-Ala., who successfully prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members nearly 40 years after the bombing. She talked to him about his role in the case and asked that the story of the four girls be included in the statewide school curriculum.
“He told me that my generation, people like myself, we’re going to change the world,” Player said.
Player created a Girl Scouts patch program so that girls across the country would learn about the four girls killed in the bombing. Some of the activities to earn the patch include watching a Spike Lee documentary about the bombing, called “Four Little Girls,” visiting a civil rights museum, talking to a civil rights activist or someone who was alive during that era, visiting a historical African-American church and discussing why the story of the bombing is important today.
“No matter what you pick to earn your Girl Scout Gold Award, it will leave a legacy and it will make the world a better place,” Player said.
Player is interested in studying law and will be attending the University of Alabama this fall.
Lilly Poehler, a graduate of Hoover High School, earned a Gold Award for her project, “Blood Drives Save Lives.”
Poehler tackled the lack of awareness regarding the importance of donating blood.
Poehler grew up going with her mom to blood drives, and later her grandfather needed a blood transfusion in the hospital.
She volunteered several times with the American Red Cross blood drives before sponsoring her own.
Her blood drive drew several first-time donors and collected 37 units of whole blood. A single unit of whole blood can help save up to three lives, so her drive resulted in enough donations to potentially save the lives of up to 111 people.
To further educate her community, Poehler created a presentation that she shared with several groups, including her church. The presentation includes information on how beneficial giving blood is to patients, as well as the donors themselves, and shares resources for groups wanting to host their own blood drives.
“During my presentations, others learned that it doesn’t take much to make a difference in people’s lives,” Poehler said.
Poehler wants to be a trauma nurse practitioner. She is currently studying nursing at the University of South Alabama.
“Doing this project really helped solidify my ambitions and it made me see what kind of impact I could have,” she said.
Ivey Randle, a senior at Oak Mountain High School, earned her Gold Award for her project, “Beauty Within – God Created You Beautifully.”
For her project, Randle wanted to promote self-esteem among middle school girls through the lens of her Christian faith.
She created a workshop for middle school girls at Valleydale Church, which included discussions and demonstrations regarding age-appropriate clothing and makeup, healthy eating and fitness, and discipleship to “remind the girls that God created each one of them beautifully.”
Her project will be sustained for years to come through a Beauty Within workshop template she created for Valleydale Church.
Randle said that earning her Gold Award has strengthened her public speaking, time management and problem-solving abilities.
“Through the Gold Award project, I was able to act on what I believe in,” Randle said. “I think it’s important to be a female leader because younger girls need someone to look up to and have a positive role model in today’s world.”
Rotarian Talks About His Grandfather’s Business Acumen and Belief in the Power of the Four-Way Test
Al Mathis, with an umbrella from Rotary in Japan, bearing text of the Four-Way Test.
Businessman Al Mathis talked with fellow Rotarians in April, describing his grandfather, Herbert Taylor, his career and his authorship of the “Four-Way Test.”
Taylor wrote the 24-word ethical guide in 1934, when his company was immersed in Depression-incurred debt and he wanted to promote a corporate culture of trust and goodwill, Mathis said in his speech to the Alabama Rotary’s Combined District Annual Conference.
The test still is a touchstone for Rotary International, of which Taylor had been president, and is inscribed on courtroom walls in Ghana and printed on publicly distributed umbrellas in Japan. Across the globe, more than a million Rotarians in 34,000 clubs and 200 countries rely on the simple ethical and moral code that does not split people based on their cultures, governments, religions and languages.
Taylor did succeed in pulling his company, Club Aluminum, out of debt, crediting his ethical mantra.
Mathis has followed in Taylor’s footsteps, from his four-decade involvement in his family business, De Soto Caverns Fun Park to his involvement in Rotary. He also is administrator for the Four-Way Test Association and director of the Christian Workers Association.
The Combined Conference, meeting at the Marriott Grandview, welcomed Rotarians from both Alabama Districts, 6860 and 6880, and was attended by Past Rotary International president, John Germ of Chattanooga, and by Wade Nomura, of Santa Barbara, special representative of the 2018-2019 International president, Barry Rassin, of the Bahamas. Ken Schuppert of Decatur represented the Rotary Foundation as trustee. Sam Adams and Carol Argo, District Governors of 6880 and 6860, respectively, attended.