Sarasota Girl Scout Fights Human Trafficking

Sarasota Girl Scout Ambassador and Booker High School student Raven Peters has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project entitled, Break the Bonds.

Raven was shocked to learn that Florida is the third most at-risk state in the U.S. for human trafficking.  She developed her Gold Award project to make the community more aware of this issue, while providing support and resources to survivors and current victims.

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Raven organized and hosted a public symposium, created a service project to assemble toiletry kits for local shelters, published a brochure of local resources for victims, and worked with New College of Florida to implement a human trafficking clause into the school’s Title IX (sex discrimination) policy.

“I wish to become an international human rights lawyer,” Raven said. “This project has given me the ability to identify an issue and take action to do my best to address it.”

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The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Open only to girls in high school, this prestigious award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable Take-Action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Be inspired and learn more about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s other 2016 Gold Award recipients.

~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

Guest Blog: Kickin’ Violence and the Power of Youth Leadership

Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Ambassador and 2015 Gold Award recipient Grace Wickerson talks about her award-winning program, Kickin’ Violence; the importance of youth leadership; and her vision for the future.

Editor’s note: Founded in 2013 by Grace Wickerson, Kickin’ Violence is a non-profit organization that seeks to empower youth to eradicate violence through education, service, and martial arts. It is one of the first national anti-violence organizations lead by and for youth.

I never planned on making Kickin’ Violence anything more than my Girl Scout Gold Award project. While I realized the importance of non-violence advocacy, I felt as if I had done “enough.” My project had seen great success, impacting countless people in Sarasota County, and was sustainable. Yet, on a whim, I applied to Youth Service America‘s National Child Awareness Month (NCAM) Ambassador Program fully expecting to be rejected.

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To my surprise, and utter joy, I was made the NCAM Ambassador for Florida. From that point on, I became a part of a supportive family and network of 50 other remarkable young leaders. I also became a representative of an organization that is trying to erase the invisible stigma against young leaders. I am committed to empowering youth everywhere to take the small steps, or even significant strides, toward a more equal, peaceful, and sustainable planet. I’ve realized that I still have a lot more work to do to eradicate violence, especially against women and LGBTQ+ people.

Now, with the support of my school board signaling further expansion of Kickin’ Violence into my local community; the National Child Awareness Month Youth connections that will spur national growth; the formation of a Youth Advisory Board; and the recognition as a National Jefferson Award Winner for Peace and Justice that will help us scale our service projects to impact 100,000 violence survivors and educate millions on how they can take a stand against violence; the future of this organization is bright.

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The success of Kickin’ Violence in just the past year has exceeded far beyond my expectations. I have made a difference in the lives of thousands in my own community. And now, I can maximize that impact to millions through my partnership with the National Jefferson Awards Foundation. I find it remarkable that I even considered giving up my fight. I can’t imagine what my life would be like right now without Kickin’ Violence. Building this organization over past three years has made me realize how much I have to give to those around me and how much good I can do just by taking action.

I believe that young people are not only the future, but they are also the “now.” Our age does not limit our ability to make a substantial difference in the world. I have learned how to work better with other leaders as well as how to inspire others to take on leadership roles. We will only be able to overcome the enormous challenges that we face, like extreme hunger, food scarcity, gender inequality, and climate change, together. These issues should not divide us, but rather, unite us. The intersectionality of many of these issues means that current and future leaders in these movements for a more sustainable future will need to know how to work with one another for the benefit of all. These leaders will also need to understand that they alone, no matter the size of their pockets or scope of their influence, will need the voices of the millions of individuals who have not yet been mobilized to lead. I realized that a leader’s impact should not be measured by how many followers they have, but by how many others they inspire to lead.

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That is why I am hosting my Anti-Violence Advocacy Workshop on April 23, 2016, at the Gulfcoast Event and Conference Center in Sarasota. I am leaving for college soon (in just over three months), but I do not want to see Kickin’ Violence lose momentum in Sarasota County. I am prepared to train a new group of leaders to take my place. They will be the voice for eradicating violence against women as well as the inequalities between people that cause violence to occur. I cannot wait to work with everybody that day and feel energized by the power of the upcoming generation. Together, we will be able to give our country a virtual “kick” in the right direction.

Editor’s note: For more information on Kickin’ Violence, or to register for the April 23 workshop, please visit www.kickin-violence.org.

Reaching for the Gold: An Inspirational Weekend at Camp Honi Hanta

Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida recently hosted the inaugural “Reaching for the Gold” weekend at Camp Honi Hanta. The program, organized by Manager of Community Troops and Outreach Eboni Curry, was designed around the GIRLtopia and BLISS Live it! Give it! Journeys. The goal: inspire girls to explore the possibilities for completing the Girl Scout Gold Award, which represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.

Gold Weekend Honi Hanta 3-11 - 3-12-16 168 cropThe small group of eight participants consisted of both new and existing Girl Scouts, ranging in age from 14 – 17. Some were excited about the experience. Others were a little skeptical.

Dimi is a perfect example. A junior at Booker High School, Dimi participated in Reaching for the Gold because her school guidance counselor thought it would be an excellent opportunity for her.  It was Dimi’s first experience with Girl Scouts, and she was unsure what to expect.

“I thought the weekend was going to be kind of boring, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to know anyone.  I had also injured my knee the previous day during track and field practice and was in a lot of pain. But something kept telling me I should go.”

Dimi dream boardAs a result of her injury, Dimi arrived at camp with a bulky brace on her leg.  As she hobbled into the Manatee House, she was surprised to discover she already knew all of the other girls. Dimi was not able to participate in the canoeing activity, but she stood by to encourage the other girls as they entered the river.  She contributed to all of the other activities with remarkably insightful responses and demonstrated leadership qualities as she inspired other girls to share their thoughts and ideas.

My favorite part of the weekend,” Dimi said, “was going into the lodge and doing our dream boards.” Dimi’s dream board reflects her passion for basketball and her determination to achieve academic success. “It was my favorite part because we stepped away from our phones and had the opportunity to be creative and think outside of the box. For me, it truly opened my eyes and made me think.

The result? Dimi is now inspired to work on her Gold Award.  She wants to focus on homelessness in Sarasota, which has been a perennial and controversial topic within the community.

I really appreciate Ms. Eboni and her team for putting together the weekend and for giving us young girls the opportunity. It helped me in a way that I can’t explain.” And that is what Girl Scouting is all about.

~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

 

Cameron of Naples Goes Gold

Gold Award Project: The Taming of the Bard

 See the Video Interview here: http://youtu.be/ox-zlf5eT9A

Cameron Buxton is a senior at Seascrest Country Day School. She is preparing for college, applying at distinct schools such as Yale, Dartmouth, and Columbia to study paleontology. At her school, she is the stage manager of the drama department, the captain of several academic teams, the founder of The Scholar Bowl, part of Youth Leadership Collier, and has been in Girl Scouts for 11 years.

IMG_5411When she and her peers first were introduced to Shakespeare, her peers weren’t interested and thought it was hard. Cameron decided that she would introduce 40 students at her school to Shakespeare in a fun, non-intimidating way. Cameron wanted to teach students about important works of literature to enhance the already strong arts and music program at the school, so she educated and inspired.

Cameron is proud of the leadership skills she gained; “I think that my leadership skills will grow in the future because I have now gained the confidence to teach others about what I was passionate about. Leading people through artistic vision is something that I had never thought of doing before and definitely changes how I look at theater and my potential roles in it in the future.”

Peggy Arndt, Cameron’s Gold Award Advisor and Theatre Director at Seacrest Country Day School said, “Over the course of many weeks, Cameron succeeded in not just presenting Shakespeare, but in making his writing accessible to her students. Cameron had not only become a teacher, but a remarkably good, and inspiring one, at that.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award is so prestigious that some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements. Cameron will be recognized for this achievement in May 2015, at Girl Scouts Young Women of Distinction ceremony. Congratulations Cameron!

Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award: http://www.gsgcf.org/girls/gold-award

 

Amanda of Bradenton Goes Gold

Gold Award Project: The Peaceful Place

 See the Video Interview here: http://youtu.be/xM2QOqQYI0c

Amanda is a freshman at State College of Florida, majoring in hospital administration and marketing. She was in Girl Scouts for over seven years. For her Gold Award project, she built a meditation garden for Peace Presbyterian Church in Bradenton. She says, “It’s a place for people to feel comfortable and get away; to think and be at peace.”

IMG_5381Amanda learned lifelong skills. She learned time management skills, how to lead several people in the management of a project, and she knows now she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Amanda knows she has made a difference in her church community. She feels that with the fast paced world, this garden can be a peaceful place for people to sit back and think. She says, “Maybe some of the world’s most inspiring thoughts are here. We don’t know?”

Sue Stewart, Cheif Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc., stated, “Nationwide only 5.4% of qualifying Girl Scouts earn the Girl Scout Gold Award. As Amanda enters those ranks, she has distinguished herself by standing up for what she believes and taking action to make her community better.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award is so prestigious that some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements. Amanda will be recognized for this achievement in May 2015, at Girl Scouts Young Women of Distinction ceremony. Congratulations Amanda!

Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award: http://www.gsgcf.org/girls/gold-award

 

Ellie of Sarasota goes Gold!

Gold Award Project: Dance, Dance Round the World 

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Ellie Tsuchiya, a Senior at Pine View, recently completed her Gold Award Project, “Dance, Dance Round the World” to address cultural apathy in younger generations. The program was created for the Dance-The Next Generation (DNG) students. DNG is a free Sarasota Ballet program for low income students at Title 1 schools. Ellie volunteered with the program and through interacting with the students realized, “they didn’t know about the diversity in our world and I thought it was something I could teach them.”

With her program, she expanded student’s knowledge of different dances and created a global link to cultures around the world. She believes, “cultural apathy causes many young people to partake in stereotyping or racism simply because they are not knowledgeable. My program helps these students become more culturally aware and more respectful.”

Lisa Townsend with the Sarasota Ballet and Ellie’s Gold Award advisor said, “Since our program utilizes dance to teach self-discipline, this tied in perfectly with what we do. It was a great way to help broaden their horizons, not just with dance, but with global cultures.”

This summer, Ellie visited the Girl Scout Headquarters in Japan, where she shared her project with members from across the world. Local GS visiting Girl Scouts of Japan Headquarters in Tokyo

“Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award designation is truly a remarkable achievement, and Ellie exemplifies leadership in all its forms,” said Sue Stewart, Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc. “Her dedication, perseverance, and leadership, is making the world a better place.”

Ellie's Gold Award Pose

Ellie’s Gold Award Pose

Ellie learned presentation skills, confidence, audience adaptation, and time management through this project, but expressed the biggest thing she learned, “was that I could put my ideas into action for a cause I care about.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award is so prestigious that some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements. Ellie will be recognized for this achievement in May 2015, at Girl Scouts Young Women of Distinction ceremony.

Fantastic job Ellie!

Ellie in the news: Herald Tribune * The Observer

Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award: http://www.gsgcf.org/girls/gold-award

~Guest Blogger is Emily Prettyman, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc. alumna and volunteer. Emily C. of Troop 121 with the Media Team helped interview Ellie and is featured in the video.

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