The Girl Scout Gold Award is a project that involves finding the root of a problem in the community and collaborating with others to address it. When it came time for her Gold Award, Sarah Smith, a member of Girl Scout Troop 2000 and a junior at Severna Park High School, knew she wanted to address the issue of unity at Severna Park Middle School (SPMS.)
The idea struck Sarah during a conversation with her mom. She mentioned that the middle school had portraits of students in the halls, and how she always thought they were random. Her mom suggested replacing the portraits for her Gold Award.
“I wanted to just refresh the space and give students something new to look at, but also something that would have an impact on them,” Sarah said.
As a former SPMS student, Sarah knew that the students lacked unity and decided to base her project around bringing the students together.
“I know that middle school is a really hard time for so many people for so many different reasons,” Sarah said. “And so I just felt like there needed to be something more to give the students like a way to unite and work together.”
She pitched her project to former SPMS principal Sharon Hansen, who was excited about the project, but nothing kicked off as she was retiring. Sarah shared the plans with Dennis Kelly, the current principal, and he jumped at the opportunity.
“He definitely helped me, but he also gave me a lot of control,” Sarah said. “He always asked me what I wanted to do and what I thought would work best.”
She first established her goal, which was to encourage students to consider their actions as a measure of their success.
“I sort of also realized that, especially in our community, everything is grade-oriented,” Sarah said. “That's a great measure of success, but I feel like this project helped them to focus on themselves and who they are as a person.”
She sent surveys to parents to determine what characteristics they thought best described “Park PRIDE.” The surveys determined that perseverance, respect, integrity, determination and empathy were the characteristics that students at SPMS should exhibit on a daily basis.
Sarah designed lesson plans for the students’ Park Period around each of the characteristics. She knew she wanted the lessons to be fun, so she spoke to friends’ siblings and guidance counselors to determine what activities the students would enjoy.
“It was actually fun to come up with different things, but it was really hard because it had to be virtual,” Sarah said. “I didn't want it to be boring, so I had to come up with games to get the students to talk about what each characteristic meant and how they show it in their community.”
Sarah was unable to attend the lessons in-person due to the pandemic. If she were to do it again, she said, that is one thing she would change.
“I would have liked to be able to be in the classroom teaching the lessons to some of the classes and feel more connected to them,” she said.
But it wasn't all bad. The pandemic allowed Sarah, who is an active member of the community and an athlete and works part-time at Savvy Consignment, more time to complete the project.
“I was able to dedicate so much time to this project and developing these graphics,” Sarah said. “I seriously think that is what made me be able to get it done.”
Sarah’s next step is to submit her project and wait for it to be reviewed. She currently does not know if there will be a Gold Award ceremony, but she is excited to have finally completed the project that she has spent over two years working on.
“It definitely made me feel proud of myself, because I had put in all this effort,” Sarah said. “Especially having something tangible that you can see at the end of a project is obviously really rewarding.”