Gold Award Girl Scouts Samantha Bynder, Katherine Hodges, and Laura Vetter

The Gold Award is much more than a community service project. It is the culmination of everything girls have learned over years as a Girl Scout. It is the innovation, perseverance, and ambition of a girl combined with the knowledge and skills gained from patch programs, mentors, and troop leaders to produce lasting and sustainable change in her community. Today, we are sharing with you three stories of how Gold Award Girl Scouts shared what they have learned with their community and earned our highest award in the process.

For Gold Award Girl Scout recipient Samantha (Sammie) Bynder, her inspiration drew from her own environmental consciousness and an interest in protecting aquatic animals. Sammie’s project, titled Make A Splash With No Trash, involved teaching children the importance of recycling and the impact poor waste management has on marine life. To do this, Sammie wrote, illustrated, and self-published a book about recycling and the impact single-use plastic. She partnered with her former elementary school where she led a craft activity with recyclable materials to promote student engagement and information retention, as well as launched a recycling program to encourage students to apply the principles they learned.

Sammie says, “In completing my project, not only did I learn more about the harmful impact plastic waste has on our environment, but I learned practical skills as well like time management and perseverance through those unexpected bumps in the road.”

After finishing her senior year of high school, Sammie plans to go to college to pursue a career in environmental law.

Gold Award Girl Scout Katherine Hodges

Our next Gold Award recipient, Katherine Hodges, was inspired by her own experience with the Salinas-Kushikino Sister City Association. The non-profit organizes a biennial student ambassador summer exchange program to build a bridge for the citizens of Salinas, California and Ichikikushikino, Japan. In 2019, Katherine was selected as a Student Ambassador but realized upon further investigation that the association had a limited online presence. Katherine made it her mission to create a website that features Student Ambassador testimonials, program eligibility information, a sample itinerary, an online application, and a way to contact the association if a prospective student has questions. Following the completion of the website, Katherine presented it to city officials at the Salinas city council meeting, the Association’s Board of Directors at one of their monthly meetings, and again to the Association’s members at their annual picnic.

Katherine says “Throughout working on this website, I learned that I have a skill for speaking in front of large crowds about what I am passionate about in a mature and professional way.”

Currently Katherine is attending the University of Southern California as a Human Biology major on a pre-med track. She plans to move on to graduate school upon completion of her undergrad degree and eventually become a medical professional.

Our last Gold Award recipient, Laura Vetter, worked to increase awareness of civic engagement opportunities for high schoolers. Her project, titled Civic Engagement with High Schoolers, involved creating a series of flyers, informing students how they can pre-register to vote as well as how they can sign up for poll working on election day. To ensure her impact had a lasting effect on her community, Laura equipped teachers and high school administrators with resources on teen civic duties and rights.

Gold Award Girl Scout Laura Vetter

Laura says “I learned the importance of perseverance because there were many times throughout my project where I would have to go back and brainstorm again after hitting an obstacle.”

Today, Laura is attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she plans on studying biology.

For more information about the Gold Award and how Girl Scouts are creating positive change within their communities, visit here.