Volunteers

Highest Awards: What To Do

Last week we listed 14 things Not To Do for a Girl Scouts Highest Award. Now it’s time to list what to do for your Highest Award.

Complete the Pre-requisites

Girls must be registered members, the appropriate age level for each award, and must have completed a Journey at that age level before they can begin planning their Highest Award project.

Girls earning their Gold Award who have not previously earned their Silver Award must complete 2 Senior or Ambassador Journeys before beginning the Gold Award process.

Learn from an Expert

We highly recommend adults attend one of our Highest Awards 101 workshops or webinars for Bronze and Silver, while girls attend Gold-specific workshops (search our Activities List for upcoming dates and how to register). You can also contact the Highest Awards support staff in your region. It is especially important for the Gold Award that the girl does the contacting about her specific Gold Award Project!

Your staff support contacts are:

  • Cincinnati — Marissa Hollander (marissahollander@gswo.org)
  • Dayton — Sarah Kelly (sarahkelly@gswo.org)
  • Lima — Megan Ramey (meganramey@gswo.org)
  • Toledo — Natalie Vorst (natalievorst@gswo.org)

 

Explore Your Community

Every community is unique and has different assets and organizations that effect the needs of the community.

While community A may have access to awesome STEM programs for children because of a local university’s outreach department, community B may have no STEM programs available for children that don’t require driving to community A.

What is a need for one community may be a strength for another and vice versa. Good places to start checking into the needs of your local community are the local newspaper and news channels. You can also interview long time residents of the community about the needs and assets they see in your area. Use Community Mapping too.

Identify Issues You Care About

You’ll be spending a large amount of time on your project, so consider what things you value and skills you have that you enjoy sharing.

What sparks your interest? Whether it’s music, science, or animals find a community need that relates to that topic so that your project centers around something you’re passionate about and enjoy.

Investigate the Root Cause of the Issue

When you hear about a problem or an issue, always ask why this is an issue so that you can trace it back to the root cause of the problem.

Need an example? How about you discover your town has a low employment rate. Now find out why.

Are there not enough jobs for the amount of workers available? Do the workers available not have the right skill level for the open positions? Maybe a lack of transportation in the community means the unemployed cannot get to the open positions? Although multiple communities may have the same issue, the root cause of the issue may be very different.

When investigating:

  • Demonstrate courage as you investigate your issue, knowing that what you learn may challenge your own and others beliefs about your community.
  • Use a variety of sources. Interview people, read books and articles, find professional organizations online.
  • Remember to evaluate each source for reliability and accuracy. Bob’sAngryRant.com is not as reliable a source as a reputable news site or organization in your community.
  • Make a global connection. Think about others who may have worked on the same problem in the past, or check the internet to see how others around the globe deal with your issue. What can you learn from their approach? For example, if your local park has noticed a sharp decrease in their bee populations, find out what other parks/towns/places have done to help with this issue. Research why a world without bees is a bad thing and how it affects other issues (for those curious, here’s why).

 

Find a Mentor

Seek out a project adviser who has expertise in the topic of your project either through their own job, volunteer opportunities or general knowledge of the topic.

*Note: your parent/guardian or troop leader cannot be your project adviser.

Build Your Team

Seek out people with valuable skills who are also passionate about your issue. Remember to respect different points of view and ways of working and that they are your volunteers so this is a choice for them, not an obligation. Work with their schedules and be prepared to be flexible in your timeline to accommodate their schedules.

Develop Your Project

Identify a main goal for your project that everyone involved can understand and seek a way to meet that goal.

The basic thing each girl should be able to say is “through our efforts we achieved X, and because of X, we lessened/made a positive impact on issue Y in our community.

For example, “through our creation of a bee-friendly garden at the local park and our Bee Advocate Junior Gardening Workshops, we created a place for bees to thrive and educated community members on the importance of bees. Because of this, the bee population will grow in our community.”

Make a Plan that Lasts

Being organized and thinking through a probable timeline are essential to a quality project. Consider the impact too: is it short term, or are there aspects that will have an effect beyond your initial involvent?

As a leadership Take Action project, the goal is to make a lasting impact on a community need, so the project needs long-term benefits and community support.

This is the difference between Service and Take Action. Service projects are done for the community with a short impact, while Take Action  projects are done with the community so that the impact is sustained.

Still not clear? Click the link above for a more in-depth look at the difference between Service and Take Action!

Gold Award Only: Get Approval

While the Highest Awards support staff welcome questions about projects from all levels, the Gold Award has an added requirement in its approval process.

Girls must submit a Gold Award Proposal with a detailed project plan attached to council. Once received, members of the Gold Award Committee will contact the girl with project feedback and dates of upcoming committee meetings so that each girl can present her project plan to the committee in her region for approval before officially starting the project.

Put the Plan in Motion

You’ve made a plan, found your team, plotted out a timeline and (for Gold Award) gotten the approval needed. All that’s left is taking action to make your world a better place!

Don’t be discouraged if something does not happen exactly as you thought it would or if there are unforeseen obstacles that you must overcome. This is all part of being a leader and making an impact. So keep brainstorming your way around obstacles, consult your team, troubleshoot issues with your adviser as they occur, and reach your goal!

Share Your Story

Demonstrating to an audience what you have learned sets the stage for even broader impact, and is sometimes the best way for you to recognize what you have accomplished and see how much you have grown. It will also help you get others inspired to act!

Need ideas? Here are a few ways to share your story. For more, check the award guidelines in the Highest Awards section of our website!

  • Create a website or blog about what you have learned and how your project will help your community.
  • At a workshop for community members, present what you have learned and what your project will do for the community. Or do a presentation for a group of younger Girl Scouts—you will definitely inspire them!
  • Write an essay or an article for your local or school newspaper

 

Reflect

Congratulations on completing a project that makes a difference! Take some time to think about all that you have accomplished.

Who did you meet that you didn’t know? What did you learn from others about your project issue, about your community, and about yourself? What would you do differently if you did it again? This is Step 4 of the Take Action process.

Make it Official

All awards must turn in a final report and evaluation (in the Highest Awards section of our website) to be official. Each award requires a slightly different final report (Bronze is a checklist, Silver is a Final Report with attached questions, and Gold is a Final Report and Presentation before the Gold Award Committee) and approval process.

The Bronze Award is leader approved and the pin can be purchased in our shop when the checklist and evaluations are turned in.

The Silver Award is leader approved but council must confirm after they receive an individual final report from each girl. Purchasing pins in the shop requires the approval letter from council.

The Gold Award is approved by the Gold Award Committee after the Final Report and a presentation before the committee. Pins are purchased for the girls to be given out at the annual council-wide Gold Award Ceremony in March!

Celebrate!

You’ve accomplished so much. It’s time for a celebration! Invite friends and family to an end of the year party and recognize the girls in your troop who earned this award.

Does your service unit have a picnic/banquet/end of year event? If so, take a moment to recognize all of the girls in your community who have earned these awards. It doesn’t have to be big and splashy to be meaningful!


Now that you’ve got a handle on what to do for your Highest Award, go out and start investigating how you can make a change in your community! Dream big, you’ve got a lot of power inside of you and a whole team of people cheering you on as you make your world a better place!