Service Spotlight: My Gold Award Journey

By Neya Kidambi
EE Editor-in-Chief ‘22

Neya Kidambi at one of her August workshops.

As a Girl Scout enters high school, it becomes time to start thinking about the Gold Award Project. Receiving the Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn. It focuses on leadership, career exploration, personal growth, and community action. 

“Gold Award Girl Scouts are rock stars, role models, and real-life heroes,” the official Girl Scouts of the USA website says.

The process of earning my Gold Award was one of the most intensive and rewarding experiences. Girl Scouts are recommended to spend a minimum of 80 hours on their project. 

I started my own Gold journey in January of 2021. The main cause behind my project was the lack of education surrounding mental health and overall emotional wellness, for teens. 

In America today, mental health is still stigmatized, and few are willing to discuss it openly. This lack of healthy discussion leads to generations of teens and young adults who have neglected their emotional health, leading to inevitable issues in personal or work lives.

I chose to carry out my project in the form of workshops for middle school girls in Fairfield County. I wanted to create a safe-space where I could not only educate, but also reframe that open discourse as normal, and even fun. 

The process definitely was not straightforward. I initially contacted local libraries near Trumbull to host my workshops there, but I received the same response each time: No.

The main reason why the libraries were unable to let me host my workshop was because I was only a teenager. Even though I was passionate about my project, I wasn’t certified to talk about the topics that I wanted to address. 

It was most certainly disappointing to be turned away after the time and passion that I had put into my project. Truthfully, I was discouraged, and wanted to stop trying altogether. What helped to get me back on track, though, was the reminder that I was running this workshop not for myself, but as a chance to reach out to teenagers who struggled with their mental health. It was my responsibility, as well as my privilege, to create an impact on their lives.

That’s when I realized something: I wasn’t certified to talk about the topics that I wanted to address, alone. That didn’t mean I would never be able to run my workshops–it just meant I had to rework the way in which I wanted to present them. 

I went back to the drawing board, and came back even stronger. 

I made the decision to reach out to and partner with a local licensed professional counselor. Working with a professional was an important change, given the concerns of the locations that I was working with. 

Immediately, I saw a striking difference. Not only did venues seem more receptive to my presentation, but the counselor I was working with helped me to address certain topics in a better way. 

Finally, the project I had been working on for the past 7 months had come to life. Over the course of a week in August, I ran 5 workshops about various topics, including stress management, self care, and body positivity. 

Girls from all over Fairfield County attended. We made slime, took personality quizzes, painted, made personalized face masks, did guided meditation, and so much more. 

Beyond the hands-on activities, interactive group discussions created a comfortable environment and drew out vulnerability. Attendees shared their experiences with insecurity, bullying, and collective problems they had all faced. 

Most of the participants had not met before attending, but the workshops brought them together beautifully. They inspired one another, and connected in ways that they never thought they would. 

“My favorite part was sharing things about loving our bodies,” said 7th grader S.T. on her final workshop survey. “I loved the questions where you got to hear other perspectives.”

“My favorite workshop all week was self care, and I feel a lot more ready for high school and being a teen,” said another attendee, 7th grader M.M. 

“Awesome and so interesting! I learned lots of new things. I really enjoyed this and it was a lot of fun,” said 6th grader T.M. 

To me, this showed that my project was a success because it did what it set out to do–educate, establish a comfortable environment, and provide participants with the resources they needed to have a more manageable teenage experience. 

The most important part of this journey was using my past experiences to help the next generation. Throughout the workshops, they weren’t only learning from me, but I was learning from them, too.  One day, I know that those attendees will go on to become the next generation of role models.

Have you conducted a long-term service project? If so, email thseagleseye@gmail.com to be interviewed & featured in a Service Spotlight to inspire others!

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