Parsons High School senior Alexis Harper earned her Girl Scout Gold Award last week, making her the fifth member of Girl Scout Troop 70161 to pursue the honor in the last year and a half.
Troop leader Ginny Wommack beamed with pride while holding back tears as she shared the news of yet another of her girls’ accomplishments in reaching the highest achievement for a Girl Scout, a goal only about 5% of Girl Scouts reach.
The Gold Award recognizes girls in grades nine through 12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through projects that have a sustainable impact in their communities.
“Alexis’ project was called ‘Paint Parsons Positive,’ and it is an amazing project with a broad impact,” Wommack said. “Alexis did a fantastic job.”
“My project was based off of me seeing in the high school a lot of people have insecurities about themselves. My project was kind of based on supporting positive body images, like it’s OK to talk positively about yourself because it’s not bragging; it’s self-confidence.
“The next part of my project was with kids not only in the high school but little kids, to be more positive about themselves and have more confidence.”
At Parsons High School, Harper completed two paintings with positive quotes. One says, “There is No Wrong Way to Have a Body,” and it pictures two cactuses of different shapes. The other painting of a rainbow reads, “Be the Change You Wish to See in the World.”
“I was really happy with how they turned out,” Harper said.
Completing the paintings, Harper took her outreach to another level, developing a list of positive quotes to be read over the intercom at school each morning after the Pledge of Allegiance.
“They are positive self-affirmation quotes they read each morning. That way every day at the high school these kids are hearing something positive, and they have the visual there, too, with the paintings,” Harper said. The Student Council is in charge of keeping the quotes going into the future, after Harper graduates.
To reach young children, Harper worked with Curious Minds Discovery Zone to present two painting workshops. The children got to play for a little bit but then Harper sat them down and talked to them, telling them how they should feel good about themselves and be confident in what they do. They were then given a prompt for something they could paint. Once everyone was done painting, she talked to them again about how they should be proud of the things they accomplish, not just painting, but everything they do.
“Then they each got a chance to stand up in front of the group and talk about their painting and what they like about it and that sort of thing and then they got some more play time,” Harper said. “Hopefully what they learned will have a lasting impact.”
Girl Scouts are required to spend at least 80 hours on their project, from development to completion.
“A lot of times the projects take a lot more than eight hours, especially with all the planning. I actually came up with two other ideas and started filling out paperwork on those before I realized they didn’t actually fulfill all the requirements. … This one fit all the requirements. It was definitely a process to come up with an idea I wanted to do,” Harper said. “It has to be an impact not only within your community but have a global impact, too. It took a lot of time and I had to network a lot to get a lot of people involved.”
To give her project a more global outreach, she attended a Girl Scout convention in Wichita, where she talked to other Girl Scout seniors about her project and what she was doing and how they could incorporate it in their school for the benefit of students. In turn, each of those girls could have an opportunity to share what they have done, spreading the idea across the state and through social media to the world. She was also able to talk to a student council group at a regional conference.
Wommack said Harper has done an outstanding job on her project.
Harper started in Wommack’s Girl Scout troop her freshman year.
“I was in another troop before that, but it wasn’t really active anymore so I joined Ginny’s troop. It was definitely a way different experience than I had in Girl Scouts before because I was younger and it was focused more on camping and skills and all of that. Ginny brought us into the real world experiences and doing really great things, like the Gold Award, just the fact I was able to complete that with Ginny’s help. I mean before that I hadn’t really heard about that opportunity. That is a great opportunity to have. Colleges even look at that. It is really highly awarded.”
The award, among other things, creates valuable scholarship opportunities for young ladies pursuing college.
Other Girl Scout Troop 70161 Gold Award earners and their projects in the past year and a half include:
— Ashley Mann with her “Little Free Library Project,” building two little libraries and locating them at the Parsons Recreation Commission buildings to encourage reading and literacy.
— Lauren Baldwin’s “Wii Activity” providing activities for the elderly in assisted living facilities.
— Anayah Elsen’s “Cut the Drama Out of Trauma,” helping alleviate fear in children who must visit the emergency room at Labette Health.
— Nena Taylor, who chose to construct a gaga pit on the lawn northwest of Wesley United Methodist Church to create another opportunity for community interaction and fun.
“We’re thrilled with the girls in Parsons,” said Mary Jo Jurey, Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland Gold Award Committee volunteer chair.
Each council is allowed to recommend three young ladies to go forward for the National Young Women of Distinction Award. We haven’t officially picked the young ladies we’ll be nominating yet from the Kansas Heartland, but I do believe a couple of them are going to be from the Parsons area because of the level of the projects they’ve done.”
The Girl Scouts Kansas Heartland Council serves 11,700 girls and adults in 80 counties in Kansas.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the girls to travel to meet other girls and to win an outstanding amount of scholarship money on the national level,” Jurey said. “The girls that are chosen by national this year would actually be recognized at the national annual convention that is going to be in Orlando in October.”
The national office in New York has a committee that goes over all the nominations and proposals submitted from Girl Scout councils across the United States and they choose 10 young ladies to receive this national honor.
“The Kansas Heartland Council actually had a young lady chosen three years ago for her Gold Award project, so it is something that is possible, depending on what other types of projects come in,” Jurey said. “I think we’ve had some really good projects done here this last year that I feel are worth representing us.
“The council has until April to notify the young ladies they are being nominated and then they actually have work they need to do because there is an application that goes along with their project they did.”
The Girl Scouts of Troop 70161 now excitedly wait.