Silencing the Bullies: Building Confidence Through Girl Scouts

With a little backpack slung over her shoulders and shoes laced tight, Ashlynn Slay takes the long walk into school each day. School should be fun. Ashlynn shouldn’t dread the harsh words of other children. She should never come home crying.

But for her first year of school, this was the story of Ashlynn Slay.

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Ashlynn picking strawberries in her favorite Girl Scout shirt

Reading felt like wading through mud for Ashlynn. The letters didn’t seem to make sense. Instead of encouragement, words like “stupid” or “dumb” were thrown at her by classmates. Ashlynn’s mother, Cheri, was distraught and angry. How could other children be so cruel? Cheri was regularly at the school advocating on behalf of her daughter, but nothing seemed to help. The bullying continued. It increased.

After months of relentless bullying, Ashlynn told her mother that she hated school.

“For her to feel like that, it broke my heart.” -Cheri Slay

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Ashlynn and her mother, Cheri

When one of Cheri’s friends encouraged her to enroll Ashlynn in Girl Scouts, Cheri was hesitant. All Cheri knew of Girl Scouts were the famous cookies and camp. While both sounded fun, she wasn’t sure how being a Girl Scout would change anything. But in a desperate effort to help her daughter, Cheri took a chance and signed them both up with Girl Scouts of South Carolina- Mountains to Midlands.

 

When the time came for their first troop meeting, Ashlynn was hesitant. Her past experience with other children her age had been traumatizing. However, her new troop embraced her with enthusiasm and friendship. Ashlynn began to take more risks. She started asking questions. Her troop created a safe environment to try and fail.

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Ashlynn Bridging to Brownies

Just a few months into Girl Scouts, Ashlynn received a reading scholarship through the Girl Scout Daisy Power Project. This scholarship meant everything to Cheri. This scholarship would allow Ashlynn to strengthen her reading and build her confidence.

Over this summer, Ashlynn worked hand in hand with a tutor.  When she started the program she was reading at a very low kindergarten level. By the end of this summer, Ashlynn was reading at a high second grade level.

Cheri is amazed by the positive impact of the Girl Scout Experience. Ashlynn has found her confidence again. She isn’t afraid to raise her hand in school. She takes risks. She leads like a G.I.R.L. Scout.

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Ashlynn reading one of her favorite books

 

“Girl Scouts teaches me to read and always raise my hand. I love to read now!” -Ashlynn Slay, 1st Grade

 

Do you want your girl to become more confident? Give her everything she needs to lead with confidence and join Girl Scouts.

 

 

Blog_WrittenBy_Michelle

 

 

 

How Girls Can Change the World: the Gold Award

Let’s take a trip back in time together. Are you buckled up? Okay. Let’s go. model-t-ford

The year is 1916. The highest selling car is the Model T Ford, although horse pulled carriages still outnumber automobiles. Long dresses graze the cobblestone, and after a long day of time travel, I say we should head over to the cinema and relax!

A night out at the movies will cost us around a nickel each- it’s my treat. “Talkies” aren’t really a thing yet, so the film tonight is going to be silent in black and white. Totally retro! Like all the other movies out in 1916, the major theme is going to be the damsel in distress. You won’t see a brave Katniss Everdeen or commanding Wonder Woman daring to write her own story. In fact, the leading lady will do little more than be rescued by the masculine hero and then fall into his arms. silent-movies

In 2016, it’s easy to say, “we support the empowerment of girls.” After all, women can hold public office, sit on the Supreme Court, be doctors, lawyers, or astronauts. But when the founder of Girl Scouts created the highest award in Girl Scouting, female empowerment was highly controversial.

In 1916, when women didn’t yet have the right to vote, Juliette Gordon Low created the Gold Award. The Gold Award has held several names throughout the course of a century; Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar Award, and First Class. But the mission and purpose of this award remains the same. The Gold Award gives girls the opportunity to be the hero of their own stories. They use the bravery, valor, and compassion of a hero to reach out and help others to do the same.

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In the midst of WW2, Girl Scouts worked to collect scrap metal, grow Victory Farms, and operate bicycle courier services to aid in the war efforts.

Maybe you are reading this and you’ve never heard of the Gold Award before. Don’t worry, you are just in time to learn for the 100th Anniversary of the Gold Award! Let’s get started!

The first thing you should know is earning the Gold Award isn’t easy. Girls who pursue the Gold Award must spend at least 80 hours planning, presenting, and working their project.

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Girl Scouts held “Speak Out” Conferences to aid the fight for racial equality.

 

What kind of project is it, you ask? Girls must identify a critical issue in their communities such as homelessness, illiteracy, domestic violence, or any number of issues.

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Local Girl Scout Alumni, Amber Woods, earned her Gold Award by building a privacy fence for a battered women’s shelter.

 

Once they find an issue they are passionate about, they take action to address the topic and make their community a better. Our Gold Award Recipients have established libraries, created after school programs, connected foster children with scholarships, and so much more.

We believe, and teach the girls in our program, that leadership is more than merely being “in charge” of others. A real leader takes risks, uses creativity, and always reaches back to make the world a better place. The Gold Award represents the heart of a true leader. That’s how Girl Scouts are changing the world; through revolutionary leadership. Through the Gold Award.

This year we celebrate the revolutionary vision of Juliette Gordon Low and the courage it took to follow her heart. We celebrate 100 years of Girl Scouts changing the world through the Gold Award. We celebrate 100 years of life changing leadership.gold-gala-invite-mt

Now that we’ve taken you back in time to where it all started, we would like to invite you to our Gold Award Centennial Celebration. Whether the award you earned was named Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, First Class, or Gold Award, we are so excited to honor you at our Gold Centennial Gala. The Gala will be held at the South Carolina State Museum on the 4th of November, and will begin at 7pm. We invite the entire community to come celebrate leadership at its finest.

Blog_WrittenBy_Michelle

Have you earned the Gold Award? We are in search of Gold Award stories that will inspire and encourage. If you have earned the Gold Award and want to tell your story, please reach out to me at mtaylor@gssc-mm.org. I would love to hear from you!

 

 

Living Beyond Yourself: The Zainab Bhagat Story

Children emulate the world around them. When you respond with kindess, they notice. When you respond in anger, they see. They are mirrors that reflect the very best and worst of us. Tragically, they so often imitate the cruelty they see in the world; the prejudice and hatred. But children also represent the purest of hearts and the fullness of hope for the future.

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Zainab pictured with her Girl Scout Troop

Zainab Bhagat has always reached out to the hurting, even when she didn’t realize she was practicing philanthropy. As a child in elementary school, she noticed one of her friends often went without. Her friend never seemed to have school supplies or a complete lunch. Without a second thought, Zainab shared everything she had to offer.

“There is so much more to life than yourself.” -Zainab Bhagat

We so often view philanthropy as a charitable donation. But do you know the actual definition of philanthropy? Simply put, it is the love of humanity. Philanthropy is not born in a wallet or bank account. Philanthropy is born in the heart, fostered by compassion, and given freely with love.

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Zainab as a senior in high school

The moment you realize the world is much bigger than yourself, something beautiful happens; your heart becomes connected to billions of other hearts across the world. Eyes that were once blind to the struggles and triumphs of others, now see every moment as an opportunity to change the world.

 

“The opportunities I have, I want every girl to have.” -Zainab Bhagat

When Zainab had the opportunity to earn the Gold Award in high school, she never questioned if she should pursue it or not. She felt it a moral obligation to share her time, talent, and treasure with the world.

Zainab saw the Gold Award as so much more than an accolade in a frame. The Gold Award represents the true heart of philanthropy. It represents the very best of all of us. She knew the project would take her full devotion. She would have to spend at least 80 hours researching, planning, and working her project. She would have to present her concept before a committee, and her project would have to address a real issue in her community. But anything worth doing is rarely easy. zainab-in-vest

Zainab created a documentary about homelessness in her hometown of Irmo, South Carolina. She interviewed and became fast friends with a local teen who had endured incredible hardship. Watch her hard-hitting and inspirational documentary at the bottom of this article.

“Throughout my project, so many other people volunteered to help me create the documentary. It was amazing  to work together with others to make a change and help people.” -Zainab Bhagat

This year is the 100th anniversary of the Gold Award. An award that was created in 1916, when women didn’t even have the right to vote. But even in a time where a girl changing the world seemed impossible, girls were taking action to make the world a better place. Today, in 2016, girls like Zainab are still working towards that goal. Talk about a legacy.

“Helping others and looking beyond yourself- that’s what Girl Scouting means.” -Zainab Bhagat


“Stop the Cycle”, A documentary by Zainab Bhagat

Blog_WrittenBy_Michelle

Have you earned your Gold Award? I would love to hear about your project! Email me at mtaylor@gssc-mm.org to tell your story!