By Jacqueline Jeon-Chapman, Contributing writer
Northborough – No one from Northborough has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award since 1996. But on June 2, four girls from Northborough – Bridget Owen, Alyssa Pfannenstiel, Ariel Thompson and Elizabeth Wig – received this award at the Northborough Girl Scout Bridging and Awards Ceremony at Marion E. Zeh School.
“The Gold Award is not only the highest award a Girl Scout can wish to receive, but it is also the most difficult,” Thompson said.
It requires at least 80 hours dedicated to a project that must create a lasting, sustainable improvement in the community.
“It's a process, and it definitely takes a huge commitment and a lot of dedication and a lot of time, so all of these girls have worked really hard to do it,” said Service Unit Manager Kendra Owen, who helped organize the ceremony. “Three of the Gold Award recipients – Bridget, Alyssa, and Ariel – were in my troop. They'se a fabulous group of girls.”
Bridget Owen taught over 400 elementary school students about healthy eating and exercising at Fannie E. Proctor and Marguerite E. Peaslee schools. She delivered a presentation and handed out activity booklets for the students to take home.
“They had a blast with that,” she said. “Apparently, one of the teachers took the pamphlets and gave them out to the kids, and they did the activities every day at recess because they loved them so much.”
Bridget designed different activities for three age groups, which she posted online at http://healthynorthborough.org/healthy-eating/schools/, making it possible for people to use her presentation in the future.
“It was a lot of fun to work with the kids, and they all seemed to learn a lot,” Bridget said. “I heard a story afterward about how a class went to Wegmans for a field trip to learn about healthy eating, and they knew all the answers to all the questions that they were asked.”
Pfannenstiel also dedicated her Gold Award Project to promoting public health. Inspired by injury, she educated athletes and their families about concussions.
“My concussion left me unable to go to school,” she said. “I missed 140 days of school my sophomore year. I also could no longer be an athlete, and I even had to cut down on my social life. I realized that concussions really go unnoticed because you can's see anything wrong.”
To share the latest information about concussions, Alyssa created a Facebook page called “Conquering Your Concussion.” She also made a blog where she shared her personal story. In addition, she delivered speeches and presentations.
“I spoke to various sports teams at the high school level. I also spoke to PTO committees, and I was able to speak at the superintendent's meeting,” she explained.
According to Pfannenstiel, the other Girl Scouts in her troop helped her overcome challenges.
“It was really great having two other girls in my troop that were doing the Gold Award because we all had support from each other. We could talk about the difficulties and help each other out,” she said.
“I bounced ideas off my fellow Scouts in my troop as well. We all decided, “I really want to do it,” and that influenced other people as well to try and step up,” she said.
Thompson renovated a playroom at St. Rose of Lima Church, which included painting murals on the walls, and started a babysitting program.
“I noticed that many parishioners had children, so they were getting very distracted during church,” she said.
Parents at the 10 a.m. Mass can now bring their children to the playroom for an hour of babysitting.
“What I did really helped me grow and show that I had a lot of leadership skills and a lot of abilities that were undiscovered. I didn's know I was a good painter or a good artist, but that really came out during my project,” Thompson said. “I went above and beyond what I even thought was possible to do.”
Elizabeth Wig's Gold Award project also involved renovation. She drilled into brick walls to add a whiteboard, new shelves, and a locking bulletin board to the entryway to the Northborough Food Pantry. The pantry needed a place to display health information for clients.
“I put in books for the children waiting in line because a lot of times, they have to wait hours to get food, and there wasn's much for them to do. The pantry wanted to supply them with some sort of entertainment, so books were the way to go,” Wig said.
Wig also stocked the shelves at the food pantry and raised awareness for world hunger. She created a presentation about world hunger for her history class and convinced her guidance counselor to promote FreeRice.com, a website that donates 10 grains of rice to the World Food Program for every trivia question answered correctly.
“There are a lot of problems in the world – environmental issues, human rights issues – all sorts of things. The way you can fix them is doing something??”taking action. Even if you can's single-handedly end hunger, you can make a significant difference if you choose to do so. I think that's what I really got from this project,” she said.
At the ceremony, younger Girl Scouts listened to speeches from community leaders and the four Gold Award recipients. Girl Scouts from all levels walked across a wooden bridge, symbolically entering a higher rank.
“We worked at getting the girls and leaders together to plan a town-wide event because it's really great for the younger girls to see what the older girls accomplished,” said Town Registrar, Troop Organizer, and Troop Leader Karen Clarke. “We wanted to be able to recognize each level of girls to show how important it is to be a Girl Scout in Northborough.”