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Community: Girl Scouts effect changes as they earn Gold Awards

Community: Girl Scouts effect changes as they earn Gold Awards
Gold Award Girl Scout Georgia Moran, right, paints a design on Scarlett Ferguson's hand during a workshop at Shane's Inspiration. (Courtesy of Georgia Moran)

Several Burbank Girl Scouts have recently received Gold Awards, which is the highest honor in the Girl Scouting program and is achieved by completing a service project that benefits the community.

No one knows the girls or their projects better than Gena Downey, of Burbank, who has been a Girl Scout leader for 15 years and is a Gold Mentor for Girls Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, which covers Burbank and surrounding areas.

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As a member of the Gold Mentor Board, she sees the proposal reports the girls submit initially for their Gold Award projects, and she is also on the board that judges their final reports.

She usually works with 12 girls a year.

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“So, I really get to see most every girl I work with before, during and after,” she said.

In her proposal, Burbank resident Georgia Moran said she had learned that exclusion is a genuine problem in society, especially for those who are disabled.

So, the 17-year-old, who starts her senior year at Notre Dame High School in the fall, wanted to teach compassion through her project titled “Teens for Social Inclusion.”

As a child, Georgia had volunteered with Shane’s Inspiration, a nonprofit that creates playground equipment and educational programs where youngsters of all abilities can play together.

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For her Gold project, she created an ambassador program for teens who became buddies for children with disabilities.

Thirty of her classmates went through Shane’s Inspiration’s education programs during spring break.

Georgia provided them with buddy guidelines and playground rules. She designed a logo and a T-shirt for the program and set up a Facebook page.

Time management was her greatest challenge to complete the project, Downey said, because she was working as well as being a member of a water polo club.

But she was proud of the results. “She saw great joy in the eyes of the children she was helping as well as in the reactions from the ambassadors who participated in the project,” Downey said.

Georgia will continue the project through her senior year and six classmates will assist her. In addition, she has recruited several eighth-graders who have committed to keeping the project going as leaders and administrators for the Facebook page and other social media, hopefully long after Georgia graduates.

For Bernadette Chavez, her project hit close to home. The 17-year-old, who just graduated from Burbank High School, chose autism awareness as her topic. Her brother has autism.

She worked with the Dream Big organization to achieve her goal, which was to educate people to not judge and have a open heart and mind toward those with autism.

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Bernadette made a video about what autism is and put it on YouTube and other social media. She included statistics and facts about the developmental disorder and interviewed people who were around her brother — parents, friends, other family members and his karate teacher.

While creating the video, Bernadette realized she wants to work with youngsters with autism.

“So that project was really enlightening for her," Downey said.

Bernadette included a lot of facts about how light, colors and magnified sounds adversely affect those with autism.

In addition, Bernadette included a number of services available to autism patients.

Hannah Nelsestuen, 18, who just graduated from Burroughs High School, worked with the Boys & Girls Club in Burbank and the Greater East Valley for her project titled “Boys and Girls Love to Read.”

She was organized and professional, Downey said, and during the project, she ran up against a lot of challenges but she was persistent and made it work.

Hannah conducted her project at Edison Elementary School. She wanted to create a library that had tangible books. So, she worked with her grandfather to redesign, build and paint shelves and bookcases at the school. She also held book donation events.

Her challenge was that youngsters don’t spend enough time reading physical books but prefer reading them online. She had her Girl Scout troop read to students at Edison and formed a book club program for all students and faculty, and hopefully it will be sustained on campus for years to come.

Her goal, she said, was to inspire students to create Little Free Libraries, a project by a nonprofit that aims to inspire a love of reading, or to write a book.

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