Buffalo Grove teens earn Girl Scouting's highest award

Buffalo Grove teens earn Girl Scouting's highest award

  • At the end of last summer, Riley Heydenburg visits her blooming garden. "I proudly watched a variety of butterflies, birds, moths and other pollinators stop by that I had never seen before."

    At the end of last summer, Riley Heydenburg visits her blooming garden. "I proudly watched a variety of butterflies, birds, moths and other pollinators stop by that I had never seen before." Courtesy of Patti Ismail

  • Metro Achievement Center for Girls of Chicago receives 300 books from Sophie Ismail last fall. Sophie raised money to buy the books through Girl Scout cookie sales and donations from friends and family.

    Metro Achievement Center for Girls of Chicago receives 300 books from Sophie Ismail last fall. Sophie raised money to buy the books through Girl Scout cookie sales and donations from friends and family. Courtesy of Patti Ismail

  • Kavya Puranam visits a local farmers market while planning her project to help Northshore and Northwest suburban residents eat more locally. "I wanted to get rid of as much misinformation as possible surrounding eating local, and was able to do that by collecting information frommultiple sources."

    Kavya Puranam visits a local farmers market while planning her project to help Northshore and Northwest suburban residents eat more locally. "I wanted to get rid of as much misinformation as possible surrounding eating local, and was able to do that by collecting information frommultiple sources." Courtesy of Patti Ismail

  • Thea Surya leads a webinar on how to use the popular Zoom videoconferencing software. Her target audience was older adults who struggled with the technology when it became popular during quarantine. While helping them, Thea says her speaking skills were challenged and grew through both formal presentations and working one-on-one.

    Thea Surya leads a webinar on how to use the popular Zoom videoconferencing software. Her target audience was older adults who struggled with the technology when it became popular during quarantine. While helping them, Thea says her speaking skills were challenged and grew through both formal presentations and working one-on-one. Courtesy of Patti Ismail

 
Submitted by Patti Ismail, Troop Leader, Girl Scout Troop 40666
Posted5/23/2022 11:37 AM

Four Adlai E. Stevenson High School seniors, all from Buffalo Grove, have earned the distinguished Girl Scout Gold Award by performing significant leadership and service projects in a variety of fields.

Riley Heydenburg, Sophie Ismail, Kavya Puranam and Thea Surya, all Ambassador level Girl Scouts from Troop 40666, will receive their awards at a ceremony in June.

 

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award that Girl Scouts ages 14-18 may earn. The leadership skills, organizational skills, sense of community and commitment required to complete the process set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.

Heydenburg chose to combat domestic abuse with her project and helped WINGS Program, Inc. by creating a garden to beautify one of their facilities. WINGS provides services to victims of domestic violence in the Chicago area.

Learning about native plants, which will be low maintenance in the future, was one of the challenges Heydenburg tackled.

"I have learned how to be resilient and adaptable when faced with challenges," said Heydenburg about earning the award.

Ismail saw a need for younger students to think critically about how female stereotypes are portrayed within literature. She identified books with strong female characters that could generate discussion. Ismail then led conversations about the books with Meridian Middle School students and created discussion materials to share broadly.

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Ismail raised funds to donate more than $2,800 in new books to six classrooms and social service organizations from Waukegan to Chicago so more students could be exposed to the powerful female characters in those books.

While working on an earlier Girl Scout project related to sustainable eating, Puranam decided that she wanted to help match up buyers with local food sources. Puranam used her programming skills and created a searchable website for finding local farmers markets, freshfoodprints.wixsite.com/find.

"It has been so rewarding to work on something that I am really passionate about," Puranam said.

She's planning a deep dive into those passions by majoring in Crop Science + Computer Science at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall.

During the 2020 quarantine, when everyone was flocking to Zoom, Surya saw older users frustrated with the technology. She devoted her project to helping seniors with common technology problems.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

As part of her project, she led a course on Zoom for the Vernon Area Public Library, created brochures on password protection software, and volunteered at an Arlington Heights senior living community, where she assisted residents with their technology challenges.

"I would see the seniors' faces light up when they learned how to do something new on their device," Surya said.

The awards do not come easily. Girls complete seven steps to earn the Gold Award, and their work is approved by a committee from the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwestern Indiana council.

"The work you do in earning your Gold Award can make a big impact in someone else's life. That idea helped me stay motivated and focused on my goals," Heydenburg said.

Girls have earned Girl Scouts of the USA's highest awards since 1916, just four years after the organization's founding in 1912. These awards include the Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet, Curve Bar, First Class and the current Girl Scout Gold Award, which was introduced in 1980.

As awareness of the Girl Scout Gold Award continues to grow, so does its prestige. An increasing number of colleges are offering financial incentives to those who earn the award and admissions counselors view it as a sign of an individual girl's ability to lead.

Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana impacts more than 50,000 girls and 21,000 adult members locally. For more information, visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

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