By Steve Mosco
The Girl Scouts of America does far more than provide the snack-crazed masses with their fix of Thin Mints — the 100-year-old organization also provides young women with the tools needed to prosper in this challenging world.
Its mission — to build girls of courage, confidence and character — is partly achieved with the Gold Awards, which are bestowed upon experienced senior Scouts who complete service projects aimed at delivering a lasting impact on communities across the country.
Earlier this month, the Girl Scouts of Greater New York presented 69 girls from the state with the Gold Award, the Scouts’ highest honor. And while the organization praises all of its New York honorees, the awards amounted to a Queens coming out party, with 21 young women from the borough achieving the honor.
Five of the borough’s brightest young Scouts met at the organization’s headquarters at 43 W. 23rd St. in Manhattan to talk about their Gold Award-worthy projects and the benefits a Scouting life can afford girls in Queens and beyond.
The girls agreed that their years in the Girl Scouts have taught about commitment — that nothing is achieved without hard work and sacrifice. They also said these lessons stay with the Scouts long after they leave.
“A membership in the Scouts is a lifetime membership,” said Lydia Agopian, 18, of Astoria, who conducted a yarn-and-needle drive to get materials to run knitting classes for youth and then donated the finished products to the less fortunate.
To earn her Gold Award, 16-year-old Rachel Malken organized and managed variety shows at senior residences throughout the city featuring youth musicians and artists looking for meaningful volunteer opportunities. She also developed a “Teen Community Connection” website as well as Facebook and Twitter pages that allowed her to share photos, information and comments about the events.
“I always wanted to give something back to the community,” said Malken, of Forest Hills. “The Girls Scouts helped give me the tools I needed and taught me that if I want to achieve something to just go for it.”
“Just go for it” was also Josephine O’Malley’s mantra in earning her Gold Award. The 16-year-old Maspeth resident, who said she does not have the stomach for blood or needles, got over her fears and held a blood drive aimed at young people who were first-time donors, giving them the courage to face the needle and the inspiration to become long-term donors.
“There are so many opportunities when you’re a Scout,” said O’Malley. “You have to the chance to better yourself, but also to benefit others.”
Endangered turtles benefited from Katherine Kurre’s Gold Award effort. The 18-year-old Glendale resident helped save the reptiles at Strack Pond in Forest Park by designing a floating turtle island and organizing a team to build and launch it. She also led her team in cleaning the pond and surrounding area.
“It was a chance to get out and do something that many people wouldn’t normally be able to do,” said Kurre. “It was a great experience. And a culmination of my years with the Scouts.”
For her project, Lauren Yesko documented the culmination of decades of life experience among World War II veterans at a Forest Hills senior residence. The 15-year-old from Forest Hills recorded hours of footage with the Greatest Generation — some of which will become part of the permanent collection of the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project.
“In Girl Scouts, and in this project, you’re going to get out of it what you put into it,” said Yesko. “The Girls Scouts has been around for over 100 years now. The girls who stay with it and work hard — we reap the benefits tenfold.”
Among those benefits are college scholarships, paid internships and community awards. And while the girls reap those benefits — and the public enjoys the cookies — the organization’s proud CEO encourages more girls to become one of the millions of lifelong Scouts.
“This has been a tremendous year for the Girl Scouts of Greater New York, and I am so happy that the number of Gold Awards we are presenting this year has increased so dramatically,” said Barbara Murphy-Warrington, CEO of the Girls Scouts of Greater New York. “This is a great foundation for young women who are beginning to make their way in the world.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.