Two girls incorporated the Girl Scout mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character into their Gold Award projects that empower their female peers and address girls' societal pressures.
Madison, a 2019 graduate of Ennis High School, is one of the 172 girls in Northeast Texas who earned the Girl Scout Gold Award for the 2019-2020 year for her BeYOUtiful workshop. It helped teenage girls deal with the constant pressures placed on them by society and social media through table discussions, prayer and reflection, games, and inspirational videos to help girls know they are beautiful and worthy. Lauren, a Girl Scout Ambassador, recently completed her Gold Award project—a virtual Be-YOU-tiful leadership camp for girls entering 8th and 9th grades to learn, engage, and empower each other. Read more about Lauren's camp.
The prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award recognizes girls in grades 9 through 12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Girls take action on a topic or a cause they're passionate about in a way that produces meaningful and lasting change. At the same time, they develop organizational, leadership, and networking skills, spending more than 80 hours to complete their Gold Award project.
Madison recently talked with us about her project, which sought to encourage girls to stop tearing each other apart and, instead, lift each other.
Q: What prompted you to come up with this project idea?
A: In 2018, I had the privilege of going on a pilgrimage through Italy, ending in Rome. One of the leaders was a former model named Leah Darrow. She was a professional runway model in New York City (even appearing on America's Next Top Model) who left that lifestyle and became a women's advocate. She is now an international speaker, writer, and host of the "Do Something Beautiful" podcast. She is such an inspiration to so many, including me. Her simple message of real beauty and real love as she speaks of God's truth is something everyone should hear.
Q: In your experience, at what point did you begin to see girls you know (or yourself) care a lot about how they should look due to social media and societal norms?
A: I noticed it in junior high when almost everyone had a cell phone. So many were obsessed with videoing and recording everything. It just became more prevalent, moving into high school. It took me going to college and seeing other people feel so comfortable with who they are and not caring what other people think of them or what they look like to feel more comfortable with myself.
Q: Can you talk about how some of the table discussions went? Were girls shy at the beginning to speak?
A: Table discussions were a little challenging to initiate and for people to feel comfortable. I found the girls were less threatened when we did the magazine activity. The conversation seemed to flow more naturally as they all had opinions about celebrities and what they perceived as beauty.
Q: Can you describe how the prayer and reflection portion of the discussions went?
A: I think the girls were more trusting with the environment and were more willing to speak up. Another thing that helped was older women also joined and helped the young women groups at the church. Their life experiences add so much to each workshop.
Q: What did you take away from holding these discussions that you've incorporated into your thinking or life?
A: One of the main take-aways was the effect the environment has on a person. I've attended many retreats and workshops, but it's so different when you are the presenter. I could see how some girls were interested and wanted to work on themselves while others were not as focused or excited. Some girls were toxic to their table, which affected their discussion negatively. It said a lot to me as I have been in that type of situation. I was excited to learn about something and couldn't fully enjoy it because of others around me.
Q: What would you tell girls right now that they are at home and can't do much? They're probably on social media, even more, looking at images of "perfect" bodies. It's almost inescapable.
A: I think if you have time in the day and find yourself on social media to try to put your phone down and try reading or journaling. We need to be more intentional when we are on the Internet. It's very easy to lose ourselves in our phones and laptops.
Q: Anything else you'd like to mention that was an important discovery from this project? Anything noteworthy to add about your project?
A: A big theme for me recognizes how most female models do not represent the "typical woman." We are bombarded by these "perfect" images that can hurt young girls during critical parts of their development. Leah Darrow taught me that modesty could be beautiful, and if someone only loves you for your looks, they are not right for you. Another big takeaway that I had was that God loves every one of us, and we are made in his image and light. It made me appreciate who I was because I feel like I needed a reminder that God made me exactly who he wanted me to be.
Q: You graduated high school in 2019. What have you been doing since then? If college, what are you studying, and what profession would you like to enter?
A: I just finished my first year at Stephen F. Austin State University. I am double majoring in psychology and criminal justice. I want to be a forensic psychologist helping interview children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect. Another career path that I would like to pursue would be to work with law enforcement or the FBI as a forensic interviewer or profiler. Regardless of what career I choose, I want to make a difference in other's lives and make the world a better place.