Whether it’s leading a service project, teaching younger girls to make s’mores around the campfire or earning my Gold Award, Girl Scouts has taken a starring role in my life since I joined in kindergarten.
When I bridged to the Girl Scout Senior level in ninth grade, I started thinking about social issues I could tackle for my Gold Award project.
I knew I wanted to earn a Gold Award, the most prestigious scouting award, and find a sustainable solution to something I was passionate about.
I was overwhelmed with choices – there was so much I wanted to do. My inspiration came from personal experiences I had as a little girl, and I was diagnosed with a learning disability. Since that time, I have always wanted to help other differently abled children.
So, I had an idea and a whole lot of enthusiasm, but little did I know how much growth I would experience through this challenge of earning the highest award in Girl Scouting.
Because most kids learn through play, I wanted to create a “play first, learn second” program for all children, including those with special needs.
With this in mind, I developed a class for youth groups to learn about different neuro and physical disabilities. I would speak about a learning disability and then have the group play a game that required them to adopt the disability to experience the daily challenges differently-abled people may face.
I feel the top reason for youth to not extend kindness to those who are different from them is that they don’t know what to do or say.
I also feel that all youth can learn a lot from people who have disabilities and develop compassion in doing so.
In the learning groups that were part of my Gold Award project, I aimed to bring awareness to this issue and learned how to practice etiquette and person-first language, as well as about invisible disabilities, accessibility, and adaptations.
The program stressed inclusion and the importance of showing a positive attitude toward people with special needs.
For the second part of my Gold Award project, I solicited donations and created a sensory toy library that is currently hosted by the Civic Center Library in Scottsdale.
I also created two adapted-toy libraries, one of which is hosted in Chaparral High School in Scottsdale and the other in the Oracle School District.
For these libraries, I adapted toys to make them more suitable for different abilities. My goal was to make sure children of all abilities could play with the toys independently.
Reflecting on my Girl Scout journey and experience during this project, I realized that Girl Scouts has allowed me to grow into the young adult I am today.
Scouting has taught me hard work, leadership skills, integrity, and dedication. I have learned the importance of taking the initiative, networking and leading by example.
In addition, the Girl Scout High Awards gave me challenges and roadblocks that I never would have imagined or faced in another setting.
These experiences tested who I am as a person – and helped build my character. I’ve learned that while things don’t always go as planned, what is important is how one responds and gathers the courage to face these obstacles.
Girl Scouts has helped me build the confidence I have as I prepare for college, where I plan to study genetic counseling, and for my future, when I plan to advocate for people with special needs.
-Brianna Iannone is a senior in high school from Scottsdale. She has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and has earned her Gold Award.