By KaLa Keaton, Gold Award Girl Scout
Eleven Years a Girl Scout
S’mores! Camping! New friends! I joined Girl Scouts in the second grade because my mother was one. Then, I saw a ceremonial recognition of Gold Award Girl Scouts and thought, I’m going to be like them! At Girl Scout bridging ceremonies, Gold Award Girl Scouts are always honored last, and I wanted to follow in their footsteps and create a meaningful project to better my community. I stayed in Girl Scouts and paved my own way to earning my Gold Award. I’ve been a Girl Scout for 11 years in Troop #1241 in Wake County, and I have the best troop leaders, Mrs. Cathy O’Sullivan and Ms. Leah Farr! Big thanks to them!
During the summer of 2019, I came up with the idea to create the Social Justice Club (SJC) while I was a Governor’s Page. For the first time, the Governor’s Page program encouraged participants to execute a volunteer project. I was excited to have the opportunity to create my own project, but there were so many subjects I wanted to be involved in!
Establishing a Social Justice Club at Middle Creek High School was my way of getting teens more involved in contemporary social issues and promoting activism. To get started, I recruited club members at our school club fair day. The club learns, discusses, and debates about social justice and has a service component. Members brainstorm ideas and have complete freedom to participate only in the projects that excite them.
The club focuses on social justice topics that student members select and gives them an outlet for discussions and volunteering because I wanted students to connect with the issues they care about and have accomplishments. The club school sponsor was also my terrific Gold Award advisor, Mr. Matthew Scialdone! To fully flesh out my ideas throughout the project, I also spoke and communicated with my Girl Scout Gold Award mentor, Mrs. Gail Watts, for guidance on issues and how to create an inclusive, non-partisan environment. Mentors are the best!
Motto: “The outlet for your inner activist”
The Social Justice Club is, “the outlet for your inner activist.” When establishing any rules or customs for the club, I wanted members to understand they had the complete freedom to only come to meetings that interested them. I did not state an attendance minimum like other organizations because the purpose of the club was for students to feel a connection with the subjects we discussed. While not a rule, I routinely encouraged members to invite their friends to participate in events and projects!
6 Projects in Our First Year
Our first year, the club did six projects. Our most successful projects include:
Working with the Raleigh Little Theater to host a private performance of “Blood at the Root”, a play highlighting the relationship between law enforcement and students, followed by a seminar discussion with local law enforcement and students from four Wake County high schools. I co-facilitated the seminar discussion.
A really hands-on project was when we partnered with the Student Veterans of America (SVA) at Wake Technical Community College to prepare food and hygiene care packages for student veterans. Items were donated by club members and three grocery stores. We packaged everything at the meeting! The community college’s Dean of the Veterans Programs and Innovations and a Marine veteran student presented on veteran issues and the SVA at a club meeting. The Wake County Public School System area superintendent, a veteran Air Force member, was invited and also participated in the discussion. Our principal came, too!
In May after the death of George Floyd, the Social Justice Club partnered with the Raleigh-Apex NAACP to create a video on the history of police brutality and Gen Z reactions through student testimonies. The Raleigh-Apex NAACP used the video in two forums with Wake County law enforcement chiefs. Furthermore, it did exactly what the club was aiming to do the whole year: it gave teenagers a way to safely speak their minds and advocate for change, even in the midst of a pandemic. I researched, edited, narrated, and directed the video that now has over 1,400 views on YouTube!
What We Gained
The Social Justice Club addressed the difficulty of providing meaningful and safe ways to be involved in national and local community issues. Teenagers who are socially and politically aware and inclined want to find ways to be involved.
Members of SJC gained communication skills, collaboration
skills, brainstorming skills, organization and effective planning skills,
respectful debating skills, and how to civically engage in their local
communities. Plus, we learned about social justice issues and had fun!
What did I learn earning my Gold Award? A whole lot! I developed project management, public speaking, collaboration, community building, decision making, implementation, presentation, problem-solving, time management, research, and organization skills. On top of those, I gained more confidence and grew my empathy for others. I tried hard to sincerely create a positive atmosphere for all members and encourage expression and the sharing of ideas. Acceptance of others as they came to meetings was critical to having a successful year. This year club membership increased a lot and now we have almost 60 members!
“I Want to Make a Change ”
My proudest moment as president came after our first meeting this semester to start our second year. There were many new members so in a survey I asked, “Why did you join the Social Justice Club?” I felt inspired as I read their responses:
“I’m passionate about what the club represents.”
“This club will help me reinvent myself.”
“I fully believe in everything this club stands for.”
“I want to make a change.”
If their answers were any indication, the Social Justice Club is everything I wished it to be—a group of innovative, dedicated teenagers wanting to take action. I truly believe the Social Justice Club is a place for my peers to connect with others who are as invested in social justice as they are and thrive off each other’s enthusiasm.
When my Gold Award was approved this past July for establishing the Social Justice Club, it was the best day of quarantine by far! I’m proud of earning the Gold Award not because it’s a rare achievement, but because I pushed myself to make the change I wanted to see. Service is more than credit hours, it’s fueled by passion and heart!
Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award and how you can get started by visiting our website!