Gold Award Girl Scouts are true community leaders who are passionate about making the world a better place. For many, the Gold Award project is the culmination of years of experience in Girl Scouting—and reflects the G.I.R.L. spirit ingrained in each Girl Scout through community service, leadership opportunities, and a supportive sisterhood.
Ambassador Sophie K. of Troop 341 has been a Girl Scout for more than a decade, and for her Gold Award project, she focused on a cause that’s close to her heart. Sophie reflects on her involvement with Girl Scouts and how it’s shaped her into a young woman who’s passionate about art and activism—interests which recently earned her another distinction, being named the Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate.
I have been a Girl Scout since first grade, and I’ve learned so much about how to pursue my goals, connect with others, and bring about social change through writing, film, and performance. In addition, I have so many great memories of fun traditions—making friendship bracelets and churning ice cream at Camp Mariposa, roasting s’mores at campouts, and (of course) selling Girl Scout Cookies.
One of the most valuable things I learned from participating in Girl Scouts was the ability to turn an idea into a finished project, such as the Bronze Award, the Silver Award, and most recently, the Gold Award. The Gold Award was an amazing opportunity to choose a topic I cared about, and dedicate time to completing a project that would make an impact on many communities. The solo aspect and open-endedness of the project thrilled me!
I directed and edited “From AIDS to Advice: LGBTQ+ Seniors Tell Their Stories,” an 11-minute film about LGBTQ+ history and experiences, utilizing interviews that I held with more than 20 LGBTQ+ senior citizens. As a queer person, I wanted to learn about some of the history of a community I was part of, but had not experienced personally, and bring these stories to a wider audience. I asked my interviewees about topics such as the AIDS crisis, Harvey Milk, and coming out.
Because of the subject matter, these interviews often became very emotional, and I learned how to be, above all, a better listener—and as a filmmaker, artist, and person, one of the most powerful things you can do is listen to others. Creating art is such a wonderful opportunity to widen the scope of what we feel and understand, and to cultivate empathy and support for people we may never meet.
While making this film, I knew I wanted to reach LGBTQ+ people who might be struggling with coming to terms with their identities, wanting to come out, or feeling disconnected from the LGBTQ+ community. However, I also wanted to reach people who might not know much about LGBTQ+ experiences and history. I held screenings and Q&A sessions for several Girl Scout troops and leaders [see photo below], and also distributed information for both LGBTQ+ people and allies.
By working on my Gold Award project, I learned that having conversations is an essential way to keep communities together, and to remember that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves: our collective struggles, our communities, our histories. Being vulnerable and revealing your stories can be so difficult, and I was continually humbled and so grateful to my interviewees for letting me see into their lives.
By being part of Girl Scouts, I’ve been able to more fully engage in social justice and advocacy, and my experiences have helped me think about how I can continue creating projects that will allow voices from more communities to be heard and celebrated.
In addition, I was recently named the Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate, a program of Urban Word Los Angeles (an award-winning youth literary arts and youth development organization), supported by the Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations, Beyond Baroque, the Los Angeles Public Library, and the Academy of American Poets. The program originated in New York City and now includes multiple cities across the country. According to the director of Urban Word NYC, Michael Cirelli, the LA competition receives more applications than any other city in the country, and is also the fastest-growing. The award is presented to an outstanding young writer and leader for civic engagement, writing, and performance, and human relations, diversity, and social justice across Los Angeles (according to the program).
I’ll be performing and making appearances with various organizations over the next year. I was also awarded a book deal with Penmanship Books, and will be publishing a book of original poetry that will come out in the upcoming year. I’m very excited to use this platform to continue advocating for social justice issues, especially among youth.
Sophie is available to screen and give a Q&A on the educational film she made for her Gold Award project; if interested, contact her at email@example.com.