MANATEE -- Bayshore High School's Susan Flores, Lakewood Ranch High's Lindsay Wheeler and Florida State University's Lindsey Bethany, who is from Palmetto, have each achieved the highest honor in Girl Scouting -- Gold Awards.
To win a Gold Award, a high school girl must identify an issue, make a plan to improve it, build a team to complete the project and then take the knowledge gained to educate and inspire others. She must put a minimum of 80 hours into her project.
"A Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn," said Julie Krueger, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. "To give an example of how esteemed it is, if a girl wins it, they can jump a rank if they enter any branch in the armed services. It's also something that has impact for some colleges and universities which offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients."
The three Manatee girls and roughly
400 other Girl Scouts will be recognized at the Young Women of Distinction Ceremony 2-5 p.m. Sunday, May 18, at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, 75 Taylor St., Punta Gorda.
Flores, a Bruin senior, created a project called "Caught Between Two Worlds: Mission Sisterhood," which dealt with understanding between cultures.
Wheeler, a Mustang senior, used her passion for academics to create her project, "Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) Summer Camp for Girls."
Bethany's project was titled, "Through the Eyes of a Child." The project's mission was to create awareness among many teachers about specific learning disabilities, also known as SLDs, and how the actions and reactions of teachers impact the children in their classroom who have SLDs, Krueger said.
"I wanted to build a bridge for Latina girls who felt displaced," said Flores, who worked 120 hours on her project.
Flores, who was born in Peru, came to the United States when she was 6. She noticed differences in traditions and cultures and wanted to share but didn't know how, she said.
Her mother brought her to Roots and Wings, a workshop presented by the Latinas of the Woman's Resource Center Manatee and sponsored by the Girl Scouts.
Flores formed a group for both Latina and non-Latina girls to learn about themselves and each other and talk about things they deal with every day.
"Knowing that there was someone out there who understood what you were going through was a great opportunity," Flores said. "So, we stood up, held hands and became one. We handled our similarities, which to others were differences, together. We began to understand the balance of both worlds and helped each other to find our bridge."
Wheeler invited several women with STEM careers to talk to her fellow Scouts. She also provided her fellow Scouts lots of STEM exposure through experiments, conversation and education about opportunities, Krueger said.
"Many girls have a lack of interest and confidence in STEM programs causing a large gap between women and men in STEM careers," Wheeler said.
For Bethany, who has been a Girl Scout for 13 years, her SLD project was personal.
"I would not allow another kid to feel the same frustration and pain I had to go through," Bethany said. "No one deserves that pain. I learned to always give things your all and not to allow naysayers the satisfaction of quitting."
"She attacked the common misconceptions about SLD in students and offered positive solutions to dealing with an SLD child," Krueger said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @RichardDymond.