Aarohi Tolat, Grace Wentland, and Katherine (Grace) Wright-Goodison had the honor of receiving a Girl Scout’s highest honor, the Gold Award.
By Bridget Bronsdon
In true Girl Scout fashion, West Hartford’s Aarohi Tolat, Grace Wentland, and Katherine (Grace) Wright-Goodison demonstrated the epitome of civic leadership through their work as Girl Scouts.
The local role models proved to not just be dedicated to their title of “Girl Scout” but also to better their community. This commitment paid off for the three young women as they were recently awarded the most prestigious award in the Girl Scout Community, the Gold Award.
The award is no small feat for the young women as the requirements and in-depth efforts are extensive. The Gold Award, is a “Take Action Project” requiring the Girl Scouts to create a final project that goes beyond community service and allows the young women to address a topic they are passionate about. On top of this, the award recommends a minimum of 80 hours of work and can span the length of a summer, a school year, a semester, or more, as the journey is entirely in the hands of the Girl Scout.
The final projects are a true testament to the young ladies’ civic leadership as they truly went above and beyond community service to touch the lives of the West Hartford community.
Tolat, directed her focus toward healthcare and hygiene, a field that has always piqued her interest. While conducting research for her project, Tolat discovered a number of inequities, specifically a lack of access to hygiene products.
More often than not, those who do not have access to hygiene products often end up being uninsured, Tolat explained. Due to this lack of access to hygiene products, there is no preventative care such as teeth brushing which can then lead to larger health concerns. Unfortunately, the costs of these health issues can be extensive without insurance, Tolat said.
To tackle this large-scale issue, Tolat partnered up with local organizations and created hygiene kits. The contents of these kits included a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, razors, and menstrual products, along with various other items.
Tolat didn’t stop there. To complement the kits she created a website that not only features videos emphasizing teeth brushing and various other hygienic practices but also outlines information on state-run insurance plans for those who lack access.
The wide-scale health care and hygiene education and accessibility that Tolat provided for the West Hartford region is an unparalleled effort to better the community. Tolat expressed that this moment is what she’s been working towards throughout her 10-year career as a Girl Scout, but the award wasn’t the sole purpose for her dedicated efforts.
“It definitely feels like an absolute honor,” Tolat noted, adding, “It feels nice to make a difference.”
Following her extensive research in healthcare, Tolat said that it is a field she is looking to go into and has always had an interest in helping others.
Wright-Goodison is another West Hartford resident who used her role as a Girl Scout to make a difference. Wright-Goodison focused on students’ need to voice their opinions in school, and she founded the Student Equity and Diversity Council (SEDC). The council allows those interested in social justice, equity, and inclusion to address issues through discussion and the creation of projects.
One of the key pillars Wright-Goodison focused on was sharing leadership skills within the community.
The SEDC will continue its work next school year and will appoint a new leader to continue the work. Through this project, Wright-Goodison has ensured that all opinions and voices will be heard in the classroom and beyond.
The third Girl Scout USA Gold Award Scholarship recipient from West Hartford, Wentland, focused on anti-bullying implementation in elementary schools.
“One of the primary impacts of elementary school bullying and unkindness is feelings of helplessness and as though you can’t do anything. So my goal was to create an environment in which the elementary schoolers could take charge of their own situation and work to better the environment that they were in.” Wentland stated.
To empower the students, Wentland created a mentorship program at Webster Hill Elementary School in which high school mentors worked with elementary school students to create anti-bullying projects based on the elementary schoolers’ unique perspectives. Wentland emphasized that a lot of elementary schoolers sincerely want to help others and make the world a better place.
“If we have those students we should be doing everything we can to give them the opportunity to change the world and to prove to them that they can despite their age,” Wentland explained.
The elementary school students broke off into groups to create projects based on observations they had made in their environments. One of the groups noticed unkindness taking place at lunch so they decided to create signs for the lunch tables that act as kindness reminders. Another group created a box in which students can anonymously report acts of unkindness or bullying that they witness.
Undoubtedly, the legacy of Wentland’s work has rippled through the students’ lives. “The actual product of the project is these kids because they now understand that they can change the world and make a difference and you don’t have to be older, you don’t have to have a lot of money, you just have to want to change things for other people,” Wentland remarked.
“It’s been really rewarding because it’s the culmination of 12 years,” Wentland added as she also gave her utmost thanks to the students and adults of Webster Hill. “It’s been really amazing. It’s an honor to be able to earn this,” she explained while she emphasized the large role Girl Scouts has played in her life. Wentland went on to confidently state that she hopes to be a teacher in the future and her work thus far has put her on a remarkable path to success.
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, these three young ladies have made remarkable impacts in their community and have demonstrated the true nature of what it means to be a girl scout. As Gold Award recipients, the young woman can now proudly state that they have received the highest honor but more importantly have made significant strides in bettering their community and those in it.
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