UPDATE: Four Shelby County students earn Girl Scout Gold Award

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama congratulates four Shelby County Girl Scouts for earning the Gold Award: Oak Mountain senior Roshni Datta, Spain Park sophomore Avery DeBerry, Chelsea senior Arabella Gonzalez and Spain Park junior Sarah Laney.

The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable—earned by a high school Girl Scout who works to address an issue she’s passionate about in a way that produces meaningful and lasting change. Whether it’s on a local, national or global level, Gold Award Girl Scouts provide innovative solutions to significant challenges.

Each of these girls earned the designation of Gold Award Girl Scout by focusing on three different issues they encountered in their communities: Datta tackled a lack of mental health education in high school; DeBerry found a creative solution for children with ADD, ADHD or other focusing concerns; and Gonzalez devised a plan to help foster children having a difficult transition to new homes.

Even before COVID-19, Roshni Datta, a senior at Oak Mountain High School, noticed that many of her classmates were struggling with mental health. The pandemic only exacerbated their feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation. She took action to address misconceptions about mental illness and destigmatize getting help, all while providing necessary resources to her peers.

She created and narrated a series of animated informational videos about mental health, mental illnesses, and myths and facts regarding both. These videos can be found on her Hope for Mental Health YouTube channel. Along with two of her Girl Scout troop members, she hosted a live mental health panel discussion on Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama’s Facebook page.

She also created mental health care kits for students and collaborated with her school’s Beta Club to assemble them. The kits included tissues, bubbles, Play-Doh, and other stress-relieving items as well as resources for finding help.

“Mental illness needs to be talked about more so we as a society can progress and allow the stigma to decrease,” Datta said.

Avery DeBerry, a sophomore at Spain Park High School, has ADD and wanted to give back to her community in a way that would have helped her when she was younger. She created two sensory activity paths at Riverchase Elementary School to help students who have ADD, ADHD, or other problems focusing in school by giving them a place to release energy, relieve stress, and be creative. These brightly painted paths feature the solar system with planets to hop on, a unicorn with a big area to draw on, a sunflower with leaves for hopscotch, and a maze.

The results of a survey DeBerry conducted showed that teachers “felt the paths were effective in improving the mood, motor skills, coordination, balance, concentration, focus, and creativity of the students.” Teachers also said the paths increased cooperative play and even helped the students with counting and sequencing skills.

“I learned that hard work pays off and I feel like I made a contribution in the lives of the children at this school,” DeBerry said.

Arabella Gonzalez, a senior at Chelsea High School, has a heart for foster children. She took action to help local foster children have smoother transitions to new homes. She partnered with the Hangar in Columbiana, a nonprofit clothing closet for foster families. She made 40 tie blankets for the Hangar with inspiring quotes on each one.

She also created a YouTube video to inform others about how to become a foster parent. Another YouTube video she created teaches others how to make the tie blankets, leading to more donations for the Hangar.

“I feel like Girl Scouting has helped me connect with so many people,” Gonzalez said. “I used to be pretty shy when I was younger, but now I’m that first person to raise my hand and I feel like I’m always a leader in a situation I need to be.”

Sarah Laney, a junior at Spain Park High School, jumped into action in March of 2020 – right at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak – to help her community keep themselves and others safe. Sarah made instructional videos, including tutorials on how to hand sew and machine sew face masks. Her team made over 2,000 masks and donated them throughout the community. At least 3,500 masks have been made using her tutorials.

“I learned that if I work hard and dedicate myself to something, even if it is hard or frustrating, I can try new things and learn new skills,” Laney said of earning her Gold Award.

Datta, DeBerry, Gonzalez  and Laney were all honored on April 11 at Camp Coleman in Trussville at a Gold Award Ceremony along with 13 other girls across 36 counties who earned their Gold Award between April 2020 and April 2021.

“Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good—and Roshni, Avery, Arabella and Sarah all represent everything this achievement stands for,” said Karen Peterlin, Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama. “They each addressed an issue that’s important to them for their Gold Award, and we congratulate them on this momentous accomplishment.”