The Girls Scout’s mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. After hearing three Gwinnett County Girl Scouts (who have earned or are working toward their Gold Award) speak at the Gwinnett ToGetHerThere Luncheon on May 16th, it seems they are doing just that.
By: Angela Veugeler
The Girl Scout luncheon took place at Ashton Gardens in Sugar Hill in order to raise funds for Gwinnett girls, including more than 1,000 underserved girls. Keynote Speaker, Fran Gary, shared her amazing personal story, in which several people saw something in her as a young girl when she was living under the most challenging circumstances, and helped her to believe in herself. Gary shared that she may not have survived her youth had these mentors not invested their time and belief in her. Gary is now president of federal government solutions at Anthem, Inc. Gary, along with the rest of the audience, was amazed at the potential and early accomplishments of Girl Scouts Teresa Napolitano, Nia Allen and Kendall Robinson. The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. These three young women shared how Girl Scouts has helped build character and positively affected their lives…
As a little girl, Nia had a love for aviation. She would beg her mother to take her to the Atlanta airport on weekends to watch the planes take off and land. At the age of eight, she met a female pilot who let her see the cockpit when she was on a flight traveling by herself. From this moment on, she realized she wanted to become an airline pilot. With a lot of courage and encouragement from her mother, Nia started flying planes at age fourteen and completed her first solo flight in July of 2016, and thanks to the support of the Illinois Aviation Academy and the Tuskegee NEXT Program, will earn her private pilot’s license this summer. According to Nia, “Everything I plan to do in my life will depend on courage. Courage to go out on a limb. Courage to defy expectations of my age, gender, and demographic. And, of course, courage to fly. But where does this courage come from? That’s easy, it comes from Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts and the wonderful women who have nurtured and mentored me.”
Gold Award Project LOVE ROLLS
Kendall started as a Girl Scout while in fourth grade at Greater Atlanta Christian School. According to Kendall, “my time as a Girl Scout and the lessons that I learned had a big part to do with the recent launching of my very own nonprofit organization.” In the summer of 2015, while attending a Teen Youth Summit at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Kendall encountered a man that completely changed the trajectory of her life. She was volunteering in the mobile food pantry, handing out paper towels and toilet paper. There was a homeless man that passed through the line and shared with her a fact that was hard for her to comprehend. “He told me that he was so grateful to receive the rolls of toilet paper because normally he would ration out one roll of toilet paper for a whole month.“
Each summit participant was charged with creating a service project in their community. The man’s story had such an impact on Kendall, she decided to host a toilet paper drive. Within a month of notifying family and friends, they received box after box of toilet tissue on their doorstep every day for a month. They received a corporate donation of over 75,000 rolls from Kimberly Clark, manufacturer of Scott Toilet Paper, and a personal letter written to Kendall from Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp after he read about her service project in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She also received a letter from former President Barack Obama all in the first 30 days.
Kendall shared that there are over 14,000 people in the city of Atlanta that lack access to toilet paper. After realizing the overwhelming need, she started the nonprofit, LOVE ROLLS, and has since partnered with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Community Food Bank of New Jersey, Feeding Tampa Bay, Corporate Organizations, Civic Organizations (including the Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta), Schools, and individual donors from all across the United States, the Bahamas, and Japan. To date they have commitments of over 200,000 LOVE ROLLS and have distributed close to 100,000 including people affected by the floods in Baton Rouge, LA, the fires in Gatlinburg, TN and veterans in Charleston, SC.
Kendall shared, “As I pursue to expand the mission of Love Rolls, I plan to utilize the relationships, knowledge, and my heart for service during the process. I am so thankful to have mentors to assist and guide me towards success, individuals like all of you to keep me encouraged and the love and support of my family and friends to keep me inspired. Participating in Girl Scouts has inspired me to chase my dreams and encouraged me to make a difference regardless of the circumstances. I am honored to be a part of a sisterhood that emphasizes being a sister to every Girl Scout and blessed to say that I have grown up in this program and made influential relationships in my life.” To Learn more about Love Rolls, visit loverolls.org.
Gold Award Project I Heart Educators
Suwanee resident Teresa Napolitano has been involved in Girl Scouts since she was in Kindergarten. She has many fond memories and shared of being in Girl Scouts, “It’s just a really good opportunity to form a close relationship with a group of girls that lasts for a long time. I’m still really good friends with the girls that have been in my group since Kindergarten. All the opportunities it gives such as service, friendship…”
Teresa’s Gold Award project was a mural at North Gwinnett High School. She wanted to utilize her artistic ability and love for the arts to create a piece of art that would have a meaningful impact on current teachers/students and for future generations. Teresa found out about a former teacher at the school who retired after being diagnosed with ALS, who had positively impacted many students at the school. During his time as a teacher, many of his students would give him a coffee mug from the college they were going to attend. When he retired, he donated the mugs to the school. Teresa, along with the help of Art teacher Debbie West, decided to use the mugs to create a mural in honor of this teacher as well as all of the amazing teachers she has had over the years. According to Teresa, “Teachers often make significant connections with their students: connections that inspire the students to achieve more and be better.” This is what helped spark her “desire to give a platform to students and adults to share their gratitude through art and public speaking.”
Although somewhat shy and afraid to ask for help, when Teresa started to ask, she realized that many people were more than happy to provide assistance. This gave her a boost in confidence so she was able to ask for help when needed and also speak in front of a group of people. “At my project’s revealing ceremony, a lot of students like me, had a chance—maybe for the first time, ever—to speak publicly in admiration of their mentors.” Teresa’s project served as a stage for both students and teachers to share their gratitude for the educators in their lives.
Teresa learned that “when you are in doubt of yourself, just put yourself out there. Just do it, and the more you do, and the more you accomplish, the more confident you will become.” Her Gold Award project helped her realize that knowing what you are passionate about helps build confidence. According to Teresa, “Life should be a journey of self-improvement and discovery, where we have the confidence to learn from every mistake, and to treasure every triumph. That’s certainly what Girl Scouts has taught me.” Teresa recently graduated from North Gwinnett High School and plans to attend the University of Georgia this fall.