Mia Laing earns the Girl Scout Gold Award

O’FALLON – Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is pleased to announce that Mia Laing from O’Fallon has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award – the highest award a Girl Scout can receive. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she created 26 art canvases corresponding with Biblical scriptures representing each letter of the alphabet to help inspire others at her church. 

“I strive to engage people of all ages to find meaning in scripture and to find motivation and a new perspective through the Word of God,” she said. 

Laing mentored younger members of her church to design and paint the canvases, while also discussing their faith together. She then hung the canvases in a church community building, where they could be seen during Girl Scout meetings, as well as by preschool students and visitors at weddings and other community events. She even made a corresponding book for the preschool.

“Youth members have come up to me and said thank you for involving them,” she said. “I saw people engaged and wanting to improve their relationship with Christ.”

Laing noted that, along with helping strengthen her faith community, her Girl Scout Gold Award project helped her grow as a leader as well.

“I learned to always be determined and to keep my head held high,” she said. “Most importantly, I have gained more confidence in myself to be myself in every situation.” 

Mia is the daughter of Mary Beth and Jim Laing. She graduated from O’Fallon Township High School in 2018 and is currently attending Truman State University where she studies Psychology. 

The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, recognizes a Girl Scout’s commitment to excellence as she develops skills and values to meet present and future challenges in her life. To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, a Girl Scout Senior or Girl Scout Ambassador must design and carry out a project that fulfills a need within a girl’s community, creates change, and is sustainable.  The project must be completed with a suggested minimum of 80 hours of work.  Only about 5 percent of eligible girls earn the prestigious Gold Award.

Local girl scout earns Gold Award for Summer of STEM project

Katherine Buchanan has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award (Submitted Photo)

O’FALLON – Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is pleased to announce that Katherine Buchanan has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can receive. For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, she hosted a “Summer of STEM” to help area children – especially girls – become more interested and engaged in science, technology, engineering, and math.  

“Science, technology, engineering and math are fields that are mainly dominated by men. Through my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I hoped to encourage more girls to participate in STEM activities and eventually major in STEM fields in college,” she said. 

First, Buchanan planned and ran an activity room at the FIRST LEGO League Jr. Expo, which is an exhibition held for more than 30 robotics teams made up of six to ten year old students. Activities she planned included simple machines, science experiments, simple electrical circuits and LEGO build challenges.  

Next, she facilitated STEM sessions as part of the O’Fallon Public Library summer reading program, which ran for six weeks, included two age groups and educated up to 75 children per day. During the sessions, she led hands-on activities that explored topics like weather, physics, chemistry, electricity, space, and robotics. At each session, she also provided a take-home packet with experiments for children to conduct with their parents. She noted that some of the children she worked with had never participated in STEM activities before, and that she felt the outreach through the library was successful. 

The final part of Buchanan’s project was to host a three day FIRST LEGO League Jr. camp for more than 30 area youth. With the help of a volunteer team she recruited, she led sessions exploring the engineering design process, building solid structures, and programming motors and sensors using LEGO WeDo software. The students put on a small expo at the end of camp to show their parents what they learned during the week. She also created an evaluation system to help measure the outcomes of the camp. These evaluations showed that 83 percent of the girls who participated were excited to learn more about STEM following the day camp. 

Throughout her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Buchanan also updated a website sharing her progress using Wix, so that she could share the importance of STEM education and Girl Scouts’ valuable role in these fields. To help make her efforts sustainable, she recruited Girl Scouts to help run the FIRST LEGO League Jr. Expo activity room in the future, and enlisted local FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics team The Worm Gear Warriors to continue hosting STEM sessions at local libraries and during summer day camp. 

“Throughout my project, I had the ability to connect with a diverse group of children all looking to do the same thing, which was to have fun with science and electronics,” she said. “The audience was able to gain a better understanding of what STEM really entails and that it is just as important for girls to be involved as it is for boys.”  

Buchanan added that earning her Girl Scout Gold Award also helped her feel more confident being in charge of a large project, as well. 

“Since my Girl Scout Gold Award project lasted from April until the middle of August, it was a very intense process for me in which I learned a lot about myself,” she said. “Something new to me was being able to plan events and really take the lead. Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award has definitely given me the chance to improve my leadership skills.”  

Katherine is the daughter of Larry and Mary Buchanan She is completed her Girl Scout Gold Award during the summer following her senior year at O’Fallon Township High School, where she will graduated in 2018. Currently, she is a freshman at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where she studies criminal justice and forensics. 

The Girl Scout Cookie Program Starts January 5 in Southern Illinois

Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSofSI) will kick off the iconic Girl Scout Cookie Program on January 5 with the first Girl Scout Cookie Booth Weekend of the season. At these Cookie Booths, customers can purchase cookies directly from troops who have set up shop at area establishments throughout Southern Illinois.  

Buying a box of Girl Scout Cookies helps power amazing experiences for girls. Whether it’s a trip she’ll never forget, a STEM activity that opens her mind to new possibilities, a service project that changes her community forever, or the opportunity to build a lifelong friendships at camp, Girl Scout Cookies help make it happen! Girls also develop essential life skills that support their success today and in the future by nurturing a go-getter spirit and equipping them with the confidence and know-how to dream big and do bigger. 

From January 5-26, Girl Scouts will take orders for the treats, which will be delivered in early March. In addition to cookie booths and traditional paper order cards, girls can sell Girl Scout Cookies online through a safe interactive platform called Digital Cookie. Now in its fifth record-breaking year, Digital Cookie combines traditional sales skills with modern technology to help girls learn more about online marketing and ecommerce. Girls are able to customize their personal sales website and then use e-mail to invite friends and family to purchase cookies from the comfort of their homes. Customer demand for Girl Scout Cookies following delivery has been high historically, so additional Cookie Booth Weekends will be held from late February through March.  To find a Girl Scout in your area, please call 800.345.6858 or use our online Cookie Finder Tool: http://bit.ly/GSofSIFindCookies.

The Girl Scout Cookie Lineup in Southern Illinois includes:

For $4/box

Thin Mints: Crisp wafers covered in chocolaty coating made with natural oil of peppermint.

Samoas: Crisp cookies coated in caramel, sprinkled with toasted coconut, and striped with dark chocolaty coating. 

Tagalongs: Crispy cookies layered with peanut butter and covered with a chocolaty coating.

Trefoils: Delicate-tasting shortbread that is delightfully simple and satisfying.

Do-Si-Dos: Crunchy oatmeal sandwich cookies with creamy peanut butter filling.

Savannah Smiles: Crisp, zesty lemon wedge cookies dusted with powdered sugar.

For $5/box

Girl Scout S’mores: Crunchy graham sandwich cookies with creamy chocolate and marshmallowy filling.

Toffee-tastic: Rich, buttery cookies packed with golden toffee bits bursing with flavor. Gluten Free.

Girl Scouts Hosting Upcoming Registration Event

Glen Carbon, Illinois – Girl Scouts unleashes the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) in every girl, preparing her for a lifetime of leadership and success.  Whether she’s hiking in the woods, programming a robot or working with city hall to develop a community garden, a Girl Scout can choose from an exciting array of experiences to suit her interests at every age.  Outdoor adventure, STEM exploration, community service, travel, lifelong friendships and positive female role models are just a few of the many opportunities that Girl Scouts has to offer.  

Girls in grades K-12 and their parents are invited to discover more about Girl Scouting.  Adult volunteers and leaders are also needed to assist newly formed girl troops.   Volunteer opportunities are diverse, flexible and can be tailored to meet personal availability and interests. The cost to join Girl Scouts is $25 and financial assistance is available for girls and volunteers who quality.  To learn more, visit Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois’ website, www.gsofsi.org. 

Upcoming Girl Scout Registration Event in Your Area:

O’Fallon/Shiloh
August 28 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
O’Fallon City Park
Contact: Stacy at slautz@childrenshomeandaid.org
Contact for Illini School: Nicole Smith at 618-799-7098 or nicoleann1978@gmail.com
Contact for St. Clare School: Winnie Kenney at Winnie_kenney@hotmail.com or 618-531-7223

Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI) is a high-capacity Girl Scout council serving approximately 11,300 girls and engaging 4,550 adult volunteers in 40 ½ counties in Southern Illinois.  GSSI Mission: Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.   The Girl Scouts organization is the world’s largest leadership development organization for girls.  In partnership with committed adults, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives – such as strong values, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth. Today’s Girl Scouts not only enjoy camping and crafts; they also explore math and science and learn about diversity, good citizenship, leadership and teamwork. Girl Scouting is the place where girls experience the fun, friendship and power of girls together.   Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois is a not-for-profit organization supported by various United Ways throughout the region.  Girl Scouts is a Proud Partner of United Way.

Please visit the GSSI website www.gsofsi.org and follow us on Facebook

O’Fallon teen installs new camp bridge as part of Girl Scout Gold Award Project

Leah Walton poses in front of the bridge she installed while working towards earning her Girl Scout Gold Award (Submitted Photo)

Leah Walton dedicated a new bridge that she built at Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI) Camp Torqua on Friday, July 20.  

Nearly 80 girls, Girl Scout volunteers and friends attended the dedication ceremony to applaud her efforts, which she committed towards earning the Girl Scout Gold Award – the highest award in Girl Scouting.  Earning this prestigious award requires a suggested minimum of 80 hours of community service and helps Girl Scouts give back to the world in ways that are personally meaningful.

GSSI’s Camp Torqua is a 72 acre camp located outside of Edwardsville that is open to both Girl Scouts and outside groups.  Despite a robust hiking trail system, the main link between two primary sections of the camp had been a gravel road that was also open to vehicles.  To create a safer, more convenient option for foot traffic, Walton built a 40-foot suspension bridge over Sugar Creek, which cuts through the center of camp.  Her construction used pressure treated wood and steel cables suspended through posts on both sides of the creek, and includes cross supports for stability.  She explained that the project was meaningful to her because it allowed her to use her interests and skills to inspire the next generation. 

“My Girl Scout Gold Award project was a way for me to do my part in helping kids appreciate the outdoors,” said Walton. “I absolutely love the outdoors. I spend the majority of my time outside riding my hoses and playing sports.”

She also created and installed a pair of outdoor game boards for campers to use.  The brightly painted game boards – checkers and tic tac toe – were painted on slices from trees that previously needed removed at the camp and include natural objects such as rocks as game pieces.  In addition, she developed a series of STEM activities for camp, like a challenge to build a weight-bearing pyramid using sticks in order to explore the role of structure shape in engineering.  During the bridge dedication, which coincided with GSSI’s annual STEM Day Camp, she led younger girls through games and activities, as STEM fields are also among her top interests.  

“My favorite part of being a Girl Scout is being a part of my troop’s robotics team,” she shared. “We were able to compete at the state level and be competitive while representing Girl Scouts in a good light.  My team learned through trial and error how to use tools better than most adults can, and I was able to apply those skills to build my bridge,” she added. 

This fall, Walton plans to attend University of Findlay to double major in animal science and English equestrian studies.  After earning her undergraduate degree, she hopes to attend medical school.  She believes her experiences in Girl Scouts will help her continue to be successful into the future.  

“Earning the Girl Scout Gold Award is important to me because it signifies dedication,” she explained. “It sets a good example for younger girls and shows what you can achieve if you really want to.” I would recommend being a Girl Scout because of the people that are part of the community,” she added.  “It might not seem important to little girls, but so many of the leaders and friends I met are also the people giving me ‘pushes’ to be the best person I can be.”

Girl Scout works with O’Fallon Garden Club for Gold Award Project

Girl Scout Victoria Birchem closes out her first tour for her Girl Scout Gold Award project by posing for a photo with attendees. From left to right: Anne Birchem, Harriet Baker, Sydney McAuliffe, Faith Sims, Mikaella Moreland, Avery Hoover, Madison Frederick, Sophia Ward, Victoria Birchem, Mary Birchem and Susan Jeanmougin. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Angela Simmons)

A local Girl Scout’s Gold Award project will not only have lasting impacts at the O’Fallon Community Garden, but also helped to educate other local Girl Scout Troops. Victoria Birchem spent the 80 hours of service for her project by helping the O’Fallon Garden club catalog the various beds at the community Garden, replacing hard to read plant signs with new long lasting labels, and leading garden tours for fellow scouts.

Birchem, who’s in Girl Scout Troop 915, has been wanting to help the garden club for a long time. She pitched several ideas to them before finalizing this project. She walked the various beds at the community garden and created a spreadsheet for garden club members to use moving forward. It describes which plants are in each bed.

To read the full article, pick up a copy of this week’s paper on newsstands now. Or, click here for the digital edition.

Mission possible: Girl Scout Gold Award winner with vision to help others succeed

Caitlin, along with her other siblings got involved with scouting as a way to be contributing members of the community. (Photo Credit Matt Lloyd)

Caitlin, along with her other siblings got involved with scouting as a way to be contributing members of the community. (Photo Credit Matt Lloyd)

Caitlin Lloyd gave back to her community in a big way to complete her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Lloyd’s project, titled Suite Dreams, had her reaching out to multiple area organizations and stepping out of her comfort zone to help women and children at a tough point in their lives. “My project was focused on positively affecting the lives of the women and children living who live in fear, sadness, and poverty every day,” she wrote.

Since February, Lloyd has worked with the Women’s Safe House, a shelter in St. Louis that aids women and children that are fleeing from domestic violence. WSH, according to their website, is “open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, serving approximately 400—600 women and children annually.” The facility does not disclose it’s location in order to keep the women and children safe. Caitlin worked in the residential portion of the program, something she was already familiar with from working on her Girl Scout Silver Award. “I made craft projects and sent them to local hospitals and to the shelter, and then later, I went to the shelter and worked on the craft projects with the children that were living there,” she said.  Women and children live there for 6-8 weeks while the organization helps them get back on their feet and ready to be self reliant. Lloyd wanted to help spruce up one of the suites there to make them more cheerful and provide a sense of hope and home during a dark time. She painted a two room suite in bright colors, then enlisted the help of her troop mates from Girl Scout Troop 915 and her teammates from her YMCA of Southern Illinois swim team to make fleece blankets. “I figured with winter coming, they could definitely use warm blankets,” said Lloyd.

That wasn’t all. Lloyd went to area organizations The O’Fallon Women’s Club, the O’Fallon chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization sisterhood and Service Unit 201 Girl Scout Leaders and presented them with her vision for the project, which included new bedding and books to also make the suites more homey. The organizations, along with Caitlin’s parents, Matt and Kristen Lloyd, and her Girl Scout troop all banned together to give Lloyd enough donations to cover bedding for six beds and also donated over 500 books. Then Lloyd, with the help of her dad, built bookshelves to hold them all.

“That was a lot of fun. Dads don’t often get to be too involved in Girl Scouts. To be able to help her and build something with her was a lot of fun. I showed her how to do put in one screw, and she got really excited and asked for the drill. She’s very independent. She definitely asks for help when she needs it, but she did a lot of this project on her own,” said Air Force veteran Matt Lloyd. He also said that Lloyd is following in the footsteps of her older sister and her mom who are also Girl Scout Gold Award winners.

Caitlin poses with a bookshelf she made for the Women's Safe House in St. Louis. (Photo Credit Matt Lloyd)

Caitlin poses with a bookshelf she made for the Women’s Safe House in St. Louis. (Photo Credit Matt Lloyd)

Lloyd has now not only earned her Girl Scout Gold Award, but has also earned the Trifecta Award for completing the Bronze and Silver Award levels. In addition to her Suite Dreams project, she also had to complete a journey to earn the prestigious award. “Our journey was called ‘So What?,’ and we visited a farm where we made food and learned about ecological footprints. One person’s ecological footprint affects the whole world,” said Lloyd.

“This project has taught me a lot of responsibility, leadership and organizational skills, and to make sure I’m managing things in a professional manner,” she said. Lloyd acknowledged that not many teens take on responsibility like that. “This has really pushed her out of her comfort zone. She’s not comfortable being in the spotlight, she doesn’t enjoy speaking in front of large groups, but she did it,” said Matt. He continued “All three of our kids got involved in scouts as a way to make each place that we lived in feel like home. We wanted to be part of our community, and that starts with making connections around you.” It’s only fitting that Caitlin applied the same principles of community outreach and providing a sense of home to her project.

She plans to continue in Girl Scouts through high school, which is just one of her many activities. She’s been a member of the OTHS Varsity swim team since she was a Freshman,  swims on her YOSI swim team, is a lead delegate for Model UN and part of the youth group at Cornerstone Christian Church in Shiloh.

Caitlin has one piece of advice for everyone; “It’s important for people to realize that small things can have a big impact. Look into the community around you and find a way to give back.” Her dad added “It’s important to know that you may not get something done in a weekend, but like Caitlin did, get started and do a little bit at a time.”