Andie Mitchell and Margaret Murphy, Bainbridge Girl Scouts, have just won the coveted Gold Award, the highest award given by Girls Scouts of America. Less than 6 percent of Girl Scouts achieve the honor, which is given to scouts who “change their communities and the world in sustainable ways.” These two Bainbridge Island teens earned the distinction through projects they designed to benefit their community.
Mitchell built a rain garden for Fay Bainbridge Park to help reduce polluting runoff into Puget Sound. It’s located at the bottom of one of the steep rises in the park and serves to catch rainwater and filter it into the ground, stopping it from washing away soil.
After taking an environmental science class at BHS, Mitchell approached Mike Mejia, the Park Services Superintendent of Bainbridge Island Metro Parks and Recreation District, to find out what kinds of environmental projects she might be able to facilitate. He was eager to get help with a rain garden at Fay Bainbridge as so much runoff was going straight into a drain leading to Puget Sound.
So Mitchell contacted Judy Cole-Martin, a rain garden mentor with the Washington State University Extension, for guidance. They worked together to develop the project. Cole-Martin donated some of the plants. The rest were donated by Bainbridge Gardens. Mitchell’s Troop also donated toward the costs of the project.
When the materials were ready, Mitchell organized a labor party with about seven of her friends, her parents, and Cole-Martin and her husband. Mitchell’s mother Mary Beth Petruska, who is also the troop leader and the Co-Service Unit Manager for the Western Washington Girl Scouts, said that a friend of hers, graphic designer Linda Campbell, helped prepare the site’s educational sign for printing. NA Koi builders helped Mitchell install it at the site.
Then Mitchell visited environmental studies classes at the high school to educate her fellow students about rain gardens and polluting runoff into Puget Sound. She was able to educate about 120 students.
This summer, Mitchell and Cole-Martin will maintain the garden and add more plants to it. Mitchell is graduating from BHS tomorrow, June 14. She will be attending Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
Murphy created a multimedia financial literacy program for teens. She was motivated by the difficult financial experience of a relative and the stress surrounding that experience. She wanted to make sure to learn about financial literacy before leaving home for college. So she took an online course and interviewed local financial experts, filming her interviews along the way.
Murphy designed a financial intelligence survey to test her AP Human Geography classmates’ knowledge, with questions such as “What is a 401K?” and “How do you pay your credit bill?” She said that more than 78 percent of the class failed the test.
After the class took the AP Human Geography test in the spring, they had some time available at the end of the year. So through four class sessions, Mitchell taught her classmates what she had learned about finances. It was enough education that they all scored 80 percent or higher on a followup survey. She said, “I think they were very grateful they learned some things before they left.”
She gave the interviews and class materials to her school, Eagle Harbor High School, for use with students in the future.
Murphy graduated from EHHS last year. She just finished her first year at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where she hopes to graduate with a degree in Anthropology.
The criteria for the Gold Award include demonstration of the abilities to lead with confidence, manage a project, and explore one’s interests. Recipients must also be “agents of positive change” and “serve as role models” for younger Scouts and other community members.
The teens will be honored along with 24 other Washington awardees at a Gold Awards Gala at the Tacoma Art Museum on June 22. Stefanie Ellis, Public Relations Director for Girl Scouts of Western Washington, said they will each make a speech and be awarded a special certificate as well as one from President Obama.
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Featured photo by Freshly Diced. Rain garden photos by Sarah Lane.