St. Louis, MO – Oct. 25, 2016 – Jessica Thoelke, Jacqueline Wong, Xueting Ding and Rachel Steiner, all graduates of Ladue Horton-Watkins High School, were among 42 young women in eastern Missouri to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award this year. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Gold Award, the highest award attainable in Girl Scouting.
Thoelke, a 2016 Ladue graduate and Washington University freshman, noticed a lack of opportunities for students in her area to learn coding, and worked with teachers and administrators in the Ladue School District to create a Code Red Coding Club. Each week, she led 30 to 40 middle school students in learning coding and computing, inspiring them to pursue their passions and careers in STEM fields. Thoelke was one of two Gold Awardees to earn a 2016 Dessert First scholarship from Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri.
“My Gold Award prepared me for college by giving me lots of practice initiating communication and interacting with adults who had resources that would help me enhance and complete my project,” Thoelke said. “As a result, I now feel pretty comfortable using this skill with my professors and TAs by seeking out information from them and opportunities on a large campus.”
Wong, also a freshman at Washington University, wanted to close the gender gap in technology careers through her Gold Award project. She implemented a Technovation Club at her school, an all-girl’s competition that challenges girls to code a mobile app that solves a community issue. Approximately 15 students met each week, learning coding, entrepreneurship and business skills through the club.
“I also reached out to local female technology professionals and asked them to give presentations to club members,” Wong said. “That way the students could visualize themselves in jobs dealing with technology as well.”
Ding, who graduated in 2015 and now attends University of California, Berkeley, wanted to get more teens excited about volunteering while also addressing the issue of patient depression in hospitals. Studies have shown that art therapy can help those going through difficult situations deal with stress and improve their mental health, so Ding created project heART, a teen volunteer art therapy program for patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital's Siteman Cancer Center. Patients loved the program so much the hospital is continuing to offer it.
After noticing that many of her peers were indifferent toward writing, Steiner, a 2016 Ladue graduate and freshman at Washington University, created a Teen Writing Club at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters. The writing club met on a monthly basis, and encouraged teens to practice writing using various prompts, strategies and techniques. High school students from around the area joined the club.
“People my age tend to see writing only as an academic chore, rather than a means for expression and enjoyment,” Steiner said. “Not only did the club help members expand their writing skills, but they learned an appreciation for the creative form writing can take.”
The Gold Award is the highest national award a Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador, girls in grade 9-12, can earn. Attaining the Girl Scout Gold Award requires a significant amount of time planning and implementing a challenging, large-scale project that is innovative, engages others and has a lasting impact on its targeted community with an emphasis on sustainability.
Less than one percent of all Girl Scouts earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, putting them among an exceptional group of women who have used their knowledge and leadership skills to make a difference in the world. Some of the Gold Awardee benefits are:
- A Girl Scout who has earned her Gold Award and enlists in the US Armed Forces, immediately rises one level in rank
- Colleges and universities recognize the achievements and leadership abilities of Girl Scout Gold Award recipients by offering scholarship programs
- Achievements of the Girl Scout Gold Award recipients are acknowledged by many government and non-profit organizations