If you ask “What’s the highest achievement in Boy Scouts?” most people will tell you: the rank of Eagle Scout. But if you ask, “What’s the highest achievement in Girl Scouts?” most people either cannot tell you or do not even know Girl Scouts has a higher award.

However, Girl Scouts of the USA, founded in 1912, has always had a pinnacle goal for girls. The name and look of that award has changed over the years, but since the 1980s, it has been the Gold Award.

Only 5% of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn the Gold Award. Gold Award recipients are high-school aged Girl Scouts who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through sustainable and measurable “Take Action” projects. After the minimum requirements are completed, the Gold Award project is the culmination of a girl’s demonstration of self-discipline, leadership ability, time management, creativity, initiative and a significant mastery of skills. Each girl must dedicate a minimum of 80 hours to planning and implementing her project, which must benefit the national (or even global) community and have long lasting impact.

Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital is trying to change the lack of knowledge about the Girl Scout Gold Award with a new campaign called “Girls the World Needs.” The campaign was unveiled at the annual “In Her Honor” ceremony, where all Gold Award and Silver Trefoil recipients for the local council were honored at Trinity Washington College. This year was the highest number of Gold Award Girl Scouts our Council ever recorded – 225 young women. And four of those Gold Award Girl Scouts call St. Mary’s County home: Rebecca Arnold, Christina Balaton, Madison Frill and Nicole Hallack.

Each of these Gold Award Girl Scouts cultivated a project, formed from an issue near and dear to themselves.

Arnold’s project, “Learning through Letterboxing,” inspired families to explore local historical sites in St. Mary’s County through letterboxing (a scavenger hunt involving elements of orienteering and puzzle solving).

Balaton’s “Pathways Wellness Trail” features a trail around the Pathways building (a local company here in St. Mary’s) that consumers and employees could walk on to improve their physical and mental health.

Frill set up an outdoor learning space at White Marsh Elementary School to encourage students to get outside and become healthier through her project called, “An Outdoor Learning Space for All.”

And, Halleck’s project, “Let's Connect through Foreign Language,” focused on a foreign language day for primary school kids that provided early access to available languages in the county.

While the projects were all very different from each other, the girls will always be tied together through the process and achievement

In addition to the Girl Scout Gold Award, three girls from Troop 3311, also based out of St. Mary’s County, earned the Silver Trefoil, a prestigious service award only offered in GSCNC. The Silver Trefoil recognizes girls who exhibit dedication to service in their national, global, and Girl Scouting communities. Rebecca Arnold, Julia Belvin and Regan Coombs were recognized for volunteering over 100 hours in various types of service.

By earning the Silver Trefoil Award, girls explore different types of service in multiple communities (such as local or governmental), and engage in various opportunities. Girl Scouts can begin working towards the award during middle school, but all must be high school age to complete it. The award pushes girls out of their comfort zones, and encourages them to volunteer in diverse ways so they can discover how they best enjoy serving their communities.

Examples of service included planning and cooking for local Encampment weekends for their Service Unit. They hosted Girl Scout events, such as a “grand prix” racing event, and World Thinking Day, a Girl Scouting tradition to showcase Girl Scouting around the world.

Some girls worked at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, explaining new recycle efforts. Some service was completed individually, such as alter serving at church, or volunteering at a local library. However, when asked, all three girls said their favorite activity was attending the “Food Fight DC”, where they spent hours packing meals, which were distributed to starving children around the world.