By Aurora Oldman
The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn. To earn this award, a Girl Scout must identify an issue in her community she wishes to address, develop a solution, plan and coordinate a project to involve that solution and implement it, ensuring that it is a program that endures and continues to address the issue at hand. Only five percent of Girl Scouts earn this award nationally, and this achievement embodies all of the values and aspects of the Girl Scouting program, most notably making the world a better place.
Fossil Valley Girl Scout Aurora O. of Lithia, who will be completing her 13th year of scouting and graduating from Newsome High School this month, decided to round out her Scout experience by earning this award. After much research, she decided to initiate a program that would help women who have been victims of domestic abuse and violence. Aurora wanted to provide a service to victims that would let them know that there are people who care about them, that they are not alone and that would help them get life started again, as many leave their situations with nothing more than the clothing they have on.
Aurora worked with the Women’s Resource Center, operating in Polk County, creating Blessings Bags to provide an initial 50 care kits filled with personal care and hygiene items and notes of encouragement to give these women a few less things they have to think about and focus on their healing. Appealing to her community, Aurora coordinated a drive to collect donations from individuals and corporations alike, allowing her to provide a robust offering of items to address basic needs—things so many of us take for granted.
Program Director Joy Kruppa, on behalf of the organization, was excited to work with Aurora in developing the program, helping her identify items most in need and what would be most appropriate to provide. When accepting the donation on March 21, she expressed her sincere thanks on behalf of everyone who would be receiving the items and was so happy to see a young person taking on a task like this.
When asked about her experience, Aurora said, “I selected this program because victims of domestic violence are often overlooked in society—it’s a problem people don’t want to acknowledge. They know it’s happening, but they don’t want to talk about it.”
A required component of the award is to create awareness and provide education about the issue being addressed. To do so, Aurora set up an Instagram account, @gsnewbeginning, which you are invited to follow. She posts statistics regularly and offers words of encouragement for everyone, along with helpful tips to help identify possible victims or even the abuse itself.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, every minute, 20 people become victims of abuse in the United States. One in four women and one in nine men have experienced abuse at the hands of their partner. It is estimated that over 736 million women have been subjected to domestic violence at least once. In 2019, there were over 6,000 reported cases of domestic violence in Hillsborough County in one year alone, as well as over 4,600 reported cases in Polk County, which has a smaller overall population than Hillsborough (source: Florida Department of Law Enforcement). Considering what it takes for survivors to come forward, the number of unreported cases is likely much higher. Victims can be of any age, any gender and are all around us, often unseen and unheard.
Completing this project gave Aurora a new perspective on societal issues, making her more mindful of others and realize that not everyone has the same experience.
“I realized there are a lot more people, even in my immediate community, that have been affected by domestic violence than I thought. So many people who provided donations did so because they themselves or someone they know are survivors.”
“Girl Scouting has, among other things, improved my communication skills and taught me that I can make a difference. My involvement with the program since kindergarten has contributed significantly to my life, making me who I am today. I am truly grateful for all of the contributions the project has received, and it’s been an honor to be able to help these survivors,” she said.
Donations are still being accepted, as the program is meant to continue. While Aurora will be going off to college in the fall, the program will continue through a Polk County organization called The Cherubs of Charity. She will continue to provide assistance in coordinating efforts, as she will be staying in state while attending college.