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Gold Award Girl Scout: Gayathri Budamgunta, Longmont, “Warm and Fuzzies”


What did you do for your Gold Award project? 

While I was in middle school, I really struggled with my self-esteem and my body image. There are so many images on the internet and on social media where people have seemingly perfect bodies or lives, but a lot of the time, these images are photoshopped or people only share the positive parts of their lives. It wasn’t until I went to high school when I realized that the uniqueness of every individual is what we should be seeking. My Girl Scout troop also conducted a selfie project many years ago in which people could go around a room and write kind notes to others based on one of their selfies, which I think really opened my eyes to the harsh realities of the internet. And, I recognize that many people eventually come to terms with themselves, but I wanted to start that process at a young age, so that adolescents aren’t struggling with their identities especially with the presence of technology. “Warm and Fuzzies” addresses the issue of low self-esteem and body image in middle school students ages 11-13 and it is a way for individuals to connect to each other through meaningful notes/letters that they write to one another while engaging in positive reinforcements. Initially, this project was going to be in a live setting such that the students could hand write each other notes, but as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, I switched to a virtual version in which students each had their own Padlet boards where they could leave messages for their peers. With this project, students were able to build meaningful relationships with their peers while understanding the importance of self-confidence and body image.

How did you measure the impact your Gold Award project made on your target audience?

As a means of determining the impact of my project, I asked the students to fill out both a pre-survey and a post-survey regarding their self-esteem and body image in addition to conducting individual interviews with some of the students. Through these surveys and interviews I found that there was a 34% increase in the overall self-esteem of the students. These results were achieved through the discussion of the negative effects of social media and technology use on adolescent self-esteem. I discussed concepts such as the prevalence of Photoshop, and how oftentimes what people see on social media isn’t actually reality. Furthermore, students were able to write each other meaningful and positive notes which promoted interaction between students and also provided positive reassurances. Many times, individuals are more likely to agree with a statement presented by others rather than themselves e.g., a student does not think they are hardworking, but when a classmate tells them that they are, there is a higher chance that they will believe it.

How is your project sustainable? How will your project continue to impact after your involvement? 

In order to sustain my Gold Award, I have created a “Warm and Fuzzies How-To Guide” which I have distributed both to some of the 8th grade Altona Way students, as well as to some administrators. This how-to guide includes both the live and virtual versions of my project with logistics as well as tips and tricks on how to successfully implement the “Warm and Fuzzies.” The Altona Way students expressed their passion for helping address adolescent self-esteem and body image issues from an early stage given that many of them have or are struggling with similar issues. I conducted two workshops with some of the 8th grade Altona Way students and taught them the process that I followed in order to conduct the weekly presentations for the students to learn about various themes. They have since been working together to develop numerous lessons that they can then present to more teachers throughout Altona to spread the project not only throughout the 7th grade class, but also to the other grades.

With the help of my “Warm and Fuzzies How-To Guide,” individuals can take on the role of starting a Warm and Fuzzies program at their local schools or within their Girl Scout troops.

What is your project’s global and/or national connection?

Upon creating my “Warm and Fuzzies How-To Guide,” I reached out to a few national non-profit and organizations whose missions encompass the themes of adolescent and young adult self-esteem, confidence, and mental illness. I discussed the purpose and results of my project and shared my successes with these organizations along with my “Warm and Fuzzies How-To Guide.” I reached out to three national non-profit organizations including “The Youth Mental Health Project,” “BeYOUtifully,” and “Active Minds.” “BeYOUtifully,” more specifically, is an organization that is centered on supporting middle and high school girls through their journey toward self-confidence. They recognize that with the increased pressure from social media, peers, and friends, girls are overwhelmed with negative images and stereotypes regarding their identity and appearances. They support young girls and provide them with space to truly express themselves as individuals without the external pressures that they are faced with in the world. I strongly believe in the values of this non-profit organization because they perfectly coincide with my project as well as my passion for promoting self-confidence in adolescents, and specifically, girls. I cannot wait to hear back from them and soon hope to join “BeYOUtiful Me” sessions in which I will be able to connect with other young adults and young girls that struggle with similar self-esteem issues as me and many other young individuals.

What did you learn about yourself?

Through my Gold Award, I learned that I am able to overcome the obstacles I am presented with, as long as I am committed and I have a support team. I initially had a clear plan for my project, but for a period of time, everything was up in the air and I needed to reorganize the entirety of my project because I could no longer follow through with anything in a virtual setting because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, instead of completely abandoning my project, I worked with my team to develop a virtual plan that I could still implement despite the restrictions. In addition, there were many times throughout the course of my project when I was overwhelmed with my school and personal life, however, I was committed to my project and was able to persevere through such challenges with the support and reassurances from my family, friends, and mentors. There were times when I was working on college applications, school work, extracurriculars, chores, and my Gold Award. I became overwhelmed, but with a support team, some time management, and commitment I was able to successfully manage and work through all of these items. In addition, I have learned that I love helping adolescents and young adults in many different aspects of life. For example, I was able to connect with some of the students who were participating in my project and learn about their experiences and answer any questions they may have had regarding high school or even if they simply wanted to talk. I found that being able to connect with individuals from various age groups is extremely important and I have come to value such relationships.

How will earning your Gold Award impact you in the future?

My Gold Award has taught me many valuable lessons, especially with regard to leadership. With strong communication and organizational skills that I have learned, I feel that I am equipped to take on challenges that may come my way, including other projects, though they may not look exactly like my Warm and Fuzzies project. I have also gained a lot of experience with working with others, which in my opinion is a valuable skill that I will take with me into my future endeavors.

Why do you feel the Gold Award was an important part of your Girl Scout experience? 

Like many Girl Scouts before me, I began my journey as a Girl Scout while in Kindergarten as a Daisy. I engaged in various activities including badgework and cookie sales. As I grew older and progressed in Girl Scouts, I worked through Journey books, Take Action projects, and my Bronze and Silver Awards. Similar to my Bronze and Silver Awards, my Gold Award is a large milestone in my overall Girl Scout experience. Like other aspects of Girl Scouts, the Gold Award is centered around growing as an individual and developing life-long skills, however, it is unique because as a Girl Scout, we are expected to follow through with this project as an individual, but we are thoroughly supported along the way. I feel that the Gold Award process has helped me grow as an individual and develop important leadership skills that are important to my success as a Girl Scout.

How did earning your Gold Award help you become a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?

With the aftereffects of the unpredictable coronavirus pandemic, I was forced to reevaluate my Gold Award and remain committed to my project. Given that my initial plans of conducting my project in person were no longer viable, I became an innovator and developed a virtual version of my project. I spent hours communicating with my team and developing a model that fit best with the virtual realm. This allowed me to think creatively and work around obstacles in order to successfully conduct my project. Furthermore, earning my Gold Award has helped me develop my skills as a leader. As mentioned before, the coronavirus pandemic led to many changes with my project, especially with regard to communication. I was unable to physically meet with anybody from my team and was forced to communicate solely in a virtual manner. However, I felt that I was able to develop my communication skills through email and other modes in order to adapt to this barrier. I also learned the importance of being flexible in order to accommodate changes beyond my control as well as to support my team throughout the implementation of my project.

**IMPORTANT NOTE: This blog represents only a small fraction of the hard work, dedication, and requirements that go into earning a Girl Scout Gold Award. It is simply a brief summary, which is meant to inspire Girl Scouts to Go Gold in the future. For more information on earning your Gold Award, please email highestawards@gscolorado.org.

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