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Susan Soh Receives Girl Scouts’ Highest Honor for Developing a Sustainable Spanish Language Literacy Program for Mayan Children in Guatemala


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Today, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council (GSSJC) announced that Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) named Memorial High School student Susan Soh a 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scout, the organization’s most prestigious honor. GSUSA selects 10 National Gold Award Girl Scouts (formerly known as the National Young Women of Distinction) annually among candidates who have earned their Girl Scout Gold Award®, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, and one that is only available to Girl Scouts. By designing and implementing extraordinary projects of measurable, sustainable and far-reaching impact, these girls demonstrate a steadfast commitment, as well as a stunning ability, to create true change.

Each year, thousands of girls in grades 9–12 nationwide are recognized as Gold Award Girl Scouts for transforming an idea and vision for change into an actionable plan with strong impact on local, national, and global levels. Approximately 5 percent of Girl Scouts earn their Gold Award each year—and just 10 girls in this high-achieving group receive the National Gold Award Girl Scout distinction. Applications are judged by previous National Gold Award Girl Scouts, leaders from a diverse array of professional fields, GSUSA executives, and a representative from the Kappa Delta Foundation.

For her Gold Award project, Susan launched Leer à Mi (Read to Me), a Spanish language children’s audiobook library at SANA Guatemala, a clinic, preschool and library in Santa Maria de Jesus, Guatemala to increase illiteracy and school readiness among native Mayan-speaking children. These children struggled in primary school, and their illiteracy was often linked to difficult life outcomes, like dropping out of school and experiencing poverty. Because of her efforts, over 400 children visit the library every month to listen to and read books, and most of them score at or above reading level in Spanish by the time they enter public school. By creating instructions on how to record and donate books and teaching members of a local school dropout-prevention program how to record the books, Susan also ensured that the library would continue to offer families effective educational tools.

“I’m honored to have been nominated for this recognition by Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council and amazed and excited to earn it and have the opportunity to represent Girl Scouts of the USA and GSSJC at International Day of the Girl in New York City,” said Susan.   “I hope that by being a National Gold Award Girl Scout, I can highlight the epidemic of illiteracy in the developing world and the detrimental effects it has on the lives of young women and men, both in Guatemala and globally as well as provide a platform for the incredible work of SANA Guatemala.”

Other standout Gold Award projects girls from Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council carried out in recent years include Rewire Society, a movement to help eliminate stereotypes and embrace diversity launched by Angela Shipman, who in 2017 received GSUSA’s National Young Woman of Distinction (now known as the National Gold Award Girl Scout) honor and the Human Rights Walk and Festival launched by Demme Durrett in 2011 as a Gold Award project to help raise awareness about human rights education. These projects exemplify the extraordinary leadership, passion, work ethic and creativity of Gold Award Girl Scouts as they discover and implement innovative solutions to community and global issues.

Research verifies that participating in Girl Scouts and earning the Gold Award are linked to developing crucial leadership skills and advanced achievements. In addition to Girl Scouts being more than twice as likely than other girls to identify and solve problems in their communities, they over index when it comes to seeking challenges and learning from setbacks, having confidence in themselves and their leadership abilities and forming and maintaining healthy relationships. The majority of women who earned their Gold Award display more positive life outcomes compared with women who did not participate in Girl Scouts in their youth, including being more optimistic about their future, seeing themselves as leaders and being more civically engaged, particularly in politics.

“We are truly honored to have a National Gold Award Girl Scout in our Council,” said Mary Vitek, CEO of GSSJC. “Through her project, Susan showed extraordinary leadership in addressing a global issue, and I believe she will inspire other girls across the world to make a difference in their communities.”

GSUSA will also honor all the National Gold Award Girl Scouts this October 11 at a celebratory event in New York City made possible through generous support by the premier event sponsor, Toyota Financial Services. Through a multi-year partnership, Toyota Financial Services and GSUSA are helping girls become financially savvy leaders; obtain real-life, age-appropriate financial skills; and gain the tools necessary to make a positive influence in their communities.

To honor the National Gold Award Girl Scouts, a combined $100,000 in college scholarships, which includes $10,000 for Susan, has been provided by Susan Bulkeley Butler, founder of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders and former member of the Girl Scouts of the USA Board of Directors.

The Kappa Delta Foundation has granted the selected girls a combined $50,000 in college scholarships, reflecting its commitment to girls’ leadership and pursuit of education. This includes $5,000 for Susan.

Finally, Arconic Foundation has granted the 10 young women a combined $50,000 in college scholarships, including $5,000 for Susan.

Being honored as a National Gold Award Girl Scout, earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, and receiving generous scholarships are just a few of the countless incredible experiences girls have through Girl Scouts. To join or volunteer, visit www.girlscouts.org/join.