By Russell Jones/Brandon Reporter
BRANDON — The Girl Scouts began in 1912 when Juliette Gordon Low organized the first troop of 18 girls in Savannah, Ga. Now, 3.7 million members strong, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America have helped mentor and develop strong female leaders such Lucille Ball, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and astronaut Sally Ride. All of these women worked to change the world and to help their communities become a better place.
Last month a local Girl Scout received an honor recognizing her efforts to make her community better. Christina Wiles of Brandon received the Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains at the organization’s annual Young Women of Distinction ceremony. The Gold Award is the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts and fewer than 6 percent of Scouts earn the award.
“When I learned that I was going to be receiving the Gold Award, I was proud,” said Wiles, a 2018 Middlebury Union High School graduate. “I’ve earned both of the other highest Girl Scout Awards, so finally reaching my goal and completing any project that makes an impact on my community makes me glad.”
Patricia Mellor, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, said at the Nov. 11 presentation that earning a Gold Award requires girls to demonstrate leadership skills by tackling a community or global issue.
“When a Girl Scout earns her Gold Award, she doesn’t just complete a project,” Mellor said. “She changes the world.”
Wiles’s project, called “Arms Open Mentors,” took on bullying in schools by creating a mentoring program between high school and elementary school children. The program is currently working with high school juniors and seniors at MUHS and Mary Hogan Elementary School. Participating mentors volunteer during the school day: reading books, playing games, assisting students struggling in the classroom, and helping to create a healthier atmosphere within the classroom.
“My inspiration for this project was my desire to reduce bullying in schools,” Wiles said. “The best way to do that was to target the source, elementary-age students.”
Wiles began the project in the spring of 2017 and it was implemented nine months later – in December of that same year. She developed and published a program manual to be used by other schools; and her project advisor, Brooke Jette, is working with another group in the Middlebury area to develop the program further.
Wiles’s manual will serve as a handbook for future mentors and the program envisions a community in which younger children receive community support and one-on-one mentorship that promotes individual resilience, better decision-making, and engagement in the community. Wiles said her plan is to expand the program into other elementary schools within the Addison Central School District.
Girl Scouts who earn the Gold Award are eligible to enter the military one rank higher and Wiles, who serves in the Vermont Army National Guard, advanced two ranks in recognition of her achievement.
Wiles, the daughter of Tina and Brian Wiles, was also nominated to be among the National Young Women of Distinction, of which only 10 Gold Award recipients from the hundreds who earn them each year are honored.
“When I found out that I was nominated for the National Young Women of Distinction Award, I was actually surprised,” Wiles said. “All I can say is that Girl Scouts truly does big things for girls and I’m always proud to announce that I am a Girl Scout for life, because without Girl Scouts and my Troop 30649, I wouldn’t have all of the great opportunities I do, nor would I be as successful as I am right now.”
Wiles plans on continuing her work with the Girl Scouts and the Vermont National Guard.
“I can’t wait to continue serving my community and making a positive impact on other people’s lives,” she said.