Carly Nieman, Valpo freshman, is an integrated business and engineering major and was recently chosen as one of ten National Gold Award Girl Scouts for her Gold Award project. The Girl Scouts of America give this highest honor to Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors whose Gold Award project demonstrated leadership, had a sustainable impact and addressed a local challenge that is related to a national or global issue.
“The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, you can earn it during your four years in high school… Basically you have to do a project, there’s also like a bronze and silver award for when you are younger, so it’s like that but bigger, and more is added onto it each time. The Gold Award has to be a project that helps someone, is sustainable and will last longer than your reach with the project, or how long you are with it,” Nieman said.
Nieman’s Gold Award project was creating a bilingual book room at a low income school, back home in Kenosha, Wis. The idea for her project arose during the end of her junior year.
“I was volunteering at my mom’s school, which is EBSOLA Dual Language, and we were cleaning out some closets, and there were a bunch of books in all the closets… and they just weren’t being used. We asked the administration what they were planning on doing with them, and they were like ‘oh nothing, they’re just there,” Nieman said.
Nieman knew people could benefit from and would be able to use the surplus of books.
“It’s a very low income neighborhood, so my mom had told me that many of the kids didn’t have access to books... and literacy was not prominent in the school community. There were many students that needed extra reading help,” Nieman said.
There were little to no other opportunities for the kids in that neighborhood to gain access to books.
“Libraries weren’t really close there… the library on wheels didn’t even go to that neighborhood, and the school library, they couldn’t check out books and bring them home- they could only check out like one book, and it had to stay at school, so I was like ‘what the heck, when we were kids we got to take home like seven books’, I don’t know what changed,” Nieman said.
This sparked her project idea for a local solution to the literacy issue nationwide. Nieman began to work on the project the summer before her high school senior year, with the help of her family.
“We decided to make a bookroom, and since it’s a dual language school, they had books in Spanish and English, so we split it up between that. We organized them also by reading level, we had a color coordinated system, and then by languages also, just to make the books accessible for the students to be able to take home and read to improve their literacy scores,” Nieman said.
The space at the school was more than just a book room and Nieman’s goal of fostering literacy had a bigger reach than just making the books available.
“The whole room is just an open space for parents. There’s some classes that were held there to teach, I think it was English, to Spanish speaking people. And then also literacy events, they ran some through my project, they did “read by the light”- so all the kids got finger lights, and they got to read books with them, and they got to take books home- which was really cool,” Nieman said.
Nieman’s favorite part of the project was knowing that the kids got to use the room she helped to create.
“I actually didn’t get to see them use the room, but during all the events and stuff, [when they were] in the room, excited about it, and being able to take some of the books home and just seeing how happy they were, that was really awesome,” Nieman said.
The Girl Scouts’ mission statement is for girls of all ages to build courage, confidence, and character, and girls who make the world a better place. These are the driving forces behind Nieman’s project. Having been in Girl Scouts for many years, Nieman emphasized the impact such a program had on her life, and shared her favorite Girl Scout memory.
“[My favorite part] would probably be cookie sales, for some reason, when we were younger we did a lot of stuff with it, we were crazy. We’d be out there every weekend in front of Walmart, in the sleet, snow, hail, rain, everything, selling cookies, acting stupid, dancing, singing, doing stuff like that. I’d definitely say that that’s like one of my main memories, and one of my favorite things,” Nieman said.