Belated congratulations to Brynn Oliver '21 who has earned the prestigious Gold Award from the Girl Scouts of America. The Gold Award is the highest accolade conferred by the Girl Scouts, awarded to only 7% of Girl Scouts that complete a minimum of 80 hours of service that leaves a lasting impact on their community.
For her project, Oliver partnered with the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, creating 12 raised garden beds that will help to address community hunger for years to come.
"I had worked with the food bank in the past and knew that I wanted to work with them on a project that would maximize impact. I wanted to help as many people as possible," offers Oliver. "They had a dirt pit in their parking lot; they really wanted garden space."
Oliver ran with the suggestion, working with Youth Service America to identify an appropriate grant opportunity. After crafting a successful application, she was awarded $800 by Sodexo to fund her project.
Oliver designed and constructed the raised beds, researching gardening best practices and ADA compliance to ensure that they were wheelchair accessible. She worked with master gardeners to determine what fruits and vegetables to plant, establishing a planting rotation that would ensure a substantial year-round yield. To maximize cost-effectiveness, she chose to build the beds using reclaimed pallet wood.
Oliver hopes that her project will serve as an exemplar that can be scaled easily and inexpensively by other organizations or individuals looking to combat food insecurity. To that end, she also created a brochure detailing how to replicate the project.
Overall, it's been a powerful learning experience, offering lessons in leadership, communication, and collaboration. "I learned so much throughout this process," says Oliver. "I had to work with so many different people and organizations—Youth Service America, Sodexo, volunteers, mentors, local school groups, and others—to realize my vision. It was a lot of work to get to a common goal; communication was so important. To be successful, I had to sell the project—sell my dream—to them, to convince them why it was worth their time to get involved, to show them the impact we could have working together."
By all accounts, the project was a success. As a result of her award, Oliver was chosen to represent her local Girl Scouts council at the state level as the official nominee for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, the largest youth recognition program based on volunteer community service in the country. She was later awarded that honor in March 2019.
She has also received the gold-level Presidential Volunteer Service Award, a prestigious national honor that recognizes Americans of all ages who have volunteered significant amounts of time to their communities.