‘Processing a Pandemic’

Girl Scout’s self-care initiative brings top award

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The Class of 2020 missed out on a lot this year because of COVID-19.

Going to prom and a commencement ceremony, to name two high school traditions.

That’s why Denver resident Angela Roberts is so proud of Denver Girl Scout Meredith Neid for pivoting her Gold Award project to be relevant to the times.

“She learned a lot about herself through the process,” Roberts said, who served as Neid’s Gold Award project mentor. “She is going to be able to change the world.”

Neid, 18, got involved with Girl Scouts when she was in kindergarten. Now aged out and attending her first semester of college online, Neid is looking into future opportunities with the Girl Scouts that she can be involved with as an adult.

The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn and the culmination of her Girl Scout experience. It is an individual effort, not a troop effort, and not every Girl Scout pursues it.

To earn it, a Girl Scout must complete a large-scale project that solves a community problem — not only in the short-term but for years into the future. It typically takes about two years to complete a Gold Award project.

Neid knew she wanted to pursue the Gold Award after earning the Bronze Award in middle school.

The Gold Award allows “you to really identify what you’re passionate about, and how it can help the community,” Neid said.

The idea for her Gold Award project came about after observing the stress that her high school classmates at George Washington High School, which is in Denver’s Washington Virginia Vale neighborhood, were under. This was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the stressors included things that most teens must endure such as balancing schoolwork, extracurricular activities and personal life.

“I’ve always had an affinity for all things self-care,” Neid said. She added her daily self-care regimen always includes some form of exercise - running and/or yoga primarily — and journaling. About monthly, she also practices setting intentional goals/habits, which vary, but can be finishing a book or listening to a podcast, for example. “I wanted to create a space where they (her peers) could practice self-care.”

So, at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year, Neid implemented a self-care club at her high school. The club met every other Wednesday during lunch — members would eat together, meditate, learn about a new self-care technique and discuss how to incorporate it in their daily lives.

“Because the end of the year was cut short” in the spring because of COVID-19, Neid said, “the club was not able to fulfill all of its original goals.”

Neid then adjusted the project to become one that she titled Processing a Pandemic. With self-care still front-and-center, the new facet became Zoom conversations with her senior classmates during which they discussed a variety of current issues — coronavirus, senior experiences lost because of the pandemic, racial politics and envisioning a future and moving forward, Neid said.

Neid took a couple of different approaches to fulfill the sustainability requirement of earning her Gold Award. First, she created a social media presence for the self-care club and additionally passed the curriculum for the club’s in-person meetings to other local Girl Scouts. Secondly, she created an outline of the Zoom conversations that Neid believes can serve as a lesson plan for a variety of mental wellness organizations, and she wrote a reflective essay titled “Pandemic Wisdom: Five Lessons Learned From High School Seniors.”

“Everyone needs to be able to think about self-care. I put the conversation out there,” Neid said. “I feel proud of what I’ve done.”

Roberts started working with Neid in August 2019, and from the very beginning, knew the project would be impactful, she said.

“High school stress is something we often overlook,” Roberts said.

When most adults look back at their high school years, it’s not the schoolwork or academics they remember enjoying the most — it’s the memories of being able to see your friends on a regular basis, Roberts said.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a particularly emotionally tough time for today’s teens, Roberts said. Many of them who graduated in 2020 didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to their high school friends and acquaintances before going off to college or starting their other adult pursuits.

Neid “stepped up” and persevered — despite the additional challenges brought about by the pandemic — to implement what became, overall, a “really genuine” project, Roberts said.

“In light of everything, her reach was very successful,” Roberts said. “If we can’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of others?”

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