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Scout Statesmanship

Diplomacy key to eighth-graders’ Silver Awards

When the United Nations was founded in 1948, one of its goals was to provide dialogue between countries. It was this piece of ideology that inspired Emily Shaubeck and Andrea Laisure of Garden City Girl Scout Troop 1128 to come up with a unique Silver Award project. The two eighth-graders used creativity and their passion for anthropology to create an education and letter-writing campaign suitably named, “Just Say Thanks” dedicated to the workers of The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

By collecting two large boxes of 610 cards and letters written by children and adults, the team was able to hand the letters out at an all-staff meeting to UNICEF’s Manhattan headquarters’ president and CEO Caryl Stern last April. Stern and staff will be personally handing out the thank-yous at UNICEF field locations in various countries. The girls also spoke about their creation and were welcomed on a tour of the United Nations Headquarters.

Although 50 hours of service is needed for a Silver Award, the Scouts surpassed expectations and their own personal goals.

“At first we just wanted the volunteers to feel appreciated,” said Laisure. “Awareness became our second goal once we realized not many kids know about them.”

During a seven-month campaign, the girls traveled to educate audiences on the importance of the U.S. Fund including the second- and fifth-grade classes at Garden City Elementary School, the children’s Church School at Garden City Community Church, church retreats in the Catskills, Brownie troops, and other troops at Girl Scout events.

“What surprised me was how quickly their audience understood the presentation, what was being asked.” says Robin Laisure, Andrea’s mother. “The situation in foreign countries, and how quickly they were willing to write thank you letters. Everyone was so on board.”

This past April, Shaubeck and Laisure were invited to present a slideshow of their project at New York’s UNICEF Annual Meeting at corporate headquarters of JP Morgan Chase & Co. before an audience of over 400 major donors, representatives from China, Peru, and India, ambassadors, aiding corporations, and foundations who give to the lifesaving programs and promote advocacy.

“They were fabulous,” says Emily Distel, operations and communications manager at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. “Emily and Andrea are a perfect example of the power of kids helping kids. They motivated their peers in the classroom and in other Girl Scout troops to think globally—to think about the issues that children face all over the world. UNICEF staff work so hard in very tough conditions, in emergency situations and in all kinds of environments. Showing that we appreciate them and their work is so important.”

In their presentation, the girls educated audiences on the dedication, significance, and impact of the work UNICEF accomplishes through humanitarian and developmental programs around the clock. The United Nations works with children in over 190 countries and territories providing medical vaccines and health services as well as nutrition, protection, education, and clean water.

“They were talking to children and adults and became more confident in public speaking,” says Patrice Giordano, leader of Troop 1128. “This Silver Award project taught them to be more organized in their schedules and their thoughts. They have grown a lot from this project because it gave them confidence and motivation to start their next journey.”

The Silver Award is accomplished by building a Girl Scout Silver Award team, exploring your community, by developing a project on an issue you’re passionate about, putting it into motion, and sharing your story. “Just Say Thanks” is a direct reflection of the requirements needed to earn a Silver Award.

“Not only was the project fun but it gave us the opportunity to work with young children and develop many skills such as organizing, research, presentation and time management which will be useful as we continue through school and eventually careers,” said Shaubeck.

Laisure and Shaubeck plan to continue supporting and raising awareness about the United Nations Children’s Fund. They have been welcomed back for next year at Stratford Elementary School, to speak to children about the importance of organizations like UNICEF. The girls are also planning to kick off their leadership journey in order to achieve their Gold Award.