Baldwin High School senior Daniella McCoy, 17, is finishing her Gold Award in the Girl Scouts as she displays some of the handcrafted gifts from Plaza Elementary school students addressed to front-line workers.
McCoy is a Girl Scout ambassador for Troop 2315 working on her Gold Award, the highest rank in Girl Scouts and the equivalent to Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts. An ambassador usually does community service or holds events with younger Girl Scouts to engage with and teach them valuable lessons and skills.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, though, McCoy said, “We have only been able to hold one event with middle school girls in the past year, where we taught them about the importance of friendship.” Before the pandemic, she said, the scouts also did multiple food and clothing drives for local food banks.
Seeing the hard work that the front-line workers put in, McCoy decided to use her Gold Award Project to give back to these workers. Her project, “Essential Giveback,” is now winding down, and McCoy has spent more than 100 hours making her giveback successful.
In October last year, Daniella planned and worked with Plaza Elementary Principal Mark Gray to win approval for her Gold Award Project, which involved all the classes at Plaza. “The first thing I had to do was attend a Plaza PTA meeting with around 60 teachers,” Daniella said, “and I explained what my project was to them, and they could email me if they wanted to participate.”
To involve the entire school, McCoy had each grade create gifts for different sectors of front-line workers:
Kindergarten: doctors and nurses
First grade: police officers
Second grade: restaurant and grocery employees
Third grade: teachers
Fourth grade: sanitation workers
Fifth grade: firefighters
Art/music/student council, or Team ORCHID: custodians
With McCoy’s help, the members of each class could then decide how they wanted to show their appreciation for the front-line workers.
“I met virtually with over 50 classes [from Plaza Elementary] to explain to them what the project was,” McCoy said, “ I called each class individually, so I had to do some of the virtual meetings during my lunch break at school.” After she met with each class, the Plaza students began working on the appreciation gifts in late April. McCoy picked up the gifts that the students made shortly before Memorial Day in late May.
To top off her project, McCoy planted a Kousa dogwood tree in that Baldwin Community Garden on Grand Avenue as a landmark for front-line workers to visit and see how much Baldwin has grown. On June 16 and 17, the Plaza Elementary students met McCoy in the community garden to see the gifts that they had made for the front-line workers.
The gifts ranged from creatively crafted thank-you cards, painted rocks to go around the newly planted tree, songs and paintings to decorated flip flops. McCoy received more than 600 gifts individually crafted by students from all grade levels, and she plans to have all the gifts delivered to the front-line workers by mid-July.
McCoy said the front-line workers to whom she has already delivered gifts were “grateful and very excited to see what the gifts had to say.”
An important factor of any Girl Scout Gold Award project is the ability for the project to become a tradition. McCoy plans on figuring out a way for Plaza Elementary to continue showing their support for front-line workers like this yearly.
Though McCoy had known she wanted to be a teacher before this, the experience she had through her Gold Award project has reaffirmed that drive, she said. McCoy plans to attend a local university to pursue an education degree, and she said her experiences in the Girl Scouts have been invaluable in helping pursue her passion.
About Girl Scouts, McCoy said, “I think it’s a great experience to have for any girl. They don’t need to stick it out all the way through high school, but it is a good experience to say you have had.”. Outside of her Gold Award project, McCoy has put in around 40 hours of community service for food banks and other charitable organizations.