For more than 100 years, eastern Missouri Girl Scouts have used the skills and experiences gained through this girl-led program to generate positive changes in our community and beyond. Last year alone, our Girl Scouts committed more than 800,000 hours to community service-related projects, with 885 of our change-makers earning one of the organization’s highest community service awards—the Girl Scout Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards.

These awards represent the pinnacle of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, showing others how seemingly small actions can make a big difference. The first step? It depends on your Girl Scouts’ grade level. If she and her fellow Girl Scout sisters are in fourth or fifth grade, they are ready to start earning their Bronze Award.

If she is in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade, she can take the steps toward earning the Silver Award. At this point, your Girl Scout can decide whether she wants to embark on this particular leadership journey solo or with a team.

And for those Girl Scouts in high school who have completed two Senior or Ambassador Journeys or earned the Silver plus a Journey, they’re ready to pursue the Gold Award, the most prestigious award a Girl Scout can earn.

Although the coronavirus has altered Girl Scout programming, for the time being, there’s one thing she can do at home, now, that will jumpstart this particular leadership journey—pose this question to her, what are the issues she identifies around her?

Maybe she will say, “I don’t like being away because it means I can’t see my friends and my favorite teacher.” Let her know that she gave a great answer, and older individuals who live apart from their families might feel the same way too. What would be her solution? Talk to her about what she and her Girl Scout troop could do for them. Perhaps they could write letters of encouragement, draw pictures, or make a video with positive messages.

You can also talk to her about hunger, homelessness and nutrition. Those who struggled before to find food, general assistance and shelter are having an even more difficult time finding these necessities now. Now, more than ever, our community needs doers and dreamers like her. What are her solutions?

How does she suggest we use our resources wisely? Ask her to contact a local food bank, pantry or donation drop-off. What do they need, and how can she and her Girl Scout troop help? Social distancing might create some challenges, but many have a safe drop off location—some will even pick up donations left at your front door or porch. If you and your Girl Scout do decide to leave a donation, don’t forget to give those working individuals a friendly smile and wave!

These are great places to begin when you are thinking about earning your Bronze, Silver or Gold Award. It all starts with an issue, learning about it and executing a sustainable, measurable solution while helping an agency or nonprofit in need.

Remember: if you can get outside and go for a walk, be sure to smile and wave to your neighbors. Bring a trash bag and gloves with you to pick up trash on your walk. Think of small ways you can make your neighborhood, our community and the world a better place.

Jessica Illert—Jessica is a seasoned Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri staff member with more than 5 years of service. Recently she transitioned to the role of Highest Awards Program Manager and works with eastern Missouri Girl Scouts interested in taking community service to the next level. To learn more, contact Jessica at jillert@girlscoutsem.org.