Three QC area girls earn Gold Award, the highest Girl Scout honor possible

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Sylvia Baumgardner, left, Ally Nelson, and Abbigail McGee pose with a Gold Award Girl Scout sign.

Abbigail McGee and Ally Nelson, from Geneseo, and Sylvia Baumgardner from Colona, recently earned the Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve, for taking action in their community.

Ally is 19 and a freshman at the University of Missouri, majoring in physiology and minoring in biology. Sylvia is 18 and attending a four-year university majoring in biochemistry, and Abbigail is 17 and a Geneseo High School senior.

Abbigail McGee

Abbigail honored those affected by Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia by installing a new butterfly garden for the memory care residents at her local assisted living facility, Liberty Village.

“Many dementia patients experience a lack of stimulus while living in an assisted living home,” Abbigail said in a Girl Scouts release Monday. “I completed the landscaping in a new area with flowers and butterfly homes for elderly with dementia to spend time outside so that they can enjoy this nature and the stimulus it provides.”

Abbigail McGee welcomes residents and their families to enjoy the new butterfly garden at Liberty Village in Geneseo, Ill.

Abbigail held a ceremony at the facility that included a butterfly release and a reception for guests. There are as many as 30 memory care patients as well as 50 other residents and their families who will benefit from this garden.

The garden contains a solar-powered fountain that Abbigail worked with a local artist to create, many different pollinator plants, colorful metal art, engraved stones with information about butterflies and their connection to Alzheimer’s and dementia, and, of course, butterflies.

The garden was created in memory of her grandfather, Samuel Splear, who passed away in 2021 after a four-year battle with the disease.

Ally Nelson

Ally rebuilt the informational kiosk at Cole Cabin, providing Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and the local community with helpful knowledge of a well-loved area.

“A strong storm came through and knocked the original kiosk over. The old kiosk didn’t have any information on it, and the Cole Cabin Trustees were planning on rebuilding the kiosk eventually,” Ally said. “I talked with Chris, head of the Cole Cabin Trustees, and asked if I could rebuild the kiosk and add information about the area.”

Ally Nelson poses with the new kiosk she built at Cole Cabin in Geneseo.

The new kiosk provides information such as the layout of hiking trails, animal track identifiers, a map of the area, instructions on how to join Girl Scouts, and a QR code that takes visitors to the website Ally designed that provides even more information.

On top of fixing the kiosk, Ally also installed 49 engraved metal signs with information about the local flowers that Cole Cabin will use for their annual flower walk.

Sylvia Baumgardner

Sylvia has challenged the computerization of early childhood education by installing United States of America ground murals at local elementary schools to give kids a technology-free way to learn and play.

“I have been at the forefront of the switch from more traditional ways of learning and engaging in schools to the integration of technology in every aspect of education,” Sylvia said. “I have seen how children nowadays do not have the same opportunities or encouragement to use the outdoors or other activities to learn new information and challenge their minds.”

Sylvia Baumgardner poses with the United States mural she painted to help kids learn tech-free.

Sylvia planned this project to help combat the negative effects of technology on kids, such as decreases in student engagement and the retainment of knowledge in the classroom.

Keeping things technology-free, she developed an activity book that provides lesson plans to help students gain geography, problem-solving, and interpersonal relationship skills. It also helped show them new ways to stay active and connect with other students over a common interest.

The two murals are at Southwest Elementary and Millikin Elementary, where teachers are excited to use the mural in their lessons.

“I was sent a heavy packet of letters from every 4th grader at Southwest Elementary,” Sylvia said. “They talked about how much they loved it and how it will help them learn their states this school year. Some even talked about how they already use it during recess, even if they don’t know all of their states yet.”

The Gold Award is the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn, available to girls in high school who create sustainable change on a community or world issue. Gold Award Girl Scouts address the root cause of a problem, plan and implement innovative solutions to drive change, and lead a team of people to success. As they take action to transform their world, Gold Award Girl Scouts gain tangible skills and prove they are the leaders our community and the world need.

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