JACKSON TWP.  Girl Scouts of North East Ohio (GSNEO) honored 59 Gold Award recipients at the annual celebration on June 29 at the John S. Knight Center in Akron. Chloe Downerd, a 2018 Jackson High School graduate, is one of this year’s awardees.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. The Gold Award project challenges girls to identify an unmet need or core issue in their community, research and investigate it, recruit volunteers and build a team to create a plan to address the issue or need. 

“The Gold Award is a take action award where the girls find something in the community be it locally, nationally or globally, and they develop a sustainable solution with a measurable impact," said GSNEO Manager Fallon Pulley.

She said the scouts have to commit 80 plus hours to the project. They lead a team of volunteers to help them accomplish the project. And, they have to hold fundraisers to fund their projects. Pulley said that fundraisers can include events such as pancake breakfasts, spaghetti dinners and other events. The scouts can start their projects as early as their freshman year in high school.

Nationwide, only 5 percent of eligible Girl Scouts go for the gold. This year’s recipients from Northeast Ohio will join the ranks of generations of young women who are recognized for making a difference, both locally and globally. It’s not only Girl Scouts who understand the value of the Gold Award. Some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. armed forces automatically enter the military one rank higher.

2019 Girl Scout Gold Award Recipient Chloe Downerd, Walk a Mile in my Shoes

Downerd has been a Girl Scout since age five and is a lifetime member. She came up with her Gold Award project when she saw how being open about her own depression, anxiety and ADHD caused others to treat her differently and how many of her classmates were bullied for their own identities and conditions.

“I’m a third generation Gold Award recipient in my family. Both my mother and grandmother received the award,” Downerd said. “I originally joined Girl Scouts because of my mother and grandmother, but as I got older I got more political and wanted to make a hoot about how girls can do anything.”

Downerd is also a Bronze and Silver awards recipient and was a top cookie seller.

Her project was a mile-long walk with posters along the way telling others’ stories. These stories were from people who had been mocked or treated differently. Participants were asked to imagine what it must be like in that person’s shoes and upon completing the mile, sign a pledge to think before you speak.

Participants then received a wrist band with the pledge on it and could leave comments and feedback for Chloe.

“My goal was to help others share their stories but with the positive feedback I received, it also helped me because of how supportive the feedback was,” Downerd said.

In addition to Girl Scouts, Downerd works as a camp counselor at Camp Wanake and as a direct support professional at the Residential Home Association-Marion. She is entering her second year at The Ohio State University as a criminology major and hopes to work in law enforcement.

“It’s amazing winning the Gold Award. I always told myself I would work to get it. I felt like I finally made it when I received the award. The Girl Scouts are such an amazing group of women,” Downerd said.

She thanks her troop leader who she had from the start to almost the end. Her troop leader passed away just before Downerd received the Gold Award.

“She did see my project and was so proud of me,” Downerd said.

Downerd said she has always had an interest in working in law enforcement and would like to focus her career on victimology and to work to get more different kinds of therapy in the prisons to help decrease recidivism.

Girl Scouts of North East Ohio connects girls to a world of possibilities in a positive and inclusive, girl-led environment. Girls are inspired to discover their passions and empowered to reach their full potential through a proven leadership development program. GSNEO serves 25,000 girls and 11,000 adult volunteer members throughout an 18-county region including Medina, Portage, and Summit counties; Cuyahoga, Geauga, and Lake counties; Carroll, Stark and Tuscarawas counties; Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties; Erie, Huron, Lorain, Sandusky and Seneca counties.