Atkinson teen’s project focused on encouraging people to limit screen time
ATKINSON, NH – What started as a musical variety skit for a school cabaret turned into a serious campaign to spread awareness of the need for people to “Look Up!” from their cell phones and other devices and stop missing out on the real world. By helping to change the world for the better with her project, Audrey Latino, 19, of Atkinson has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest possible honor for a Girl Scout Ambassador, and the mark of the truly remarkable.
The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9-12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Girl Scout Ambassadors are those in grades 11 and 12.
Latino began the project over a year ago in high school. “I wanted to make a comedy about how we always miss out on activities by always looking down at our phones,” she said. “I noticed how people are always looking down and missing things that happen right in front of them.”
As a busy high school senior, at first the thought of putting in the required work for the Gold Award was too daunting. Participating in the Global Leadership Conference hosted by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains – the council serving girls in New Hampshire and Vermont – she was inspired to take on the challenge. The conference features a wide variety of workshops for older girls, with dynamic speakers and help for those interested in activism.
“It was hearing the other girls talk about (the Gold Award),” she said, that convinced her. “Before I attended the Global Leadership Conference at Salve Regina University in March, I wasn't even considering pursuing the Gold Award; it seemed unreachable. However, after listening to, and meeting in person, the many Gold Award recipients who spoke at the conference, I was motivated and inspired to ‘Go for Gold!’ I am so glad I did!”
The first step in solving any issue is creating awareness that there is even a problem to be solved. Latino’s goal was to create awareness of the amount of time one spends gazing at an electronic screen. She wanted to share resources to manage screen time, and provide reminders in the form of stickers to remind people to take a break and look up.
She held talks at her local library, created a treasure hunt that is done without using electronic devices, and donated books and a video to the library on the issue.
“At the beginning, I got the sense that some people may have felt that I was shaming them for their screen time,” she wrote in her final project report. “So I adjusted my message by emphasizing that my goal was to remind people to take a break from screen time and to live in the moment. NOT to completely stop. These devices are helpful, informative, and fun! But when they distract us from relationships, physical fitness, learning, or other life moments, they should be put aside for a bit.”
Along with designing the treasure hunt and Look Up! Sticker, she created promotional materials, wrote a press release, was interviewed for a new story, and produced a bookmark which outlines the screen time resources available at the Kimball Library in Atkinson.
Troop leader Stacy Athanasiou said Latino did the project “very much on her own.” Latino had Athanasiou take photos of girls in their troop out on a walk and caught one almost walking into a tree, then compared it with photos of the girls laughing and having fun without devices.
Advisor Lynn Tabiatnejad at Saint Thomas Aquinas School said she’s a big fan of Latino. “The drama club had to come up with a capstone project,” she said. “She wrote a song and dance about looking up – it could have been a play! The message is so timely, and since it’s from her, it’s speaking to the right people. She’s the right person with the right message.”
Those participating in Latino’s project uniformly reported feeling encouraged to pay more attention to the amount of time they spend with devices and are glad to be reminded to look up from them more often. “The issue my project addressed is not "solved" by any means,” she said. “But my goal of bringing awareness to this important issue and resources to help my community are steps that will assist my audience. The time I spent with the youth of my community was especially meaningful and special for me. I really felt like a good role model to them. I am glad I was able to spread a positive message to them and that they showed a lot of interest in what I had to say.”
The experience was also good for Latino herself. “I definitely found myself,” she said. “It helped with my public speaking. I want to act, so it goes along with my major. I also got organization skills. I had to do this all by myself, so I learned time management. And just confidence in getting it done! There were a couple times I wanted to give up, so I gained confidence in doing this.”
Latino has just begun her college experience as a freshman at the University of Connecticut, pursuing her BFA in acting. She is a true G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ who is prepared for success through the Girl Scout Leadership experience.
Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities. Audrey Latino has answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change, and her Gold Award is a testament to her remarkable dedication to improving her community and the world.
About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.