BRISTOL, VT – Everyone feels stress in their lives. That includes youngsters in school – especially as they transition from a small elementary school to a large middle/high school as is done in Bristol. Add in the COVID-19 pandemic, and stress levels can skyrocket. Alexis Kouwenhoven is sensitive to that stress and wanted to give students in fifth and sixth grades the tools and support to handle stress. She is now a Gold Award Girl Scout, having created a program and website for her project, called Managing Stress and Anxiety. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest honor available to a Girl Scout in grades 9-12.
“The world today can be very stressful and can cause extreme anxiety for people,” said Kouwenhoven, 18, in her project report. “The stress from school, sports, extracurriculars, home life, work, and relationships can take a toll on an individual. Many people don't know the importance of managing their symptoms stemming from stress and anxiety. Without these strategies and knowledge, people can become controlled by the symptoms, rather than learning how to manage them.”
Kouwenhoven created a class lesson consisting of a presentation and activity for teachers to use with their future classes to help students learn to manage stress and anxiety, and presented the lesson to students from five elementary school classes.
“I shared a presentation on stress and anxiety and also made a stress-relieving craft (making stress balls or worry stones) in five fifth/sixth-grade classrooms at two local elementary schools - Bristol Elementary School and Robinson Elementary School,” she said. “The students that I visited in the schools will be able to use the knowledge they gain to help combat their own current or future symptoms of anxiety and stress.”
Her classroom presentations were designed to create a fun, engaging, and safe learning environment for students to learn about stress and anxiety.
In the middle of her plans, the pandemic forced schools to shut down and social distancing restrictions in place, forcing her to change her project midstream.
“The research I’ve done has helped me with managing my own symptoms,” she said. Instead of hosting further classes at schools, she created a website with advice and projects anyone can take advantage of. It can be seen at https://stressplusanxiety.wixsite.com/website. It includes a section dedicated to providing resources and strategies for parents and educators to support children with anxiety and heightened stress levels, along with information on creating your own stress relievers.
Sarah Kimball was Kouwenhoven’s advisor, supporting the Girl Scout through her project. “It’s one of those topics that’s super relatable,” she said. “She was focusing on school-age folks, but they can pass it on to family members.”
Her programs are available for teachers to use and her website will stay up for the general public, making her work sustainable into the future.
Kouwenhoven is a lifelong Girl Scout who has been a camp counselor and attended the Global Leadership Conference in Rhode Island last year, a Girl Scout-sponsored event. She has coached third- and fourth-grade girls basketball, coached Girls on the Run, and has received a $1,000 "LIVE UNITED" Volunteer Scholarship Award from the United Way.
Having graduated from Mount Abraham Union High School, Kouwenhoven is working toward a career as an elementary school teacher, and will be attending Fairfield University in Connecticut this fall.
Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. 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. Since 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.
Alexis Kouwenhoven 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. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable.
About the Girl Scout Gold Award
- Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.
- A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.
- The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.
- Since 1916, more than 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.
- Gold Award Girl Scouts are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military.
- University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.
- Twelve young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2018-19 membership year as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
- The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable!
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.