Her Dancers Without Borders project helped children be active and inspired
STRATHAM, NH – Finding your passion might just lead to opportunities to volunteer, lead, and make the world a better place. Mallika Saksena took her passion for dance, her desire to give children a way to be more active and inspire volunteerism in them, and combined it all with hard work to become a Gold Award Girl Scout. The Gold Award is Girl Scouting’s highest honor for girls in grades 9-12, the capstone achievement for a Girl Scout that changes the world for the better.
Saksena, 17, of Stratham, is a senior at Berwick Academy, where she is the captain of the school’s dance team. She has danced competitively for 10 years, and is also a student-athlete, is involved in multiple clubs, and is the student wellness advisor to children in grades 6-9.
To become a Gold Award Girl Scout, she spent 113 hours on her project, Dancers Without Borders. She organized dance workshops here and in India, donated over 100 costumes to Traveling Tutus, wrote a blog about volunteering, and shared the importance of volunteering with passion.
“The workshops were for students between 3 and 13,” she said. “We talked about the importance of dance and how different cultures around the world used dancing to express different emotions and feelings. We then did choreography for about a 30-second piece and performed for parents at the end of the workshop. With the workshop here, we also did a craft for students to make traditional Indian anklets with beads and bells that were worn during the performance.”
One workshop even helped children with disabilities. “My international workshop was in India at a school called Suniye for hearing-impaired students. I still have lots of family in India and my connection to the school was through them.”
The costumes were collected at Saksena’s dance studio, from students who had old costumes and shoes from past years. They donated dancewear to be shared with Traveling Tutus, a registered nonprofit organization that sends repurposed dance attire around the world. She also received a large donation from a local Girl Scout troop who collected costumes in their area.
Saksena did not consider herself to be athletically inclined as a young girl, but found confidence in dancing. “After playing almost every common sport, I can confidently say dance is the one that has demanded the most from my body and mind while also creating art and learning every step of the way,” she said. “Introducing that challenge at a young age is what I aimed to do with my workshops, and having it after school when kids usually sit on their iPads or laptops waiting for their parents allowed them to get an hour of activity in before returning to their screens.”
Her skills and confidence only grew as she took on the Gold Award project. “The biggest thing I learned was how to create a balance in your life,” she said. “The thing about projects like these in high school and as a teenager is that we are also still in school and have activities to attend and maintain a social life as well. Finding ways to work on my project while also keeping up with all of my other commitments was the major life skill I took away from my project.”
Saksena encourages others to go for the Gold Award. “It is a lot of work,” she said. “There will be times that you feel defeated or you don't know where to go next and that can be very difficult. I faced a lot of obstacles with my Gold Award but seeing all the times I had to go back and try again made the project even more meaningful and fulfilling when I finally completed it.”
Saksena said she is looking to go to school outside of New England once she graduates. “I'm not sure what I am going to study yet, but I hope to study psychology and political science in some capacity.”
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.
Mallika Saksena 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.
- Ten young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2019-2020 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.