Kathryn Brennan earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor for her work
LEBANON, NH – It’s a common complaint – kids are glued to their electronic devices. But safe access to the outdoors isn’t always easy. To get young children outdoors, inspire a love of nature in them, and give them some life skills, Gold Award Girl Scout Kathryn Brennan created a mile-long educational hiking trail for preschool and elementary-age children at Horizons Day Camp in in West Fairlee, Vermont, earning Girl Scouting’s highest honor for a high school student, the Gold Award.
Brennan, 19, of Lebanon, wanted to give back to the community that meant so much to her, since she had attended the camp for most of her life.
“Hiking is something I have loved and this camp, along with (Girl) Scouts, is the reason for that love,” Brennan said in her report on her project, Tracey’s Trail. “My project also addresses outdoor safety. I took great care to ensure that the trail was properly blazed to decrease and hopefully remove the possibility of someone getting lost. I removed barbed wire from the path and the area around the path so no one would get hurt by it.”
Until Brennan created this trail, counselors at the day camp had been reluctant to take the youngest campers off campus to drive somewhere for a hike. This trail allows these young children to have an on-campus hiking experience right at the day camp. It is named Tracey’s Trail after Tracey McFadden, a former director of the camp and former head of “tripping,” who took Brennan on some of her first hikes as a 5 year old.
Brennan also used recycled materials to create trail signs, and created a scavenger hunt pamphlet that will teach children fern identification, tree types, and animals in that ecosystem.
During her time working on the trail, Brennan had to overcome struggles with members of her team having personal issues that prevented their assistance, plus the COVID-19 pandemic made working with people in person difficult.
“I took each obstacle one at a time and readjusted my vision of what my project will be an am very proud and happy I got it done,” said Brennan. “I think the most successful aspect of my project is that it solves the problem of trying to get 15 or so 5- to 6-year-olds in a van and driving them to a hiking location. During the summer, campers were not allowed to leave campus, so all age groups went on trips in the woods behind the camp where my trail was made. By making this trail, it creates more structure than just wandering around in the woods. It also teaches them about outdoor safety, or how to follow a trail, and teaches them about the environment through the scavenger hunt I created.”
Brennan has been a Girl Scout since she was 6 years old, and was determined to earn the Girl Scout Gold award from the beginning.
“I have been working towards this goal for my entire life,” she said. “The stress of not meeting that goal has scared me; however, my determination to finish this and be proud of what I had done kept me going. I have hiked in many different places and seen a lot of trails, but learning exactly how trails are made and the amount of work it takes to make a good and durable sign was a bit more than I expected. I also realized how organized a leader has to be and how I needed to reflect on my own leadership skills and make sure I was meeting the needs of people helping me.”
Brennan is now a freshman at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where she enjoys playing rugby and is involved in Model UN.
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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.
Kathryn Brennan 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 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.
- Twenty-nine young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2020-2021 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.
We Are Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts bring their dreams to life and work together to build a better world. Through programs from coast to coast, Girl Scouts of all backgrounds and abilities can be unapologetically themselves as they discover their strengths and rise to meet new challenges—whether they want to climb to the top of a tree or the top of their class, lace up their boots for a hike or advocate for climate justice, or make their first best friends. Backed by trusted adult volunteers, mentors, and millions of alums, Girl Scouts lead the way as they find their voices and make changes that affect the issues most important to them. To join us, volunteer, reconnect, or donate, visit girlscouts.org.
Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains serves girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont through volunteer-run troops, events, and virtual programs. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org to learn more.