Ella Lawson of Manchester earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor
MANCHESTER, NH – Sometimes the most important skills a Girl Scout learns aren’t the ones she expected to learn when she sets out to earn the highest honors in Girl Scouting. Ella Lawson learned persistence, communication skills, and most of all how to see a project through despite many obstacles – not least the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lawson, 18, of Manchester, set out to provide face masks for health workers as the pandemic began two years ago with her project, Sewing for Safety. It was a labor of love prompted by the desire to do something to give back to her community and have a connection to the fields of science and health in which she intends to make a career.
“So that’s why I chose masks,” she said. “I didn’t know how to sew, so it was a bit of a reach in the beginning.”
With help from Tanya Spampanato, co-leader of Troop 10027, and project advisor Dr. Pat Edwards, Lawson learned how to use a sewing machine, design a workable face mask, and produce about 250 face masks. She also arranged for donations of masks from other Girl Scout troops, donating them to Families in Transition in Manchester, earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, the most prestigious honor for Girl Scouts in grades 9-11.
“I really thought it was going to be easy,” she said. “It was a wreck for a while. Some of the masks were all jagged edges, then I learned to fold under the seam.”
To make her project sustainable, Lawson also created presentations for other Girl Scout groups and created an Instagram page about the project.
She also had to navigate the difficulties of coordinating donations, how to make presentations on pandemic safety, and meeting the expectations of the council for the award. Lawson said she’d advise other Girl Scouts taking on the challenge of the Gold Award by keeping in mind that your mindset has a lot to do with your success.
“Be optimistic, but be open to how hard it’s going to be, and your hard work will pay off,” she said. “There are people out there who are willing to help you, but you have to be willing to ask for that help.”
Having that can-do mindset is something she’s developed over her years as a Girl Scout. Starting in first grade, changes in her troop allowed her to learn how to handle whatever obstacles are in your way.
“Everyone calls us the ‘travel troop,’” she said, explaining that when her mother, Nicole Lawson, decided to become her troop leader after a few years, the troop grew in membership and began traveling to a variety of destinations – Washington, D.C.; Disney World, Hershey Park; and more. They set their goals high and earned the funds to pay for their travel by selling Girl Scout Cookies, Girl Scout fall products, and many car washes. For their final year of Girl Scouts now that Lawson is in 12th grade at Manchester Memorial High School, she and her troop mates are planning their first international trip with a road trip to Montreal, Quebec.
“Girls went on planes for the first time because of the trips we took. And we raised money to go on all these trips and got to do so much,” she said. “We have a couple of girls whose moms hate driving, but we ended up being able to find different ways for their moms to go, too, even if they didn’t want to do the road trip. We found different ways to accommodate everyone and try to make as many people happy as possible.”
Lawson has made the most of Girl Scouting’s opportunities, having earned both the Silver and Gold Awards, participating in a pilot program for a NASA badge, going camping, and learning business skills through cookie sales, along with her travel experiences. She gives credit to her mother as troop leader for helping make that happen.
“My mom is really someone who is a big role model to me,” she said. “It’s good for girls to see a role model like that. She’s really outgoing, and if she saw something she would go for it. She wanted to be able to help a lot of people. And that’s something that Girl Scouts represent, to help other people and be a sister. So that’s something that I took away from my troop. And I really wanted to give back, and that’s why when I did my Gold Award, I really wanted to give back in my own form.”
Lawson has just committed to attending the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where she will enter as a sophomore due to already earning enough college credits while in high school. She plans to study biomedical sciences with a concentration in clinical sciences, spurred by her experience growing up with a father who battled lymphoma twice. He’s now a 15-year survivor. She is also looking forward to a summer internship at the Whittier Health Network in Massachusetts helping stroke patients with their rehabilitation.
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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.
Ella Lawson 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 projec
- 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.
- Thirty young women from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2021-2022 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.