by Morgan Smith
For one local Girl Scout, selling cookies and earning badges is just a fun memory as her time with the Scouts quickly approaches the end. But before it’s all said and done, she’s making a change in her community, and it’s a change only few Girl Scouts will ever achieve.
Delaney Forrest, a sophomore at Providence High School, is working to gain the Girl Scout Gold Award. Only 5 percent of all Girl Scouts achieve the honor, which is the most prestigious award in the program. Compared to the Eagle Scout ranking in Boy Scouts of America, the Gold Award is far from easy, Delaney said, especially when balancing school, internships and sports all at the same time.
But Delaney said her project will be well worth it in the end, especially because students at McKee Road Elementary School will benefit.
To achieve the Gold Award, “you basically have to come up with a problem that you see in the community and figure out a way to help assist in solving that problem,” Delaney said. “My problem that I saw was that kids know about recycling, but they don’t know why they need to recycle or what happens to their recycling.”
So Delaney called Demetri Pharr, site coordinator at McKee Road Elementary School, to set up a plan.
“I went to McKee Road in kindergarten,” Delaney said. “This school is kind of where it all started so I thought it was only fitting to give back.”
Working with the after-school program at the school, Delaney taught the students two lessons on recycling and composting and why conservation is important. She also had the students bring in milk cartons to show how they can recycle and to let the students plant their own seeds. They will eventually transport and plant their seeds in a butterfly garden outside of the school, which is the main piece of Delaney’s project.
But before a garden could be installed, Delaney had to get the supplies and funding. She reached out to local hardware stores such as Home Depot, Lowes and Renfrow Hardware in Matthews.
“They all donated plants or like gift cards so I could buy things I needed,” Delaney said.
So Friday and Saturday, May 4 and 5, Delaney, with the help of her mom Megan and 10 volunteers from the Providence High School Kiwanis Club, built two garden boxes, planted butterfly-oriented plants such as lantana, butterfly bushes, bee balm and parsley, painted benches and reinstalled a fallen birdfeeder at the school.
Now Pharr, the site coordinator, and her after-school students will have their chance to contribute to the garden Thursday, May 10, when they get to transport their own milk carton plants into the garden.
“It all ties in because it shows the kids if you recycle and keep the soil healthy and you keep the whole Earth healthy then you can grow an entire garden,” Delaney said.
Pharr said she’s thankful her 45 to 50 students have the opportunity to learn about the Earth.
“It’s a significant opportunity for (the students) just to understand about us giving back and taking care of the Earth,” Pharr said, “and really do what we need to do to keep it going.”
Once Delaney’s project is complete, Pharr and her students will maintain the garden. Pharr said the best part about the project is the children feel like they are contributing to something, and can feel proud of their product as they keep the garden going.
Megan Forrest, Delaney’s mom, said she couldn’t be more proud of Delaney’s achievement in Girl Scouts.
“I honestly didn’t think she would go this far when she first started,” Forrest said. “She’s the kind of kid that is very organized – it doesn’t take much prodding to make things happen. She’s really organized, a really good student and just a really great kid.”
And for Delaney, although it’s the end of her run at Girl Scouts, she’s just excited to move on and do bigger things, first focusing on her studies and playing volleyball.
“It was a very long road, but once you get there, it’s so exciting and so relieving and I’m just so happy that it’s almost done,” she said.