This Gold Award was a collaboration between the Beaverton City Library and myself. We worked together for over a year to plan, publicize, and execute my idea to collect the pandemic experiences of teenagers in the area. The goal was to gather written accounts of local teens' perspectives of surviving COVID-19, then share them with our community to help adults understand what it's like to do a year of remote learning or not be able to have an in-person graduation ceremony. I truly hope that this Gold Award will not only serve as a useful peek into a teenager's mind, but also as a potential historical reference in the future.
In total, we gathered over 50 unique and fantastic pieces of writing from students all over Oregon. There are long stories, short stories, conversations, and poems of every form imaginable. You may notice that many are not attached to a name, but are instead credited to "Anonymous". This is because quite a few students did not wish for their names to be connected to their work, for whatever reason, and we respect their right to privacy. All authors shown explicitly gave full consent for the sharing and publication of their original material.
Hi there! I'm Riley Kessler, a 16-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador from Portland, Oregon. I have been a part of Girl Scouts since I was 7, and always dreamed of earning my Gold Award. Of course, I never imagined that I would be doing so while virtually going to school in my kitchen in order to stay safe from a deadly virus. I have been interested in writing and history for my whole life, and naturally both are very prominent elements of this Gold Award. At the end, I have done TV interviews, written a hundred emails, built this website, and spent over 80 hours of work on my project. I am very proud of what I have accomplished and I hope you can learn something from this website.
Please use the contact form under "More Information" if you have a question not shown here, or would like more explanation for a question, and want to reach me directly.
The Gold Award is earned by Scouts 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. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable and is the highest-ranking award possible for a Girl Scout to receive. It is roughly equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle Award.
The core concept of this Gold Award was born in late July of 2020. I had a thought to send a prompt about the pandemic to kids and see what their responses are. Immediately, I thought of the Beaverton City Library's writing contests, and at that moment all the pieces came together.
My goal throughout working on the project was, simply, to bring a voice to a frequently ignored demographic, and in the process help adults gain an understanding of the hardships of being a teenager during such a strange and stressful period of history. I wanted to capture the mindset and life of a teenager during what has been and continues to be the largest pandemic that has ever struck the Earth. After a while, I realized that it was even more important than I had initially thought to share these stories because it was actually very therapeutic and helpful for kids to sort through their feelings and put their experiences into words.
I first came up with the concept in late July of 2020, and finally finished it at the end of September 2021, so it took me approximately 14 months from conception to completion to earn my Gold Award. The pieces gathered from this project were collected from April to June of 2021.
COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2, which first spread around the globe in March of 2020, causing all of us to redesign our lives for the next year. The virus, which spread so much that it is officially classified as a pandemic, shut down schools, office buildings, restaurants, movie theaters... the list goes on. We went through a series of intense lockdowns (or "quarantine") and even a countrywide toilet paper shortage. To date, there have been 254 million recorded cases of the coronavirus in the US, 376,000 of which happened in Oregon. Globally, more than 5 million people lost their lives to the virus. As you may be able to imagine, this unprecedented and severely challenging period of our lives deeply affected us all, and will continue to shape our future for years to come.
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