A junior at Northwest High School has earned the highest award achievable in Girl Scouts – the prestigious Gold Award has been earned by 16-year-old Grace Hoffpauir. The Gold Award is comparable to the Boy Scouts of America’s Eagle Scout merit.
According to the Girl Scouts, the Gold Award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable projects that have sustainable impact in their communities and beyond.
And that is just what Grace Hoffpauir has done with her project.
However, before she could even think about her final Gold Award project she had to rise through the Girl Scout ranks. “The Gold Award was always a goal,” said Hoffpauir. “When I started Girl Scouts we were told about the awards. When you’re a Brownie or Junior you get you’re Bronze Award, when you’re a Cadet you get your Silver Award, and when you’re a Senior Scout or an Ambassador you get the Gold.”
Each of those must be achieved before a scout can embark on the process of earning the Gold Award. “It was always something to achieve. I wanted to be part of the small percent of girls who follow through and get the awards,” said Hoffpauir, who grew up in a scouting family. Her older brother is an Eagle Scout. “I also grew up in scouting being told stories of girls who got full scholarships to top colleges because they got all of the awards. I thought the award might also help me in the future.”
“Nothing holds Grace back,” said her mother, Norma B. Hoffpauir. “She is open to opportunities and gives her best. Grace has enjoyed scouting since before she joined girl scouts.” According to her mom, Grace was involved in scouting even before she became a Girl Scout. She would participate in her older brother’s Cub Scout “She attended all of those meetings and even went camping with him on family campouts. She still does activities with her younger brother who is also a scout. She was hooked early on I think,” said Mom.
“The process for getting the award involved a lot of work,” said Grace. “First, I had to choose a project. The requirements for the project are that it has to be sustainable and it has to have a local and global benefit.”
For her Gold Award project, Grace chose to construct a garden around the bell tower at the Trinity United Methodist Church. At the base of the tower is a fenced in area which the church has been planning to turn into a garden. “The church was going to do the garden anyway,” said Grace, “I thought rather than having the church raise the money, I could just do it myself and have them take it over once I'm done.”
“After it was decided that that was my project, the proposal began. I had to sit down and estimate the time, budget, necessary amount of people, and the major benefits that would come from the garden,” she said. Once the proposal was complete, it had to be approved by the Girl Scouts as a project worthy of the Gold Award.
“Once it was approved, I started planning,” said Grace. “I mapped out the area with a landscaper and picked plants that would look good and make the fence look less intimidating. After that, my Mom and I set a date for the project, proposed a budget,” She used money from an account that she had set up funded by money earned through cookie sales that she had been saving since 6th Grade to buy the plants.
She sent out a Signup Genius and asked everyone she knew to help out. She visited nurseries and garden stores, and asked them for plant donations and gathered bushes, trees, and ornamental grasses.
The actual project lasted two days. “We started by removing the grass and tilling the dirt. That took all of one day. The next day we planted, applied weed guard and mulched. That took about seven or eight hours to finish.”
It might seem like a short time, but the work was hot and messy. “It was hot on the second project day. And I don't mean a little hot, I mean I was sweating after two minutes outside. It had also rained a couple of days before, and the church stored the mulch outside. So, when we went to start mulching, we had to haul hot, wet, heavy bags of mulch from the back of the church to the front where we were gardening. It was gross and uncomfortable, and it got everyone covered in a mud-like substance that had a hint of green.”
Once the work was completed, Hoffpauir had to write a final report on the project and submit it to the Girl Scout Council for final review. They would tell her if the planning, budgeting, and work was good enough to earn the Gold Award or if she would have to do all the work over again on another whole project. It was an anxious time.
“Luckily, I didn't have to start the process over, and I got my Gold,” said Hoffpauir.
“I am very proud of Grace’s accomplishments,” said her father, Kevin Hoffpauir. “She works hard in so many activities, and she does very well at just about all of them. Grace has worked very hard to get to her Gold Award for several years. As she has progressed, I’ve seen her make new friends and become very outgoing.”
While the work to get the Gold Award was hard at times, Hoffpauir said the real challenge was staying with Girl Scouts as friends dropped out of scouting. “A lot of girls dropped scouting around 6th grade. It became ‘lame’ and ‘a waste of time’ to many girls.” She said her first troop had to merge with another because it didn't have enough girls. “The troop we merged with had about 30 some odd girls. Now, there are about seven girls still in the troop. When something you really like is losing popularity with the people who do it, it becomes hard to like it. People dropped out because the people they wanted to be in the troop with dropped out. It was a cycle, and at the end, only the people who were really determined stayed with it.”
Grace’s mother says staying with Girl Scouts has had a positive effect on Grace. “Girl Scouting has introduced her to many new friends, brought her outdoors often, given her leadership skills, and allowed her to give back meaningfully to the community that nurtures her. She has grown into a responsible young lady through helping scout leaders and other scouts, co-leading STEM workshops for elementary age kids, and serving her local community. She has learned valuable lessons along the way of appreciating others, nature, time management, etc. ”
According to the Girl Scouts, the average age of Gold Award recipients is 17; Grace is just 16-years-old. Gold Award recipients who join the armed services enter at one rank higher than other recruits.
“Girl Scouts has been a big part of my life,” said Grace. “It led me to events and activities that let me explore my love of science and art. It helped me develop new friendships that I couldn't imagine not having. One of my closest friends and I became as close as we are because of our mutual interest in scouting, among other things, and it created memories that I will have for the rest of my life. Girl Scouting has made me see the importance of being kind and strong, and how you can be both. It has taught me to show respect to everyone and to hold myself in the highest regard even if everyone is looking down on me. It has molded me and created most of the ideals I have today.”
This summer Grace will be part of a Venture Crew that will be heading to Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, a unique scouting program in Florida that offers aquatics programs, including sailing, scuba diving, rustic camping on an undeveloped barrier island, and fishing. While next summer, Grace, and her Venture Crew are planning to go to a Northern Tier National High Adventure Base in Canada.
Top: Grace Hoffpauir, a junior at Northwest High School, has earned the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award, at a ceremony held in February at Trinity United Methodist Church.
Next: Grace and her scout mates from Troop 3191.
Next: The Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts.
Next: Grace is joined by scouts from Troop 3191, as well as past troop leaders, and parents to celebrate her accomplishment.
Photos courtesy Jan Branscome.