WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Victoria McGuire, 17, will travel to Chicago for the American Society on Aging conference Saturday, where she will present a Girl Scout project designed to motivate young people to connect with seniors and show positive images of aging.
The project, called Intergenerational Motivation and Achieving the Gold, earned her the Girl Scouts Gold Award at a ceremony March 9. The White Plains High School junior spent six years on the project.
To earn the “Generations Hand in Hand” Girl Scout badge in fifth grade, McGuire interviewed a senior. She had spent a lot of time around seniors because her mother was a geriatric social worker at VNSNY Choice in Queens.
After her interview, McGuire wanted to show her fellow Girl Scouts, some of whom had negative perceptions of old age, that spending time with seniors is worthwhile. She organized an hour-long talent show at an adult community day centers run by VNSNY Choice.
“We interacted with the seniors and after the talent show we played bingo with them because we didn’t want to leave,” said McGuire, whose troop has returned to put on a talent show at the center each year since. “It’s good for my age group to know whose taking care of the older generation, because they’re the ones that cared for us so, in turn, we should care for them.”
From the talent show, McGuire developed her gold award project. In addition to the annual talent shows, her troop recently held food drives that collectively filled 150 “activity bags” containing donated nonperishable food, place mats, Betty Crocker measuring cups and spoons and a folder with word activities centered on nutrition.
The troop then split the bags up, sending half to the Meals on Wheels program in Mount Vernon and the other to the VNSNY Choice, which will distribute them out to homebound seniors.
In turn, members of her troop made connections with seniors, as well as gained experience budgeting, fundraising and public speaking. McGuire said that after a recent talent show, a senior complimented one of the troop members who had been nervous about singing in front of people. That troop member has, since, sang at each talent show at the center and joined the school choir, McGuire said.
“It’s definitely a win-win for both,” she said.
In addition to showing leadership, raising money and creating awareness, McGuire also had to show that her project could be repeated to earn the Gold Award. To do that, she wrote and won a $1,000 grant from Generations United to fund her project.
When she graduates from high school, she said her younger brother and sister, who helped her with the food drives, will continue the project.