Emma Barton-Norris, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has achieved the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts, by spreading awareness on the Tampon Tax and donating $400 worth of menstrual products to the homeless women at the Catherine McAuley Center. Emma shined a light on how tampons are not a luxury, but a necessity for every woman and girl’s life. She met and discussed the topic of the Tampon Tax with Cedar Rapids State Senator, Rob Hogg, organized a group of students to write letters to local representatives and community leaders, and shared her project with people at the Newbo City Market. The goal of Emma’s project was to utilize a variety of outlets to be a voice for those in need. Emma will continue to spread awareness through annual tampon drives for the Catherine McAuley Center.
A Girl Scout Gold Award project must tackle a broad spectrum of important issues and a young woman who has earned her Gold Award has become a community leader in the truest sense.
Read what Emma has to say about her project and the value of Girl Scouts!
How long have you been a Girl Scout?
Being a Girl Scout is in my blood. I come from a long line of Girl Scout leaders as my mom, my grandmother, and my grandmother’s mom were all Girl Scout leaders and I hope I can carry on the tradition! I was a member of an active troop for 6 years -- throughout elementary school and into middle school. Then our troop disbanded and it became harder to continue. Half-way through my sophomore year in high school, I decided to start up again as a Juliette. I sold Girl Scout cookies and began to think about what I wanted to do for my Gold Award.
What do you love about Girl Scouting?
In my younger years of Girl Scouting, I loved being a member of a troop. We always had great fun: volunteering, singing, selling Girl Scout cookies, camping, and everything in between! Later on, when I decided to join Girl Scouts again, it was less about the troop and more about the idea of being a part of an organization of forward thinking females -- and I don't regret it!
What inspired your Gold Award project?
Girl Scouts has always been an organization that promotes 'girl power' and female empowerment. I took this into account when I was thinking of ideas for my Gold Award. I knew that once a month homeless women menstruate with or without the protection of standard hygiene products such as tampons and pads, and I wanted to somehow eradicate this issue in my area. Without proper protection, women run the risk of a number of health related issues such as toxic shock syndrome, infection, and an overall lack of basic comfort. Combined with the cultural stigma surrounding menstruation, homeless menstruators suffer from a lack of societal understanding of their predicament and a lack of concrete support that would mitigate many of their problems. It is pertinent that the Tampon Tax be eliminated from state laws to allow women, especially those who can barely afford menstrual products, the opportunity to enjoy fairly priced, tax-free products that are not luxuries but rather necessities. Through my Gold Award, I wanted to help specifically these women and I believe I have.
What role has Girl Scouts played in your life?
Girl Scouts has been an incredible part of my life. In the words of Juliette Low, Girl Scouts has taught me that "right is right, even if no one else does it." It has taught me about doing my personal best, no matter the situation. I've gained life-long friends; I've gained confidence and character; and I've gained leadership skills that will help me for the rest of my life.
What is your next step after earning your Gold Award? Are you going to college? If so, where and what will you be studying?
I am planning to attend Northern Illinois University for my Bachelor's Degree in History. I, then, plan to attend University of Iowa to earn a Master's degree in Library Science.
Girl Scout Gold Award
Since 1916, Girl Scouts have been making meaningful, sustainable change in their communities and around the world. The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn, acknowledges the power behind each recipient’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. These young women are courageous leaders and visionary change makers. They are our future, and it looks bright!
The steps to becoming a Gold Award Girl Scout are rooted in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. To achieve this honor, a girl must:
- Choose an issue she cares about.
- Investigate everything she can about the issue.
- Get help by inviting others to support and take action with her.
- Create a plan that achieves sustainable and measurable impact.
- Present her plan and get feedback from the Girl Scout council.
- Take action to carry out her plan.
- Educate and inspire others with what she experienced.
- Complete at least 80 hours working on the project.
Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois
Through the Girl Scout Program, girls learn to face challenges head-on, embrace failure as a learning opportunity, create lasting relationships, and find dynamic solutions to social issues—all while building the skills and courage they need to take the lead every day and empower themselves for life. To join or volunteer, visit www.GirlScoutsToday.org.