By LINDA WOODLAND
Every child starting out in Girl Scouts learns the value of gold, beginning with the first song they ever learn.
“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.”
So it should come as no surprise the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn is also gold.
Samantha Shultz, 18, of Fostoria, recently earned the Girl Scouts Gold Award, which challenges girls to change their corner of the world through a seven-step project aimed at solving a long-term community problem.
Shultz’s project, “Starting with the Stem in STEAM,” was centered on starting a science fair and STEAM Day for students at Lakota Local Schools.
“It was geared towards middle school students about fifth, sixth and seventh grade, and the goal was to really teach them about STEAM — which is Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math — to show they are all in together and the arts are included in there.”
A 2016 Lakota High School graduate, Shultz said she also wanted to give the students role models to look up to within the STEAM field.
Part of the event featured two different panels — one made up of different professionals and the other consisting of college students going into STEAM careers.
The former, she said, included everyone from college professors to people who have worked in the field for a long time, such as a Charter Steel representative who spoke about how the local company employs STEAM in its manufacturing.
Also on display for the approximately 50 students visiting the fair were some Lakota student projects completed throughout the school year, as well as learning stations where students could experience hands-on activities such as building bottle rockets that were launched outside of the school at the end of the day.
Shultz started planning her project four months before the actual fair, which enlisted about 20-30 volunteers. Measuring the project’s success was done through a set of surveys.
“A couple weeks before the event, I had students take surveys on what their thoughts are and what they knew about STEM and STEAM,” Shultz said. “Then about a week after the event, the students who attended then filled out the survey again and I was able to measure what they liked and didn’t like, and what they learned.”
Shultz also built a website which included different resources the students could use, as well as information about the event itself.
Shultz, who is studying computer science and aerospace engineering at Capital University, started her journey to the Girl Scouts Gold Award about a dozen years ago with the Little Livestock 4Hers of Sandusky County.
“That’s what got me started,” she said, adding she started doing rocket projects throughout her eight-to-10 years in 4H. “And then through Girl Scouts, that’s what kept me committed and gave me the confidence to keep going with that.”
A freshman in college, Shultz is in a 3-to-2 dual-degree program. She is attending Capital University for three years for computer science and, as long as she maintains a 3.0 GPA, she’ll transfer to Case Western Reserve University for engineering.
Through a Girl Scouts program called Destinations, Shultz’s commitment to engineering led her to a space camp where the Girl Scout golden girl got a taste of what it is like to aim for the stars.
“I’d like to work for the NASA SpaceX,” she said. Founded by entrepreneur Elon Musk in 2002, the SpaceX program designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.
At the week-long camp in Huntsville, Alabama, Shultz was able to “experience firsthand the future of space travel and train to solve technically challenging anomalies in order to save the space mission,” according to the Girl Scouts website.
The scouts attending the camp practice communication through an activity in the Underwater Astronaut trainer, and they put their engineering skills to the test by constructing an ablative shield during the Thermal Design Challenge.
Shultz also experienced simulated spaceflight missions and trained on astronaut simulators.
While there are some scholarships available through Girl Scouts, Shultz had to shoulder the cost of the camp.
“So I sold a whole lot of cookies so I could pay for it,” she said with a chuckle.
In 2015, a year after attending the camp, Shultz went on another trip through Destinations to Costa Rica and Panama where she spent two weeks performing service projects helping a village. She also worked at a sea turtle conservation hatchery in Panama where she helped release baby sea turtles to the ocean.
A lifetime member of Girl Scouts, Shultz is known as a Juliette Scout — meaning she is an independent scout who does not belong to a troop.
Although Shultz had a couple troops throughout the area she did activities with, for the most part, she worked through the Girl Scout ranks independently.
“A lot of the time as you get older your troop kind of disbands, which is what happened to me, as well. But I started going to Camp Libbey, and that place is my home,” she said of the Girl Scout camp in Defiance. “I wouldn’t be myself without it. I love it so much. For me it was finding that place that I love and that is what kept me in (Girl Scouts).”
And by sticking with it, the Girl Scout experience has Shultz aiming for the great beyond.
“To a girl who wants to quit Scouts, I would tell her to keep going and find other girls that are involved because they are going to find that new group to hang out with and have these awesome experiences with,” she said.