A childhood of scouting ended in achievement for two Bordentown girls.
Alison Wall and Emily Wheeler, who have been involved with their local Girl Scout troop together since kindergarten, have completed their Gold Award projects, the highest award achievable in the global leadership development program for girls.
The two are entering into their senior year of high school at Bordentown Regional High School and have reflected on their years of hard work and fun with the Girl Scouts.
Wheeler was placed in the Girl Scouts by her mother, following a long tradition of involvement in her family. Her younger sister, mother, grandmothers and great grandmothers have all been involved, she said.
Wheeler’s Gold Award project “Smart Wheelers” was completed over a two-year period from the summer leading into her sophomore year to fall 2019.
The purpose of her project was to encourage and educate people on bike safety, and promote recycling of unused or older bikes.
She decided to delve into this subject because she knows first-hand what the lack of bike safety can mean for a family. Her uncle had sustained two bike accidents, one of which was a hit and run by a vehicle. Although he has recovered from his accidents, Wheeler explained the strain the situation put on the family and that it was “incredibly hard to go through.”
“I think my main thing is just having more awareness of, and just sharing the word of how important bike safety is and hopefully that will be able to bring a bigger awareness of how important it is,” Wheeler said. “Because it’s a great exercise. It’s so good for the environment. But if people aren’t doing it safely, then there’s no point really in doing it.”
To promote bike safety and awareness, Wheeler organized and participated in five community bike rides with the Bordentown Township Police Bike Patrol. These rides brought in about 20 people per event and focused on teaching riders of all levels the rules of the road and where to ride in town.
To educate herself on bike mechanics, Wheeler enlisted the help of a family friend who owns a nonprofit in Asbury Park. Wheeler’s mother worked in Asbury Park and would drive her to Second Life Bikes owned by Kerri Martin. There she learned how to fix bikes, change tires and witnessed the nonprofit’s mission in action—taking unwanted bikes and recycling or refurbishing them for someone who otherwise couldn’t afford a bicycle.
At the end of her project, Wheeler helped to get about 25 bikes donated to Martin’s business.
Wheeler helped organize assemblies on bike safety at Clara Barton Elementary School and Peter Muschal Elementary School. She was able to get a speaker from Cross Country Connection, a biking rental and sporting company, to attend the assemblies and occasionally join her at her local tabling events around town.
Wheeler attended local fairs and festivals to share her knowledge of bike safety and maintenance with the community. In 2018 and 2019, she held information tables at the town’s Green Fair and Fall Festival, as well as at a community day event in Chesterfield.
She created trivia games, goodie bags and other giveaways, including reflectors and bike helmets, to entice people to learn about bike safety and her project.
During 2019, she went to the Bordentown City farmer’s market on several occasions.
It was at the city’s farmer’s market that Wheeler and Wall shared an information table to talk to the community about their projects and their involvement with the Girl Scouts.
Wall’s year-long Gold Award project, “Act Outside the Box,” combined her passion for theater and interest in promoting effective communication skills in children.
She created activity boxes for kids from grades kindergarten to third. In the boxes, Wall
made improvisational cards that depicted different social situations that the children may face in school. They ask the children to act out the scenarios and share responses in order to learn about communication.
The boxes have donated costumes and toys to accompany the scene cue cards.
She was able to get three boxes at Peter Muschal Elementary School, two at Clara Barton Elementary School and one at Lawrence Elementary School for their aftercare programs.
Wall visited the schools to explain her project and its importance to the aftercare programs and kids. She would come back with revisions and additions and recalled how excited the kids would be to see her.
“That was something that really showed me how impactful this project really was to some of these kids,” she said.
Although she was brainstorming ideas since her freshman year, 2017, the project was completed from January 2019 to February 2020.
“I think I first really understood what the Gold Award was back in fifth grade or so,” Wall said. “And ever since then I’ve been like, ‘That’s something I want to work to achieve. That’s something I want to have a long-term goal for.’”
Her intention was to not only help the kids work through social situations but also experience theater and acting perhaps for the first time.
“The inspiration came from personal experience really since theater had always given me a way to express myself,” Wall said. “And I know that many people had struggled to do so especially due to the availability of technology and how a lot of people nowadays would rather text than go talk to someone face to face. So I wanted to help younger children develop these necessary communication skills while also giving them an outlet to express themselves.”
Wall has been involved with theater productions since middle school. Her last production was the high school’s spring musical 9 to 5 in February this year. For this production, she was involved on “both ends of the spectrum”—the ensemble, crew work, paperwork and set construction.
As a troop, Wheeler and Wall completed their earlier Bronze and Silver Awards together. And Wheeler and Wall share more than their friendship and involvement in Troop #23921. Both their mothers are co-leaders for their troop.
They are gearing up for their last year of high school and preparing to enter college. Wall is applying to schools that offer a major in stage management because of her interest in theater and the arts. Wheeler is interested in business, possibly in fashion merchandising, and hopes to run her own company one day.