WOODBURY - Two Math and Science Academy students, one current and one recently graduated, earned Girl Scout Gold Awards this spring.
Keagan Eng and Kate Yapp are both also being considered for the prestigious National Gold Award Girl Scout. Just 10 girls are chosen each year. Each regional council can nominate three girls, and Eng and Yapp were nominated by Girl Scouts River Valleys, which includes southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin and a county in Iowa.
The Gold Award is the highest honor in Girl Scouts and involves a service project that can be continued by others in the community. Less than 6% of Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award, according to the organization's website.
Eng, a senior, helped build a library at A New Arrival Center, a primary school in Port au Prince, Haiti.
"A lot of Girl Scout Gold Awards are more local-based and national-based, and I wanted to do something a little bit bigger," Eng said.
With her troop, Eng raised $4,500 to buy about 470 books, which she then labeled according to reading level. She created a checkout system for the books and worked with Woodbury resident Sara Lein, the director of Kozefò, an organization that helps run the Haitian school, to design shelving for the new library.
Eng, who has been a Girl Scout for 10 years, said she spent more than 160 hours on the project beginning in March 2018. The books and other supplies arrived at the school in May.
Although the amount of work a Gold Award would take was daunting to her at first, Eng said she's glad she undertook the challenge.
"I am more vocal, I've gained so many leadership and communication skills, I was able to make connections with adults across the world, and that was such an incredible experience for me," she said.
Yapp, a recent graduate, worked with the school to implement a composting program for its middle schoolers. Yapp raised money to purchase a composter and, along with the Earth Club, made announcements every Friday that reminded students to put their uneaten food in compost bins. She wrote and directed a video to educate students about what can and can't be composted.
Every Friday during study hall, each mass would be weighed and recorded, then dumped into the composter and stirred. The compost will be used as fertilizer during the school's grounds clean-up, which happens twice a year.
"It cuts down on the waste bill, it creates healthy global stewards, it impacts education and it helps make the campus look prettier," Yapp said.
At the end of the year, Yapp and the Earth Club sent out a survey hoping to measure students' knowledge about composting and find out where more education could be done.
Yapp said her own family members, along with a few teachers, have begun composting at home because of her project. She also hopes composting will be incorporated into the school's curriculum and has begun conversations with teachers to do so.
The whole process took more than a year and a half, Yapp said. She has been a Girl Scout since second grade and recently earned her Lifetime Membership.
Part of what inspired Yapp to go for her Gold Award was her admiration for her mother, who also earned the award. She also felt a network of current and former members behind her as she worked toward her goal.
"It's really empowered me and supported me and given me the confidence to - I want to be in elected office, and seeing those other women who believe in you and know the struggles that a lot of times we push under the rug ... and the sisterhood to support you through life's ups and downs," she said.