After nearly two years of preparation, Renee Behr, a 14-year-old eighth grader from Robert Fulton School, will soon complete her requirements to earn the Girl Scout Silver Award, the second highest award in Girl Scouting.
Her final project, which culminates 50 hours of project research and planning, is to beautify the grounds of her school by planting flowers outside the main entrance.
Now at the Cadette level with eight other girls in Troop 12268, Renee began her involvement in the Girl Scouts five years ago as a Brownie in the third grade.
“I just wanted to become a better person overall and I wanted to make a difference.” Renee says of why she joined the Girl Scouts.
Renee intends to go after the Girl Scout Gold Award once she enters the next level.
“Some teachers expressed that there was a troop forming at the time and that some of the girls may be interested in it,” she said. “They thought it would be a good outlet for the children for after school.”
A commitment to achievement
Since she first joined, Renee has been an active member, dedicated to getting merit badges and awards. Her current vest is covered in the Girl Scout insignia as a record of her accomplishments. Working her way through the levels, she earned numerous Brownie awards called “Try-Its,” over 25 Merit Badges, and the Bronze Award as a Junior. As a Cadette she has earned a Leadership Award, the 5-year pin, and over 25 Interest Projects.
Dottie Longi, a long-time Girl Scout troop leader with 30 years of experience, currently co-leads Troop 12268 alongside Sharon Martin.
She describes first meeting Renee three years ago. “She is unique in the way that she is so gung ho on her badge work. The first time I met her she handed me paperwork for eight badges. That is almost unheard of at Cadette level. She is a teenager but she really likes work…. Every week she comes in with more badge work.”
Recognizing future community leaders
For over 90 years, the Girl Scouts has been dedicated to preparing girls for the real world. With over 3 million Girl Scouts nationwide, the mission of the organization is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.
As Dottie Longi would put it, “We are a lot more than cookies!”
The second highest award in Girl Scouting, the Silver Award is a national award with a set of national requirements, a series of steps that include identifying issues and exploring the community. The award recognizes leadership, teamwork, compromise, cooperation and community service.
Learning about the environment
In order to earn the Silver Award Renee started out by going on a “journey,” what the Girl Scouts refer to as a coordinated series of activities that serve as a foundation for each level of Girl Scouting. This “journey” introduced her to the importance of protecting the environment and gave her the knowledge of how to go about doing it.
“It is like learning about yourself and about others…it made me realize about ways I can take care of the environment, and one excellent way is by planting…. It gives us oxygen. It is good for the soil.” Renee says.
She then conducted interviews with her neighbors, peers, fellow Girl Scouts, and family members. She also held fundraisers such as bake sales.
The biggest challenges she faced were finding enough time to work on the project and choosing the site of the garden. Once she decided on Robert Fulton, she got permission from the school and the Board of Education.
Beautifying the school grounds
On May 14, Renee and her fellow Girl Scouts will transform the front entrance of Robert Fulton into a garden full of mums and plants that will blossom each year during the spring and summer. They’ll get to work on the land by cleaning up the litter and weeding then planting.
In regard to her commitment to the Silver Award, Renee said, “It shows that I am determined. And if I can take care of these plants it will probably make me a more responsible person.”
The Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey Council will recognize the Silver Award on behalf of the Girl Scouts of USA and Renee will receive the honor from her troop later this year.
Elaine Behr reflects on the impact Girl Scouting has had on her daughter. “I just believe in the whole concept of giving back and helping others, and I think she has learned that.”
Renee intends to go after the Girl Scout Gold Award once she enters the next level of scouting.
When she isn’t working on Girl Scout projects, she pursues her love of music and self-expression by playing the trumpet, reading, and writing. Her long-term plans include living in New York City and attending New York University.