The artists of Girl Scout Cadette Troop 15502, lead by their mentor Tara Bensen, a freelance scientific illustrator, graphic designer, fine artist and photographer, earned the highest honor they can earn as Cadettes: the esteemed Girl Scout Silver Award for Community Service.
Tara worked with the troop as they conceived, designed and painted a twenty-six-foot-wide mural that covers the entire Lost and Found wall across from the main office at Vine Hill Elementary School.
“The Silver Award is a very high honor in Girl Scouts,” says Troop 15502 Co-Leader Jennifer Lipman, who is also the treasurer for Girl Scouts of the California Central Coast Service Unit and a local business owner. “These girls saw an opportunity to bring something valuable to the community while being able to learn and grow as a team. They each worked very hard over the past two years to create this mural. I am so proud of these girls!”
Tara spent countless hours with the troop, teaching them drawing basics such as shading, teaching them how to study and draw California greenery and wildlife, and eventually teaching them how to scale the mural up to its correct size by tracing and then painting the final life-sized vision.
“I was honored to help make this project a reality for them by sharing my time, mentorship and experience,” said Tara.
“Silver Projects are about bringing good to the community, and murals are a great way to do exactly that,” said Troop 15502 Co-Leader Adina Licht. “Murals can be art with a message, and for this mural the message that the Girl Scouts wanted to convey is a beautiful one.”
Part of criteria for the Silver Award is to create tools that have a lasting positive effect on the community. After some Teachers at Vine Hill saw the Girl Scouts working on the mural on weekends and evenings, they started to ask questions that lead to the Girl Scouts creating a lesson plan binder. The binder includes information to help students learn facts such as how murals are created and the Latin names for the animals and plants seen in the mural.
Troop 15502 put out a statement describing the message of the mural.
“Our mural says that everyone in this town has the right to an education,” it says. “We say it by showing California wildlife using their education throughout their lives, like showing a bear cub learning to read or showing a grown bear working as a doctor. When you look at these animals, it is a celebration of diversity. You cannot tell their gender or religion or how much money the different animals have. You just know that this diverse group — from bear to banana slug — are all learning and growing together. Like many of us have by attending Vine Hill School when we were little.”
Another part of earning the Silver Award is to have an event to celebrate the contribution to the community.
For the mural, the Troop organized a ribbon cutting ceremony for the school that included free face painting and free Girl Scout cookies as treats. Many local leaders attended the ribbon cutting, including Vine Hill Principal Tracey Neilsen, Scotts Valley Mayor Jack Dilles as well as Scotts Valley Council Members (both Veteran and Current) Donna Lind and Derek Timm.
The final step to earn a Silver Award is to put together a presentation of the community service project for their local group of Girl Scout leaders, explaining what you have done and what you have learned. Dozens of local scout leaders watched the troop present their work.
“Very inspirational!” said Girl Scout Troop 10208 Co-Leader Kim Apathy Stewart, who filmed the entire presentation to share with other Girl Scouts.
“I couldn’t miss this! What an amazing project!” said Girl Scout Troop 10208 Co-Leader Marisa Cawley, who is also one of many locals who have nominated this troop and their mural for the Scotts Valley Beautification Award.
After the presentation, Girl Scout Service Unit Leaders Caitlin McCord and Sharon Hall and Girl Scout Council Leader Janice Mulvey awarded the nine Girl Scouts their Silver Awards and gave each one a silver pin to commemorate their accomplishment. Earning the Silver Award also qualifies these scouts for future college scholarships and to someday earn the highest of Girl Scout honors: the Girl Scout Gold Award.