When Ainsley Snyder took a class that encouraged students to take action in the community, she decided look within her own campus at Gilbert Classical Academy and quickly found a need.
“I found that the special education department at my high school needed someone to build a garden,” Ainsley said. “So I jumped at the opportunity to build the garden to help students build their fine-motor skills and make a lasting impact on the special education department of my high school.”
Ainsley’s mother was a Gold Award Girl Scout, so following her lead to earn this achievement was a lifelong dream for the teen.
“Growing up my mother instilled the impact and importance of earning the Gold Award,” said Ainsley. “It’s the ultimate honor for a Girl Scout, and I knew I would follow in her footsteps.”
The Gold Award is the highest honor available to high school-aged Girl Scouts, requiring a minimum of 80 hours of work on a project that creates a sustainable solution to a problem identified in their communities.
Historically, many Gold Award Girl Scouts become leaders in their community, with 60 percent of Girl Scout alum currently involved in volunteer work, community service or holding public office.
Before Ainsley could begin her garden project, the first steps were research and planning.
“I spent a lot of time planning before actually building,” she said. “I gained valuable skills and the importance of creating a clear and detailed plan that would also help me secure funding.”
After receiving a grant from Arizona State University, Ainsley began building the garden and developing a curriculum about the different types of plants in the garden and the needs of each one for the students to also learn while gardening.
As with anything that brings great rewards, she faced challenges.
“When it was time to build, I had to find a place that was accessible to students but not in the way of other student resources,” Ainsley recalled. “It was also important to me to repurpose materials to help eliminate waste, which was a challenge at times.”
Ainsley presented the garden at the end of the 2019 school year.
“The students loved being out in the garden,” she said. “With COVID-19, they haven’t been as hands-on, but they will hopefully return to the garden when it’s safe again.”
After graduating in May 2020, Ainsley is now in her freshmen year at Idaho State University studying chemistry and mathematics for secondary education. She credits her time in the Girl Scouts to shaping her into a well-rounded young woman.
“Girl Scouts gave me so many different experiences and opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she said. “Through Girl Scouting I have grown academically, learned the importance of managing money and how to face rejection but not give up.”