New for Girl Scouts in 2023, Zaida Alvarez and Juan Carlos Arias, are launching The ECHO Scholarship in honor of their daughter Angélica who earned her Girl Scout Gold Award in 2021.
The Arias-Alvarez family watched as Angélica completed her project, entitled “Heart to Art” to address the diminishing art education programs within public school curriculum. Even after the Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida’s Gold Award Ceremony was finished that May, they saw Angélica leverage her project’s success and win The Miami Herald 2021 Silver Knight Award and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Florida’s “Scout of the Year Award” that summer. Inspired, Zaida and Juan Carlos decided to create a scholarship opportunity for Girl Scouts who echoed their daughter’s dedication, passion, and determination.
We caught up with Angélica, from her dorm room in upstate New York, to ask her about her Gold Award experience and all the things she has been doing since earning it.
GSSEF: How long were you a Girl Scout, and what made you stay?
AA: I was a girl member of Girl Scouts for 12 years! My mom always encouraged me to stick with Girl Scouting throughout elementary and high school—so I have to credit her for that, her enthusiasm inspired me to stay. Now, I am a Lifetime Member!
GSSEF: What have you been up to since your time as a girl member concluded?
AA: Well, one little thing I’ve gotten up to is starting college. It’s been quite a ride! I am studying Fashion Merchandising with a Paralegal Certificate, combining both my passions for fashion and law. I am also a captain of my college’s moot court team and even had the opportunity to compete last semester. I frequent New York City as much as I can to watch Broadway shows with my friends, and I’ve been obsessed with reading Agatha Christie books!
GSSEF: How has being a Girl Scout affected your life?
AA: I think this question should be phrased “How has being a Girl Scout changed your life?” because it has impacted every aspect of it! I can’t recall a time that I wasn’t a Girl Scout; in my mind that’s just always been who I am. I’ve gained valuable interpersonal and networking skills, as well as polished my presentation, organizational, and communication skills too. My appreciation for my community and passion for giving back to it has grown more and more because of Girl Scouts, and I have learned so much about the world around me in the process. Most importantly I gained a family through Girl Scouts – it’s a sisterhood built on shared memories, laughter, and love. Without it, I doubt I would be the girl I am today, and I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.
GSSEF: What did you learn about yourself from earning your Gold Award?
AA: Earning the Gold Award taught me how to communicate professionally and effectively with adults and organizations. I had a wide range of interviews, to share my project, which allowed me to connect with people across Florida. Overall, I believe it helped me to be more confident in what I had to say and showed me how to “put myself out there.” I saw people naturally engage with me because they could feel my passion and wanted to be part of my vision.
GSSEF: How has the Girl Scout “High Award” experience benefit you?
AA: My Gold Award journey has benefited me in ways that go beyond just academics and scholarships. In terms of personal growth, I have matured and grown so much throughout the process. I am ten times more confident in myself and the things I can accomplish than before I embarked on my Gold Award. I was so nervous to start my project because I wasn’t sure if I had what it would take – but I proved myself wrong. I feel more positive about who I am and my capabilities; I know now, that when I put my mind to something and dedicate the hard work, I can always get it done! I have the Gold Award to thank for that.
GSSEF: What advice do you have for younger Girl Scouts and those working towards their High Awards?
AA: Being a Girl Scout is so cool! Regardless of what you may think now, Girl Scouts is the coolest club you will ever be a member of. One of the hardest things about being a Girl Scout is sticking with it. Commitment can be scary, but it’s incredibly rewarding. When I entered middle school, I thought being a Girl Scout was silly and even embarrassing. I know now that if I would have left Girl Scouts because of that mindset, I would have never earned my Gold Award, won the Miami Herald Silver Knight Scholarship Award, or earned any of the subsequent scholarships. In the simplest terms, without my Gold Award, I probably wouldn’t be at my dream college. There is always a bigger picture, but maybe a younger Girl Scout can’t necessarily see it from where she is today. The bigger picture in Girl Scouts is that all girls are given the opportunity to change their own life and pave a unique path. So, please don’t give up and if you’re already working towards a High Award (Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards) – reach for the stars because the sky’s the limit! Girl Scouts has all the tools and support to you need to get it done. I know it can be intimidating, but trust me, put your mind to it and you just might surprise yourself!
GSSEF: How does it feel to give another Gold Award Girl Scout the opportunity to reach her educational dreams with The ECHO Scholarship?
AA: I know how it feels to be a girl with big dreams – who wants to share them with the world. Sometime, the toughest part is finding someone who will listen. I hope that this scholarship will give Gold Award Girl Scouts to tell her story to us! They have an equal opportunity – regardless of their type of project – to reach their own educational dreams. The ability to provide that possibility to another Girl Scout is the most rewarding feeling, especially because I have been in those shoes myself just two years ago. I made a pledge to be a sister to every Girl Scout, and if I can lift them up through this scholarship, that’s what I plan to do.
Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida is proud to introduce The ECHO Scholarship and welcome its inaugural winner to the annual Gold Award Ceremony on May 13, 2023 at the Signature Grand in Davie, where they will be awarded $3,000.00 for their college or university undergraduate studies this Fall. The deadline for applications is April 5, 2023 at 11:59 p.m.
To apply for The ECHO Scholarship, access the application and more information.