On May 21, Atria Darien hosted an award ceremony for four Girl Scouts   who had recently completed their Gold Award projects. Ceremonies are common fare for this highest award in the Girl Scouting community, but the formality at Atria was the first of its kind, a thank-you for a years-long partnership between Atria and Darien Troop 50535.

Awards were presented to high school seniors Katie Huffert, Katie Schorr, Valerie Le and Vivienne Le, who were introduced briefly by Connecticut State Representative Terrie Wood and First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.

In 2014, Troop 50535 leaders Sueann Schorr and Josie Rucquoi met Becky Gallucci, Atria’s Engaged Life Director at the time. The scouts assisted with running an ice cream parlor within Atria, where residents would often take visiting family members. As troop members began to age into the Gold Award process, the scouts sat down with Gallucci and together came up with many ideas to get the seniors more engaged. The troop members had become attached to Gallucci and all the residents of Atria, and they decided to devote several gold award projects to expanding Atria’s opportunities.

Initially the gold award committee (which approves all projects in Connecticut) were concerned about the effectiveness of having multiple projects in a single place, under the assumption that so much work would be unnecessary and projects would overlap. But the scouts overcame those concerns, creating unique projects that complimented each other and improved different aspects of the seniors’ experiences.

The Gold Award itself is the highest award a girl can earn in Girl Scouting. An award with national standards, it acknowledges an individual’s accomplishments, leadership, commitment, creativity and person effort in trying to make the world a better place. Each Gold Award project solves community issues and improves lives.

Katie Huffert received the Gold Award by starting a “keep in touch” workshop, which taught seniors how to use computer applications like email, facebook, youtube, and skype to stay connected to important people in their lives. Valerie Le received her award for a blog titled “Citizens of Atria”, which allowed young people to interview Atria residents, photograph them, and share their stories online with the community. Her twin Vivienne, another recipient, created an educational program called “cultural Exchange” which allowed senior citizens to experience different cultures while overcoming the physical boundaries of travel. The final recipient, Katie Schorr, worked outside Atria, but was still acknowledged with the group for her outside contribution to Atria and her work in Girl Scouts  . She designed and taught classes at the Darien Library to children to teach them about Long Island Sound.

Troop Leader Sueann Schorr called the projects a “Shining example of what Girl Scouts   does for young people.” Her daughter and honoree Katie Schorr is being recognized in a Women of Merit gathering, which will serve as a fundraiser for Girl Scouts   of Connecticut. On Sunday June 4, a state-wide ceremony will be held in North Haven. Seventy-two young women will officially receive their Gold Awards from The Girl Scouts   of America.

The projects benefited more than the Atria residents; the young women who completed their projects gained new skills and a new perspective. One of Katie Huffert’s favorite “success stories” from her project was a man named Richard Booth, who had previously been a computer advocate. When his health suffered, his use declined. At the beginning of Huffert’s project, Booth was recovering and looking for a way to get back into technology. He’d never used facebook or skype, but a few days into the program he had contacted several boy scouts he had once led; he had not spoken to them in six years.

“My grandfather lives in California,” Huffert said, “and we have always wanted to set up skype for him, but he couldn’t learn it himself and didn’t have anyone to teach him. I wanted to solve that problem for others.”

But the residents also taught the girls some important lessons about life. Atria’s Mr. and Mrs. Woods, a couple married since 1945, reminded them to “marry an interesting person, and be interesting yourself.”

Over a Spanish dinner for Vivienne Le’s multicultural project, a woman shared how she met her husband; both had taken dates to a restaurant, but her husband turned on the music and asked who wanted to dance. She responded “me!” and they proceeded to dance on the tables (to the chagrin of their respective dates.)

“I’ve learned so much from the residents about taking opportunities in life,” Le said, “they aren’t the only ones who benefited from these projects. We took a lot home too.”

Vivienne le, left, Valerie le, Katie Schorr, and Katie Huffert recently earned the Girl Scouts’ Gold Award.