Juneau Girl Scout Up for Gold Award: Raising public awareness of the importance of art in schools

Identifying ways to better serve one's community, organizing a team to support betterment efforts, taking action, and inspiring others - Girl Scouts of Alaska (GSAK) Gold Award recipients make a lasting difference in their local community, their region, and beyond.  

The Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Open to Girl Scout Seniors (grades 9-10) and Girl Scout Ambassadors (grades 11-12), this prestigious award challenges girls to make a difference in their world. 

In fiscal year 2013, in order to balance expenditures with estimated revenues and other available resources, the Juneau School District made many reductions to its expenditure budget. One significant reduction included the elimination of one full-time elementary art specialist.

Nicole Nelson is a Girl Scout Ambassador and 2013 graduate of Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau. Prior to her graduation this past spring, she was president of her high school's art club.  

Nelson stands in front of her "Fuel the Spark for Art" student art exhibit

"Nicole really loves art and she's always been an excellent student, but she knows that for some students, art is the only reason they come to school," said Anne Kurland, GSAK's Juneau service unit manager. 

In light of the budget cuts, Nelson "wanted to raise public awareness of the importance of art in schools while celebrating student artists. That was the impetus for her Gold Award project," Kurland said.   

Nelson worked with the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, the K-5 art specialist for the Juneau School District, and the Juneau International Airport to develop and implement a permanent, rotating student art exhibit called "Fuel the Spark for Art." The exhibit will live at the Juneau airport. 

Nelson's family friend and adult mentor, Liza Diebels Paramore, assisted her in executing the project. To drive home the importance of art at every age, elementary, middle school, and high-school students will each be allocated one of three four-month exhibit rotations throughout the year.  

Nelson and her adult mentor, Liza Diebels Paramore

Nelson was publicly honored for her exhibit Wednesday, Aug. 14 at the Juneau International Airport. Her final paperwork will be reviewed at the next GSAK Gold Award Committee meeting. If Nelson receives the award, she will be formally recognized at the GSAK Young Women of Distinction banquet in March in Anchorage. 

To receive the Gold Award, girls must complete a project that takes a minimum of 80 hours. The project has to be sustainable (no one-time events), and girls must measure the impact of their project quantitatively. For information about the Gold Award, visit www.girlscoutsalaska.org/for-teens/leadership-awards