On May 7, 2017, Ashley Nicole Place, daughter of Jennifer and Sean Place, was awarded the highest recognition for girls in Girl Scouts: The Girl Scout Gold Award. She has been a Girl Scout for 14 years, and is graduating from Maria Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa this June. The Gold Award process requires girls to develop, lead and report the outcome of a ‘take-action’ project. This project requires a girl to research, identify a problem as well as its root cause, then lead a project that impacts this problem as well as addressing sustainability, making global connections, and educating and inspiring others. Ashley’s project was to “ Bring Down the Classroom Walls.” When her aunt taught at Minnie Cannon Elementary School, a Title I school, in Middletown, Lake County, Ashley became aware of the difference in educational opportunities for the first time. “One of my greatest memories in growing up is all the field trips and hands on experiences that I had outside the classroom or activities like an Art Docent program. These experiences made me want to learn more about things I was introduced to. I wanted to pass that opportunity on to others.”
Ashley witnessed the sacrifices that her aunt and the other teachers made to provide students with educational opportunities, even while renting buses, entrances fees and extras were not available. Only the Outdoor Ed program was readily available, so the 6th grade students worked hard to have it happen by earning the money. Ashley planned to change that and provide experiences for other grades as well. Then, tragedy struck in the form of the Middletown fires, putting her project on hold to help her Girl Scout Troop 10149, to collect, wash, sort and size clothing, personal care items, books and toys for the families and allow the community to heal and recover from their devastating losses. She finally started the following September and developed three program boxes for her project. One was filled with musical instruments, games and activities. The instruments were requested by her project advisor and the kindergarten teacher, Brandy Fischer. The second was an art docent program box and the last was Outdoor program materials which included nature, the environment and marine education. Ashley followed the core standards for Kindergarten through 6th, developed program manuals to go with each box along with resource references for the teachers. Her biggest accomplishment was getting a donor to provide Internet classroom opportunities, with each teacher being given an Amazon Firestick and gift card to the school so they could take the students on virtual field trips to see a ballet, attend a concert, visit the Smithsonian or experience global classes with other students.
Ashley’s future plans include attending Santa Rosa Junior College and continuing her higher education with a degree in counseling and work with children. Ashley hopes to volunteer several times a year to provide program experiences and to continue to add to her boxes in Lake County while continuing to work with Debbie Bailey’s Girl Scout Troop. She’s also a third generation recipient of Girl Scouting’s highest award, her grandmother, Kathy, had received the award [then called First Class] and her Aunt Katie had received the Gold Award.