Tuesday, November 29

Ohio Girl Scout Aims for Highest Honor…Via Amplifying LGBTQ+ Youth Voices

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Only one project stands between Halle Preneta and the highest honor that can be achieved by a Girl Scout. And she is taking decidedly rainbow approach to get to her goal.

The 18-year-old Chagrin Falls resident has spent more than half of her life in the Girl Scouts, and is now poised to complete the Gold Award, the highest achievement within the Girl Scouts of the USA, earned by only 5.4% of eligible Girl Scouts.

Her project is entitled, “The Rainbow Choir: An Anthology of LGBTQ+ Youth Voices“—now available!—and it involves collecting stories from youth: “the good moments, the ugly moments, the unreal moments, and the wtf moments.”

Halle Preneta

The Buckeye Flame spoke with the inspiring teen to get her Girl Scout origin story and learn more about the golden path in front of her.

Tell us your history with the Girl Scouts. Why did you first join up?
HP: I’ve been a Girl Scout since I was in kindergarten in 2008. Why did I join? I don’t know. I’m sure my mom said, “It’s something for us to do together.” So I joined and I never left. Although now, I graduated high school, so theoretically I’m an adult Girl Scout, but because you aren’t an adult until the next girl scout year, which is like September, I’m an ambassador Girl Scout which is the highest level.

My troupe has a total three people, counting myself. And the other two are my friends. So it’s really fun when we do troupe meetings because it’s really just me hanging out with my friends, and my mom is there.

What have you gotten out of the Girl Scouts over the years?
Oh gosh, so much. Being able to function independently was a big piece for me. The Girl Scouts have resident camps during the summer, second graders up to 12th graders, They’re week-long camps. and you’re away from your family for a week. I started going when I was in 5th grade and it was a way for me to learn how to function independently from my parents because when you’re in 5th grade, you rely on your parents for everything. Being away from them for a week and being able to do fun things with other people my age was amazing.

Preneta (left) with Sylvia Acevedo, former CEO of Girl Scouts USA

I was also able to go to Europe through Girl Scouts. I went to Paris and Switzerland in 2019 to visit two of the Girl Scouts world centers. I’ve always loved London and actually being there was really fantastic. We got these little pins and they are right on there on my uniform.

Tell us about the Gold Award.
The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. When I describe it to people, I equate it with the Eagle Scouts of the Boy Scouts because people know what that is and they don’t know what the Gold Award is. Which is hilarious, but whatever.

The Gold Award consists of a very big project. It’s a minimum of 80 hours of work. There’s so much that goes into it. You have to create a whole proposal and get it approved before you can even start. And then you have to actually do the project which includes writing and presenting a closing part. It’s so long, and it’s so much work. But it’s worth it because it really is the highest award out there.

Why collect LGBTQ+ youth stories for your Gold Award project?
For simplicity sake, I went in this direction because I’m bi and this is something that’s interesting to me and that I care about. I think more specifically—as a young LGBTQ+ person—it mattered to me that I got other youth voices out there and specifically other LGBTQ+ youth voices.

At the end of the semester I just finished in school, a friend of mine was outed in class when she wasn’t there. It was really bad. She’s fine now, and the person who outed her was punished, which was great because my school normally does nothing in those situations. But being outed…that crosses a line. I’m pretty go-with-the-flow, but there are certain things that cross a line and being outed is one of them. Things like that happen—maybe not all the time—but often. And it’s not just my school. It happens all over. People don’t know about it and it’s really important, especially for youth.

I want other people to know, to look at the experiences LGBTQ+ youth are having and think, “Ok, I should probably should be doing something about this.” These are voices that need to be heard.

What do you want LGBTQ+ youth to submit?
Poetry, prose, short stories, creative non-fiction, or visual art as long as it can be submitted as a jpeg image. If you have a queer sculpture, send us an image! 🔥

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About Author

Ken Schneck is the Editor of The Buckeye Flame. He received the 2021 Sarah Pettit Memorial Award for the LGBTQ Journalist of the Year from the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists. He is the author of "Seriously, What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew" (2017), "LGBTQ Cleveland" (2018), "LGBTQ Columbus" (2019), and "LGBTQ Cincinnati" (2020). In his spare time, he is a professor of education at Baldwin Wallace University.

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