Schuylkill County troop opens up communication for all at local park and elementary school

Girl Scouts use their Take Action Project to help individuals with disabilities in the Pine Grove community.

By Catherine Amoriello

At Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA), we are always encouraging girls to use their voices and speak up for themselves and others in their communities. But for some, certain ways to communicate can be challenging.

Girl Scout Troop 32840 introduces their first communication board at Pine Grove Township Recreation Park.

Girl Scout Troop 32840, based in Schuylkill County, decided to advocate for individuals who struggle to communicate through their Take Action Project: Communication Board. Their project resulted in two communication boards being installed at Pine Grove Township Recreation Park and Pine Grove Elementary School in early May. The communication boards display simple pictures and words to help non-verbal individuals communicate with others in a public setting. This includes people with disabilities, children who are shy, and young children who aren’t able to fully communicate yet.

The troop, comprised of 20 girls ranging from Daisies to Juniors, found inspiration in a girl from the Pine Grove School District who has Angelman syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes delays in development and problems with speech. And with many of the troop members having some form of special needs themselves, they understand what it’s like to struggle to effectively communicate with others.

“We wanted something that would help girls like themselves because we had a lot of issues at the beginning of the Girl Scout year communicating with adults and each other,” said Lindsay Strouphauer, one of the troop’s leaders.

The six-month long project required the girls to do research, problem-solve, and test out their idea using non-verbal communication. The girls raised all the money needed to fund their project through cookie season and fundraising proceeds, and they received support from a local sign-maker who helped them create the final sign.

A few troop members gather around their Take Action Project display.

“A lot of people’s minds are just blown because this is something that you see from Seniors,” Strouphauer said of her troop’s efforts.

Throughout the process, the girls learned about acceptance, how to be helpful to others, and the importance of showing patience. But maybe most importantly, the troop learned how good it feels to help someone.

“To see a project like this with how much uncertainty and anger there is in the world really gives us a lot of hope,” Strouphauer said. “These girls came up with a project to not only better people, but benefit people with disabilities and have acceptance for others.”

Catherine Amoriello is a Marketing and Communications Coordinator specializing in writing and editing for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania. Reach her by email at camoriello@gshpa.org.