Special to the Village News
A Fallbrook resident beginning her college studies, Kenna Chase recently received the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts. Only 5% of Girl Scouts attain the recognition.
"I was really motivated through high school," she said. "You go from bronze to silver to gold, starting out as a team effort," she said. "The Gold Award is more individual, leading a team."
Chase is a technology lover and the project involved assistance for a group she said was often overlooked or isolated in their technological endeavors based upon initial judgements or stereotypes.
Women, people of color, or those with disabilities are among those often discouraged from pursuing STEM careers. Chase created a project that addresses the root causes of exclusivity, more specifically for "special friends" who struggle with social and communication skills due to autism spectrum disorders.
Chase created a fun, inclusive environment where everyone could feel like they belonged. She strived to empower those in isolated, overlooked groups through a series of workshops that exposed them to computer science principles, while working on communication and collaboration. She created the curriculum plan and a website as well for the workshops to be sustained beyond her involvement.
"I've met a bunch of people with autism and they are the nicest people ever," she said, "but in a big group they have issues with communication skills. I see computer science as a powerful tool to help them and hope the curriculum will continue."
Chase was in Girl Scouts in three states: Arizona and Texas before moving to California in her early teens. She graduated from Classical Academy in Escondido this year and is moving on to California State University Channel Islands with a double major in mechatronics engineering and computer science.
She chose the university because the majors it offered mirrored her interest in robotics.
That interest is why she is interning with Amazon, not as a driver but in learning to program robots. It's something she learned about at Classical Academy. Her career goal is to develop and program automated robots, possibly with Amazon, and maybe in their development of drone deliveries.
When the family moved to Fallbrook, she didn't connect with a local troop since she was attending school in Escondido. Instead, she became a Juliette Scout, which means she didn't have a troop and was sponsored by Girls Scouts of San Diego.
Chase said it was at the summer camps that she began tackling the bronze, silver and gold challenges. One of the programs was "Technical Goddess" where she developed her final project.
"One of my mentors was Cora Carmody, who encouraged me to pursue my gold award and supported my project in a multitude of ways," she said. "I am so grateful for all of her support and encouragement."
COVID-19 made things difficult to complete the Gold Award but through Zoom calls she succeeded.
"My expertise in technology allowed me to adapt, but I missed the awards ceremony because I was heading off to college and my summer job/internship with Amazon in Seattle."
Girl Scouts was able to help with her leadership skills and allow her to develop communication and collaborative abilities. The Gold Star project showed her she can work through an assignment from start to finish.
"My mom was a Girl Scout and got me started. She was one of the troop leaders in the beginning when I started in kindergarten in Brownies," Chase said.
In the future, if marriage and children happen, she would encourage her daughter to participate.
"It's a great way to develop friends and skills while having fun," Chase said.