Friday, June 24, 2016

Clear Creek Girl Scout Inspires Collaboration Among Second-Language Speakers

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s (GSRI) report, The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life, Girl Scout Gold Award recipients receive greater lifetime benefits than their peers with regard to positive sense of self, life satisfaction, leadership, life success, community service, and civic engagement thanks to their experience in Girl Scouting, including earning their Gold Award.

Mary Brinsko, a senior at Clear Creek High School, has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting.  The award recognizes girls in grades 9 through 12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through sustainable and measurable community service projects that require a minimum of 80 hours to complete. Less than five percent of Girl Scouts earn the award.

To earn the award, Brinkso started a club for ESL and students who were learning to speak Spanish. Brinsko, a native English speaker, has been learning Spanish for four years and has surpassed her degree plan’s language requirements by three levels. She was inspired by her participation in a summer immersion program that took her to Nicaragua to live with a host family that only spoke Spanish.

“I started the summer only being able to communicate with four years of public school Spanish experience and it was embarrassing and frustrating,” said Brinsko. “I was capable of deep thinking, but my limited language skills forced me to speak like a toddler.”

During that time, Brinsko had the opportunity to engage with teenagers in the village who helped her correct her sentence structure and forced her to use her Spanish-speaking skills. The interaction sparked the idea for a club and with help from her current and former Spanish teachers, she launched the club that meets once a week for both Spanish speakers and those learning to speak the language.

During the meeting, the students play games and enjoy food. Clear Creek has a strong Latino community. Brinsko felt that the language barriers prevented friendships and relationships, and cultural difference caused unnecessary tension and confusion.

“My solution was pretty simple. Start a club for both ESL students and students in Spanish class to practice their second language by socializing with each other. Through the club, I have made friends with a sophomore who moved from El Salvador this year not knowing any English. We text and hardly a day goes by without us talking,” said Brinkso.

After graduating from high school, Brinsko will attend University of Texas (UT) at Austin and major in history. She has also been accepted into UT’s Liberal Arts Honors program and plans on earning a teaching certificate.

To learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award, which turns 100 in 2016, visit