Mackenzie Borkovich earned her Girl Scout Gold Award for her project, “All About Allergies.” She was celebrated alongside 54 other Girl Scouts at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania’s 2023 Gold Award Ceremony on May 7, 2023. The following is the speech she recited at the ceremony.
It took me eight near-death experiences to become a Gold Award Girl Scout. Funny
enough, they all happened before I even logged my first hour. I’ll explain soon, but first, I wanted to start my speech at the true beginning of my Girl Scout journey. Before I even hit kindergarten, I had my first adventure with Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania at around the age of four.
My older sister, Madison, a past Gold Award closing speaker who is in the audience with us today, was attending one of her first overnight trips. Members of Troop 51086 and their families were invited to Idlewild Amusement Park’s then-annual family Camp-o-Ree. Each family stayed in tents overnight, and the days spent on the grounds were filled with rides on the Wild Mouse and exchanging SWAPS. It was great—until it wasn’t.
I realized there weren’t “real” bathrooms—only outdoor, camp-style dwellings, which I
was not going into. My mother was onto my tricks, constantly asking, “Kenz, are you sure you don’t need to go to the bathroom?” An inquiry to which I kept lying, “No!” However, it wasn’t until Madison burst out of the tent to greet my mother at the entryway, abandoning the cards we were playing with to scream, “MOM! Mackenzie PEED her PANTS!” that the jig was up for good. I tried to lie, but the wet spot on my fruit-patterned shorts was fooling no one. The Girl Scouts, like outdoor plumbing, was not for me, I decided.
Considering I stand before you as a speaker today, unsurprisingly, I was enrolled the next year anyways. In addition to the lessons I learned from my times with the great (and not so great) moments outdoors, Girl Scouts became a family affair—my dad even registered as an official [Girl] Scout online! He commemorated the event by donning a shirt that read, “Man enough to be a Girl Scout.” When we went on a trip to Savannah, Georgia, the birthplace of the organization, we all visited the home of founder Juliette Gordon Lowe, or as the tour guide said, “the original J-Lowe.” He got a kick out of that. The shop also had pins for registered [Girl] Scouts only. He was arguably even more pleased to gleefully tell the cashier, “I am a Girl Scout!” and snatch one.
Camping, oddly enough, became one of the central themes of my experience and also brought me more frights before I started my Gold Award journey. I attended our local summer “Sunset Camp” for years before finally becoming a counselor. The first rule of Sunset Camp is that all the counselors had camp names. My name was Mouse (yes, like the Wild Mouse). As a counselor, the primary rule was that under no circumstances were real names to be revealed. This taught crucial lessons in patience and delayed gratification, and of course, added to the fun of the atmosphere. My mother, the camp photographer, taught a quickly corresponding lesson on how to ruin all of these things by yelling, “Mackenzie! Move over in the photo!” Sigh.
Between the years of archery, songs, ziplines, and s’mores (complete with my sister
ridiculing me each time for eating the pieces all separately, marshmallow golden brown only), I became a “real” Girl Scout and began my journey through . . . well, journeys! The Bronze and Silver Awards were all teamwork, and I was fine with hopping onto other people’s ideas and helping them to get whatever was needed done. Unlike my sister, who does not play well in the sandbox, I thrive through working with others. This is why when I realized I had to complete the Gold Award independently, I promptly announced that I . . . was quitting.
To be completely honest, the journey I was looking at involved coding. I figured I could pawn that off well enough to my sister, majoring in, among other things, information science and technology design and development. I had procrastinated the Gold Award for so long, the nervous feeling I had over a decade ago at Idlewild started to creep back up. First, I would never finish in time. Next, what was I going to do? What was I . . . dying for?
Nuts! Throughout my time in school, there were eight (that we can remember) occasions in which I was almost eliminated from the planet by an afoul almond, potent pistachio, or baneful Brazil nut: most of them involving teachers and, yes, a school NURSE! I decided to take on allergy awareness with my project. After building a network of amateurs and professionals, I did some research and created an article and videos for high school student awareness. Participants are required to read and watch materials including Epi-pen and Auvi-Q demonstrations, as well as take a yearly quiz.
Of course, I told my outdoor origin story to make fun of myself and shed light on where everything started. However, more importantly, I want my tale to leave you all with hope today. No matter how challenging something may be, sometimes, you just need a good team to get through it. Although I often was venomous about constant nagging, it is what I needed to see the forest through the trees. Additionally, you must believe in yourself. And last of all, if your big goals in life don’t scare you just a little bit, then you are probably shooting too small. In your future endeavors, be sure not only to find your campground, but to actually leave the tent when it’s time to go. Thank you.