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Gold Award Girl Scout Highlight - Vanessa V.

Website Banner - Vanessa Van Horn Gold Award Highlight

What was the name and purpose of your Gold Award project?

The name of my Girl Scout Gold Award project is "STRUGGLE." I wrote, arranged, filmed and directed a short Public Service Announcement in hopes of bringing awareness and help to teens who struggle. My generation is suffering in record numbers. As a matter of fact, anxiety and suicide in teens is at an epidemic level.

I created my project in hopes of reaching teens in need because most anxiety and depression is treatable and so few seek treatment. I want to bridge the gap for teens that have problems to get the help they need and know they are not alone. I have had an impact in my local high schools, churches, friends, family and my fellow Girl Scouts. Even if one person can get help because of my Girl Scout Gold Award project, I will have achieved my purpose for this PSA.


What sustainable impact did your Gold Award project have on the community?

I have had educators use my video to share with their youth programs in churches local and out of state. My work has been used to reach so many including the volunteers in my PSA who are my peers in the acting program at BCIT Academy of Performing Arts. My PSA video, STRUGGLE|A teen anxiety and depression PSA, is on YouTube for anyone to view.


What insights/takeaway did you gain from your project?

I have had such a learning experience with this project. I have taken from this project so many valuable tools for my future in Theater Arts. I now know how to edit film and video on my iPhone. What I thought was going to cost big money ended up costing less than $10.00. One thing I can say about a Girl Scout Gold Award project is that time management is so important and relying on others and their availability is truly tricky. I had some real complications and had to last-minute use other actors because of scheduling. Through this Girl Scout Gold Award project, I learned how to work with my peers and I was blessed and inspired by all the support I received by them as well as my family and friends.


What is your favorite memory of completing your Gold Award project?

My favorite memory of my Gold Award project is having the opportunity to direct and work with the awesome group of actors on something I love and created.


Anything else you'd like to share?

I was blessed my whole life with so few struggles. Life was busy and easy for me, but while I was working on this project, I was suffering from back pain. My doctor treated it as a pulled muscle, but it persisted and then I was put in physical therapy and the pain got worse. Now my doctor thought it might be a slipped or herniated disc. Slowly my condition worsened. I was struggling and I was constantly in back pain.

I am an actor and I was privileged to be offered a scholarship from Walnut Street Theater to perform "The Crucible" with an amazing part, performing as Deputy/Governor Danforth. This is my dream, Acting and Theater. At this particular time, my doctor sent me for an MRI and the result was an "ostiod ostioma," a bone tumor in my spine T11. Time stood still and I had to face the biggest struggle of my life. I needed spinal bone surgery and life was scary. My appointment to see my surgeon at CHOP was coincidentally the date of one of my performances at Walnut Street Theater. I ran out the front door of CHOP from my surgical appointment to the front door of Walnut Street to go on stage and perform.

This project was personal and meant to be because I was struggling like never before. With so much support from my directors, counselors and fellow actors, I was able to memorize and perform my part successfully. But this would only be the beginning of my struggle. This was July of 2019 and my surgery was scheduled January 22, 2020.

Things went from bad to worse and my upcoming Senior year looked bleak. I have always been an honor role student in the NHS and taking AP courses with a 4.0 GPA. I also worked at Iglo Ice Rink and Rita's Water Ice as well as performing in Musical Theater at Moorestown Theater Company. My mother always said I did more by noon, then most do in a day. Well, this all came to an end because the tumor created so much pain that I became homebound from school and unable to keep up with my classes. I had to quit my job at Rita's. Thankfully CHOP called with an opening for surgery this past Halloween, October 31st. My surgeon Dr. Cahill was the best and the surgery was a complete success and I now had to recover.

OK, so that was a lot, and yet my struggles just got more complicated because when I went back to school, it felt like everybody was mad at me because I was so far behind but I was still in recovery. The expectation of what my teachers thought I could do was impossible for me during spinal surgery recovery. I have never had bad grades and my 4.0 GPA that I worked so diligently for was in jeopardy. This was a crushing time because I was so far behind in two AP classes and I needed to focus on college applications.

Now I can say I was depressed and I stressed out. Life comes at you in directions you don't expect and can't control. This project was now something I can relate to on a level I didn't expect. I know how hard it is to struggle and feel helpless and I am working my way back up. I need to rely on people to help me now and I am a natural-born helper. This topic and project now and forever has changed my life. I learned that life is a struggle and there are seasons of trouble and stress, but with persistence and help, I hope to rise above and succeed.