Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

October 24, 2013

Beyond the cookies

Local Scout earns $10k scholarship for Haggetts Pond project

By Judy Wakefield

---- — Samoas? Thin Mints? Tagalongs?

Gabriella Smith has probably sold hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the years since joining a Daisy troop as a kindergartner at Sanborn School.

Now an 18-year-old freshman biology major at Boston University, Smith’s cookie-selling days are behind her.

And her work on her Gold Award — the Girl Scout equivalent to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Award — has earned her the inaugural $10,000 Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship.

Smith, who graduated from Andover High School this past June, won over the scholarship committee with her Gold project, which focused on rediscovering Andover’s Haggetts Pond through modern technology.

Her project sought to promote the trails surrounding Haggetts by making information about them more appealing and accessible.

Using GPS and cartography software, Smith created a detailed map of the area. She worked with volunteers to develop an informational website — — focused on the property. And she coordinated volunteers in building a kiosk displaying a QR code that takes smartphone users to the website.

“I just really wanted to help others,” said Smith, who spent her senior year at AHS working on the project. “Haggetts Pond is beautiful with its fishing, nature and wildflowers. ... I just wanted to make it easier for people to enjoy.”

Growing up on Osgood Street, Smith would frequently walk to Haggetts Pond with her parents, Chris and Sandi Smith, and siblings, 21-year-old Michela and 23-year-old Dante. The family enjoyed spending time in the outdoors as they traversed one of the trails there.

But Smith said while she was raised enjoying the property, she found few people in town even knew about the trails that run through the area.

Smith was not only intrigued by the trails though. She was also curious about the history of the site. Her research brought her to the Andover Historical Society, where she found lots of photographs of the old days at the pond, when it was a popular destination for ice skaters, fishermen and swimmers.

Haggetts Pond is now the town’s water supply and ice skating and swimming are forbidden.

“I really enjoyed doing the research. ... I liked learning about the history of the pond,” she said.

A self-described “dig-in-the-dirt” sort of girl, Smith said she has always enjoyed mixing science and Scouting. But she never envisioned her interest would pay off in such a big way. She credited her family, including her parents, especially her mother who serves as her Girl Scout troop leader, and her sister and brother, who offered a hand with the project, in helping her complete her Gold Award project and quality for the scholarship.

Launched this year, the Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship is open to Girl Scout Gold Award recipients whose projects dealt with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Smith is one of only two senior Girl Scouts to receive the scholarship, which “challenges a girl to change the world — or at least her corner of it.” She will be awarded $5,000 this semester and another $5,000 in her junior year, if she maintains a 3.0 grade-point average and continues her education in STEM, which combines the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, or a related subject.

In addition to the financial support, an employee of Alcoa, a leading producer of fabricated aluminum, will mentor Smith during her freshman year of college.

The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting and Smith’s interest in STEM “shows that we build awareness and educate community leaders on the importance of increasing girls’ involvement in STEM,” Ruth N. Bramson, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, said in a press release.

Smith said she hopes that by winning the scholarship, it shows the community there is so much more to Girl Scouting than cookies.

“It’s an honor for me to receive this,” she said. “Girls should really think of Girl Scouts as a great way to learn about whatever interests them.”