Port Washington resident and 2018 Schreiber High School graduate Julia Gurlitz recently earned the Girl Scouts Gold Award, a program that recognizes the power and dedication shared by an elite group of young women who earn the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve. Gurlitz, along with more than 70 other Girl Scouts, was honored by the Girl Scouts of Nassau County at its annual Gold Award ceremony at Adelphi Univeristy. Gurlitz, who has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, has worked her way up to the Gold Award from a Daisy, having previously earned bronze and silver medals with Troops in elementary and middle school.
To earn her Gold Award, Gurlitz had to complete a project that addressed local and global issues. After identifying her area of interest, Gurlitz proposed her project to a mentor last September and then performed more than 80 hours over the past year planning, executing and presenting the results of her project. Gurlitz addressed the issue of water pollution in Manhasset Bay through her project, “Our Beautiful Bay: An Educational Theatre Project.”
“I’ve been to beach clean ups as a Girl Scout and it always upsets me when I’m pulling cans and bottles out of the water,” said Gurlitz, explaining why she chose this topic. “It’s so unnecessary for it to be there when Port prides itself on its waterways.”
Gurlitz combined her love for the environment, theater and teaching to create an educational program to inform children in the area about ways they can make a difference to help preserve the health and beauty of the bay. Having performed in many productions around Port and having written a few of her own plays, she decided to write and produce a cartoon play aimed at five to 10-year-olds to educate them about the harmful effects of water pollution and explain a few small ways they could help.
“I had a lot of trouble coming up with what to do because [the project] is so many hours and seems so big when you look at it on paper,” said Gurlitz. “I’m very interested in theater. I’ve been directing and writing since sixth grade. It’s been such a large part of my life. Bringing that into my Gold Award seemed like the perfect thing to do, and combining my love of theater, the environment and teaching seemed like the perfect project for me.”
Gurlitz, along with members of the Schreiber High School drama club (some of whom were also Girl Scouts), performed the play that held messages about reusing shopping bags, using reusable water bottles instead of plastic and telling their parents to use organic lawn maintenance methods and pick up dog feces at My Spectrum School, Friends Together, the Parent Resource Center after school program at Landmark on Main Street and to local Girl Scout Troops in town.
Gurlitz created learning boxes with smaller versions of the materials she used in the play along with index cards that summarized the play. She later donated the materials from her play and the learning boxes to a local Girl Scout Troop so that they could continue to perform it.
“When we sat down with kids and read through cards, and when they acted it out with the puppet, they grasped the concept,” said Gurlitz. “They understood it is happening—not really why it’s happening—but they understood how to help fix it. They were much more enthusiastic than I thought they would be.”
Gurlitz will be attending George Washington University in Washington, D.C. in the fall, where she plans to major in environmental science.
“As of right now, I won’t be actively participating in the Girl Scouts, but I think for the rest of my life, it will be a big part of who I am,” she said. “Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be a Girl Scout leader. I think the biggest thing I learned from Girl Scouts is the fact that helping your community is so much easier than it seems. Girl Scouts has really taught me that whether you can figure out a way to do it yourself or come together as a group, you can really accomplish anything.”