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September 27, 2023

Local oceans advocate featured on buses, honored by Girl Scouts

Courtesy of San Benito High School:
Baler senior Shelby O’Neil, founder of “No Straw November” and one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Ocean Heroes, is featured on the side of Monterey-Salinas Transit buses. ‬
On Oct. 9, she also was named one of the National Gold Award Girl Scouts (formerly known as the National Young Women of Distinction) by Girl Scouts of the USA. She is one of 10 ten young women who “channeled their leadership, passion, work ethic, and creativity toward discovering innovative solutions for today’s most pressing local, national, and global issues,” according to the Girl Scouts’ announcement.

“This year’s class tackled issues related to unnecessary plastic straws; human rights; mental health education; pollinator endangerment; menstrual health resources; art therapy; literacy; noise-induced hearing loss; girls’ interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and veteran visibility and appreciation,” the announcement noted.

Representing Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast, O’Neil was recognized for founding the nonprofit Jr. Ocean Guardians to combat waste and defend the environment. Initiating a movement called No Straw November, she encouraged people who don’t medically need a straw to reject unnecessary plastic straws during November, because they’re a main source of ocean pollution. As a result of her advocacy, O’Neil’s resolution proclaiming November to be “No Straw November” in California was approved by the state legislature. She also conducted a letter-writing campaign to executives at prominent corporations, convincing a leading airline to formally discontinue its use of non-recyclable plastic straws and working with other companies to improve their sustainability practices.

O’Neil’s organization, with support from Girl Scout troops and notable environmental activists, has eliminated the use of millions of plastic straws and promoted reusable alternatives.

The 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts were selected from thousands this year who earned their Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, and one that is only available to Girl Scouts.

“By designing and implementing extraordinary projects of measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching impact, these girls demonstrate a steadfast commitment, as well as a stunning ability, to create true change,” the Scouts’ announcement said.

O’Neil and the rest of this year’s class of National Gold Award Girl Scouts will be honored in New York City on International Day of the Girl Child (on Oct. 11), as their achievements tie in with this year’s United Nations’ theme of preparing girls for the world of work.

“Not only do the seven steps of a Gold Award project address a community or global problem—both in the short term and for years to come—but they also prepare girls to be leaders and hone skills that are important to all fields of work,” the announcement said. “The 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts exhibited business sense and an entrepreneurial mindset to help achieve their outcomes, such as by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding, working with politicians to create legislative change, and educating others. Their actions prove how girls are successful in their own right, how their financial decisions generate substantial economic impact, and how they are prepared to be our next generation of business leaders.

The National Gold Award Girl Scouts will receive a combined $100,000 in college scholarships from Susan Bulkeley Butler, founder of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders and former member of the Girl Scouts of the USA Board of Directors; a combined $50,000 in college scholarships from the Kappa Delta Foundation; and a combined $50,000 in college scholarships from Arconic Foundation. Applications for the distinction were reviewed by a panel of previous National Gold Award Girl Scouts, leaders from a diverse array of fields, GSUSA executives, and a representative from the Kappa Delta Foundation.

“Our 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts demonstrate how girls are creating positive, sustainable change to improve their communities and the world,” said GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. “With their incredible aspirations, innovative problem solving, and risk-taking spirit, these girls are exactly the kind of employees 21st-century companies are looking for. They are well on their way to becoming the business leaders, activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and artists who will build our collective future. Earning the Gold Award also unlocks great opportunities for Girl Scouts, from getting into college and securing scholarships to entering the military one rank higher.”

To join or volunteer with Girl Scouts, visit www.girlscouts.org/join.