Noticing Neighbors Laurissa McMillan-DePew, Gold Award Recipient


Throughout the month of October, we are highlighting stories from the accomplished Girl Scout Class of 2021. Today’s feature tells the story of Laurissa McMillan-DePew. With 12 years in Girl Scouts with Service Unit 682, she has achieved the highest honor available: the Gold Award. While one out of every two women has been a Girl Scout at some point in her life, only 6% follow it through to completing the Gold Award—and there is good reason for that. There are years of workshops, training, and collaborative projects that all lead up to the final solo project. With each new level, more ownership is expected, and that final project is the chance for the Girl Scout to create a plan around an issue that means the most to her. For her final project, Laurissa focused on body positivity, with the goal of improving mental health. She created a book that features seven different women of all body types, and the fun part? They are all cast as modern day princesses. For this interview, I got the chance to talk with Laurissa about the book in more detail.


Hayley: With all of your years in Girl Scouts, what does earning the Gold Award mean to you?

Laurissa:

It's the highest order I can get. It just means I've completed Girl Scouts as a whole, and I finally reached the last step. Knowing that all my hard work has finally led up to something special and important. You do all your Badges and Journeys, and it’s all to prepare for the Gold Award.


Hayley:

Are there any particular Badges from over the years that you remember?


Laurissa:

I did a lot of the STEM badges, so I would go to a lot of those events. For those, you get light bulbs as a patch. I have, like, ten of them on my vest. I went to so many of those that are my favorites. I also did a lot of cooking, sewing, and money management. Hayley:

Were you young when you earned the STEM badges?

Laurissa:

I did it throughout my whole career. So I did it in middle school, and also in sophomore year of high school.

Hayley:

So all of those badges and camps lead up to this big Gold Award Project. Can you share what you did for your project?

Laurissa:

I wrote a book titled We Are All Princesses. It's about girls knowing that no matter what they look like, their shape, size, color, abilities—they're princesses. So I worked with all different girls that I knew personally. Some are in Girl Scouts, some I go to Church with, some I go to school with and they all look different. They all portrayed a Princess. One was my sister, she was Snow White. Another girl was Belle.

Hayley: Is that the book? Laurissa:

Yes, so these are the seven girls that I used, and this is me in the overalls. There are a couple of different colors to give the theme for different pages. And then, let's see if I can find the page... so this one is Elsa. You can see each one has a quote, and then their “statement” about what makes them a Princess.

She comes from a split home, and she is a princess. There are all different backgrounds, and each quote is all about positivity. Hayley: Do quotes mean a lot to you? Laurissa: I love quotes. Quotes have been something I use, and have quotes I love up in my room, so I really wanted to make a quote book. Hayley: Can you show me another page?

Laurissa: This one is my best friend since fifth grade. She was Cinderella. She is adopted.

Then here on this page, she portrayed Belle. She's an archer, and she hunts. She's a nationally awarded archer, and I think she's trying to go to the Youth Olympics. This one shows being mixed, and being a princess.

She is actually the sister of my friend in the wheelchair.

This is my sister who struggles with mental health, and so we wanted to include that in there as well.

And we loved showing that size doesn’t matter, so that was the focus of this one. It’s a message that we really wanted to be out there.

Hayley:

Why did you pick this topic for your book? Laurissa: I wrote the book because I struggled with body positivity myself, and I know the mental health issues it causes. I wanted to help other people with it, too. It's a bigger issue that includes everyone. We also took pictures of all the girls with their moms for the end of the book, because I think it's important to show the Queens who raised us.

Hayley: Did you put this together on your own? Laurissa: The person who helped me write this book is my elementary school librarian. She has made a big impact on everyone, and her daughter just passed away to cancer. And so we dedicated the book to her daughter. Hayley: Oh, wow. And that’s so nice she worked with you.