Civic Engagement

Freshman helps underserved community, earns Girls Scouts’ highest honor

melissa wilson

Melissa Wilson ’21

Some students exemplify Oglethorpe’s creed to “make a difference” before they set foot on campus.

For freshman Melissa Wilson ’21 of Castle Rock, Colorado, her sense for service began as a member of her local Girl Scouts troop, where Wilson’s unit would often operate camps for younger scouts and volunteer in the community.

It was her project for the Gold Award, the highest honor in the Girl Scouts of America organization, that most connected her with an often-overlooked population.

“Castle Rock isn’t a very big city, but there are still a lot of deaf people,” Wilson explains. As a high school student, she took four years of American Sign Language for her foreign language requirements, and along the way had several teachers who were hearing impaired. Upon learning of the difficulties they often face in everyday situations, Wilson set out to raise awareness for the deaf community in Castle Rock by holding community presentations, creating a web presence and brochures to educate the hearing population on how to interact with the deaf community, and teaching basic American Sign Language.

Wilson said deaf people can be targeted and taken advantage of because of their disability. “People will be rude to someone just because they can’t hear.”

Her efforts earned Wilson the Gold Award in June 2017, the summer before enrolling at Oglethorpe. Since arriving on campus, the English major and Business Administration minor, who is also a member of the golf team, has focused on academics and athletics but aims to give back where her commitment started.

“I hope to start a running a Girl Scouts troop here before I graduate,” Wilson says.

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