Cristin Lim and Jelene Wong have been Girl Scouts and close friends since they were five years old. Fittingly, in 2009, the summer before their junior year at 'Iolani School in Honolulu, the two friends decided to work together to achieve the highest award bestowed upon a model Girl Scout, the Gold Award.
The objective of a Girl Scout's Gold Award Project is fairly straightforwardădo something for the community with a sustainable impact. As Cristin and Jelene can attest, it's narrowing down the focus of that pursuit that can be difficult. After a year of brainstorming, planning and meeting with different community groups, both girls knew they found their challenge once they visited the Outdoor Circle.
"We saw all these pictures of trees in their office and they also publish this book called Majesty," says Cristin. "There are all these Exceptional Trees protected by state law we had never heard of even though we've lived here our whole lives, so we thought it would be important to educate not only our peers, but people who come to Hawai'i."
The girls worked with Outdoor Circle CEO Mary Steiner and together they decided that the best way to marry their fascination with Exceptional Trees and educate the community and visitors would be to develop a walking tour that features Honolulu's Exceptional Trees and publish a corresponding brochure.
With their plan solidified, it was time to divvy up the work and rise to the challenge. Cristin, with an interest in art and graphic design, decided to do the artwork for the brochure while Jelene took the pictures and wrote the copy. They strategically selected 23 Exceptional Trees in Waikiki and Downtown Honolulu and plotted their tour using a Google Maps program. Continuing the learning process, the two had to seek funding to print the brochures. They wrote and presented their grant proposal to the board of the Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program and were ecstatic with their response to help fund the folded, glossy brochure.
"They were really impressed because they don't get a lot of young people thinking about projects like this," recalls Jelene.
With the support of family, friends, the Aloha Arborist Association and other donors, their hard work and vision paid off and they were finally able to hold a finished copy in their hands. "The most enjoyable part of the project was putting everything together, sending our designs to the printer and seeing our hard work," says Jelene. "I learned how to put words into action, because it's one thing to say your going to do something and another thing to do it."
Cristin was also able to take away valuable life lessons from the project that will give her a leg up when she start college at USC this fall. "I didn't realize that this niche of really passionate, committed environmentalists even existed," she says, about the eye-opening experience. "Working with them made me realize that you can take something small and make it great if you believe that it's possible."
Jelene's and Cristin's Exceptional Trees of Honolulu brochure is available at Foster Botanical Garden, the Hawai'i State Library and Waikiki Kapahulu-Library, and online at www.outdoorcircle.org. And because of their commitment and success, they both received their Gold Award this past May. And to make the moment even sweeter, as the two girls head off to college, Jelene to Texas and Cristin to California, they can take confidence and pride from their many experiences with the Girl Scouts, and their mothers can be proud too, both Girl Scouts in their youth.