Their project needed to matter. It needed to help people, and there needed to be a way to ensure it made a difference. These were the specific requirements for Girl Scout Troop 288 in Lake Ronkonkoma to earn a Bronze Award, the highest award for junior Girl Scouts.
After a couple of educational visits to the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society, the girls in the troop were so enthralled with the subject matter they decided to form a more formal bond with the organization in hopes the effort would help them earn a Bronze Award.
In December 2012, the troop of 11-year-olds drafted a letter to the historical society’s board of directors requesting they be the first Junior Advisory Council to the Lake Ronkonkoma Historical Society.
Dale Spencer, curator of the historical society museum, said the board of directors approved the proposal unanimously. He said the society is benefiting from a new perspective.
“People get older and start to lose touch with what young people really want,” Spencer said, adding that before the advisory council, the majority of people making decisions at the historical society were in their 50s or older.
The girls hold quarterly meetings to determine innovative ways to help the museum. In their first act as a council, they requested signs be displayed outside the historical society and the Fitz-Greene Hallock homestead. The signs were unveiled Nov. 17 in a ceremony in which the historical society also awarded certificates of appreciation to the members of the advisory council.
Members of the advisory council also narrated photos for “Mirrors of the Past,” a February exhibit at the Fitz-Greene Hallock homestead.
Troop Leader Urie Tucker, 47, of Ronkonkoma, whose daughter, Caitlin, is in the troop, said the girls take the responsibility seriously. Because they don’t always agree on which initiative to pursue, they have to prove the merits of any idea proposed.
Abby Rosenberg, 11, one of the troop members to narrate “Mirrors of the Past,” said she enjoyed helping the historical society.
“You can’t help really wondering what happened in this spot 100 years ago,” she said.
Spencer said it has been nice to see young people with such a genuine curiosity for history.
“I show a picture with a horse in it -- they want to know the name of the horse, ” Spencer said. “I know that when I do a presentation for them, I have to have all my facts right.”
In their letter to the board proposing the advisory council, the girls wrote about how they wanted to carry on the ideals of the suffragette Helen Devere in 1916, who started the Ronkonkoma Free Library, and Ann Farnum Curtis in 1976, who wrote “Three Waves: The Story of Lake Ronkonkoma” and used the proceeds to establish the historical society.
In forming the group, they are not only carrying on a legacy but also leaving one. The troop will sit on the Junior Advisory Council for two years and then the plan is for it to continue with other Girl Scouts.
The effort has earned them their Bronze Award, which they received at their bridging ceremony in June as they graduated to cadette Girl Scouts.
“We have thirteen 11-year-old girls, and they’re thinking about their iPods and the latest Katy Perry song and the fact that they’re doing this work,” Tucker said. “When you look at it, it is almost surreal.”