Her project is called Books for a Better World.
Vedika Shah, a junior at Prairie Ridge and a Girl Scout since third grade, has successfully completed her Gold Award, one of the highest honors and most difficult awards to achieve as a Scout.
Vedika is ecstatic about finishing her gold award with a project that identifies a problem in the community and solves it. In a predominantly homogenous community, finding a sense of belonging and representation is no easy feat. Vedika’s project is all about introducing resources for a diverse and inclusive education.
“Growing up as a minority in a predominantly homogenous community, I felt like parts of my identity were not represented.”
She hopes children will read to gain empathy, to practice kindness and respect towards all cultures.
“This project aims to address the issue of a lack of accessibility to resources and outlets for young students to educate themselves and engage in conversations involving diversity and inclusion.”
This is important to Vedika because, growing up, she felt like parts of her culture were heavily underrepresented in the media and conversations about culture and kindness and identity, all crucial to child development, were missing from the classroom.
She wants children to feel included and feels like her project is raising awareness. It opens the door for students to ask respectful questions about different cultures and for teachers to incorporate everyone’s story in the classroom.
Vedika made an Amazon wishlist with books that were considered age appropriate and educational and within the week, every single book she requested was bought by members of the community.
She met with teachers of the Prairie Ridge and Cary-Grove preschool labs and the Prairie Grove elementary school librarian. She asked if she could give them a set of books with diverse protagonists and important topics such as the importance of hair in the Black community, the importance of environmental consciousness, and the celebration of culture through food and holiday traditions.
She also created resource sheets with supplementary activities and questions to go along with the books and the topics to make these experiences more interactive.
Finally, Vedika launched her website which provides an introductory video and a more in-depth description of all the resources included.
This project, however, is not intended to end in the classroom. Vedika hopes that reading and education about different cultures will be normalized and kindness will be enforced not only in the classroom, but throughout the community.
“These kids will build essential interpersonal skills now and be able to apply it to their relationships, their decision making, their careers, and even themselves.”
By introducing this project, Vedika has successfully introduced resources and outlets for young individuals to learn about a myriad of cultures and have every child represented.
“This project is for all of us.”