Local Girl Scout Recognized for Music Mission

Aug 22, 2018
Courtesy of: Joan Marie Esposito Laura Esposito, Girl Scout Gold Award recipient.

The Gold Award is one of the most prestigious honors a Girl Scout can receive. The concept of the award dates all the way back to 1916 and though the title of the accolade has changed throughout history, the intent of its bestowal has remained the same. The Gold Award seeks to recognize ambitious, young Girl Scouts who actively use their talents to make differences within their communities. This year, Stafford Township was lucky enough to have one such scout in its midst, 18-year-old Laura Esposito.

Esposito was honored Tuesday, Aug. 14 at the Stafford Township Council meeting, where she received a mayoral proclamation recognizing her latest achievement. The Manahawkin resident received the Gold Award for her 80-hour, three-year-long project titled “Youth Music Mission,” which aimed to expose kids to the benefits of music.

“Music is proven to improve your self-esteem, confidence and your connection to your community,” said Esposito, who joined the scouting organization when she was just 5 years old.

The Southern Regional High School graduate plays four instruments: violin, ukulele, guitar and piano. “Music was my thing. I always felt that it was unfair that the athletic programs had more attention than things like the music programs.

“The problem I saw in our community was that there wasn’t as much appreciation for music as there was for sports,” she said.

Esposito cites the inspiration for her project all the way back to adolescence, when her elementary school, in a string of budget cuts, almost eliminated the music program. A dismayed, precocious third-grader then, she wrote a letter to none other than the president of the United States himself. The letter notified former President Barack Obama of the situation at hand and urged action. A few months later, she received an official letter from the White House.

“He talked to me in the letter about how music is proven to help out kids’ self-esteem and establish connections with them, especially if they’re having a tough time. Music honestly is the universal language. So I took that with me for years,” she said. Around five years later, in 2014, Esposito got to work in making music a community priority.

Among her many initiatives in the “Youth Music Mission” project, Esposito organized and volunteered at local community events, visited elementary schools, volunteered and played music at the Stafford summer camps and created a website that informed the community about upcoming musical happenings. The Girl Scout would teach students how to play the guitar and would conduct sing-alongs, performing anything from Disney songs to Katy Perry. Eventually, Esposito was dubbed “Laura the Singing Lady” by the elementary school students she entertained.

“I basically just met with younger kids and established a musical connection with them. My goal was to get younger kids involved in musical programs because I don’t think there’s a lot of them in Stafford Township,” said Esposito.

“It actually went a lot better than I expected. I really didn’t expect kids to be that gung-ho about it, but it turned out to be really successful. I remember a few kids even went home and asked their parents for lessons,” she said.

She hopes her efforts will inspire other young women to step forth and prompt change within their own communities.

“I really felt like I inspired a lot of people. It was really satisfactory for me,” said Esposito, on receiving the high honor. “It was nice to be acknowledged.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award is given to less than 6 percent of high school-aged scouts every year. It challenges participants to tackle issues they feel passionate about and compels them to examine their community on a deeper, more holistic level. Young scouts are asked to reflect on their communities and find something worth changing so that one day, they can make similar strides in the world at large. The nature of this honor pushes and encourages young women to reach beyond the expectations that society has set for them. For Esposito, this was a difficult but highly fulfilling feat.

“It was really satisfying. It’s a really hard thing to do. It meant a lot for me that I made a difference. I had an impact on my community in some sort of way and when I leave for college in two weeks, I know that I’m leaving the place that I love and lived in a little bit better than how I found it.”

The Southern Regional High School graduate is attending Rutgers University this fall where she will pursue a degree in journalism and a minor in creative writing. Though she will continue her musical endeavors, she wishes to change creative tracks, trading in her mic for a pen in the hopes that her words will effect just as much change as her music.

For more information on Esposito’s project, visit her website at youthmusicmission.weebly.com.

— Sarah Hodgson


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