The Inspiring Young Woman Sounding the Suffering of Black Youth
Madison of Girl Scouts Greater NY isn’t afraid of a challenge. She’s made it her mission to research, identify, and solve issues in her own community. Her investigative and solution-based skills helped her tap into a passion for journalism, and now she’s the editor-in-chief of Gen Z’s Voices — an Instagram teen magazine. As a Girl Scout, she also went on to earn the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve (the Gold Award), and she has been recognized by the Girl Scouts of Greater New York as the 2021 Future Woman of Distinction.
With all these incredible achievements, you might assume Madison is well into adulthood — but she hasn’t even graduated high school yet.
Finding the Power of Her Voice
Madison began her Girl Scout journey as a Brownie, attending local meetings in the basement of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. As a young Black girl, she especially loved connecting with other girls in her community and learning about cultures, public service projects, and civic responsibility. “Girl Scouts not only opened my eyes to the world, but allowed me to understand the power of my voice and what I can do as a young woman,” she tells CircleAround.
While attending the Girl Scouts of Greater New York Leadership Institute, Madison learned about the rising suicide rate amongst African American adolescents and the startling trend in suicide among Black children. “I found the causes of it, how it can be prevented, and what I can do to stop it,” she explains.
Mental Health Awareness for Black Youth
Driven to tackle this issue and bring awareness to it, Madison decided to center her Gold Award project on mental health among Black youth. She wrote articles for the New York Beacon on the topic, including An Ode to the Neglected Young Black Girl and The Suffering of the Silenced. She also created the Afro Caribbean student association at her high school, which she managed to keep active during the pandemic.
As part of her Gold Award project, Madison developed presentations on topics most important to her peers, from body image to how to survive pandemic racial injustice to how to adapt to remote learning. “Low-income and minority communities were hit the hardest. I needed to create a safe space within my school for these topics to be discussed,” she says.
The largest component of Madison’s Gold Award project was putting on a virtual community seminar, which was no easy task. She reached out to politicians who could speak about mental health in her community, such as Nathan Sherfinski, a representative of a Brooklyn borough president. She also featured Audrey Sealey, a nurse practitioner who spoke to parents and teenagers about anxiety and depression.
Much Needed Conversations Began
“It was an essential part of my Gold Award project because it was for all ages,” Madison tells CircleAround. “We had older women on the call from my church, who spoke about how they would often stigmatize mental health, but they've learned the importance of taking a deep breath and even how their mental health was impacted from keeping things inside.
“I had teenagers, my friends who spoke about how their own mental health was shattering because of the pandemic, and how they wish adults could actually understand what they're going through. I had parents who have been trying to understand what their teenagers are going through. ... My seminar allowed for a much-needed conversation to take place.”
More Work To Be Accomplished
Madison hopes to attend Columbia University and continues to combine her passions with the advocacy for others she’s built up. “Last year I dedicated about six months of my life to creating a documentary on Black adolescent health,” she explains. “Even after I earned my Gold Award, I knew there was still work to be done on this issue.”
The Bottom Line
As we celebrate the 110th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts, Madison feels extremely privileged to be part of this legacy. “We've had so many women who fought for us girls to even have a safe space,” she tells CircleAround. “And for us to have the courage, to congregate and share our thoughts, opinions, failings and more, and be recognized as actual equals to the Boy Scouts.” She adds, “I'm absolutely optimistic. I can't wait to see the next generation of girls who will change the world with their voices, with their actions, and take the world by storm.”
Read more about the trailblazing women who dared to make changes in their communities.