Caroline Ircha, a rising Bronxville High School senior and a member of the Girl Scout’s Bronxville Service Unit 726, has earned the prestigious Gold Award, the highest service and leadership honor that a Girl Scout can earn.
For her extensive Gold Award project, which required a sustainable response to an issue or cause, she chose to focus on the Coming Home Program of the Reformed Church of Bronxville to help formerly incarcerated people reenter society and rebuild their lives. It took Ircha more than 100 hours over the course of two years to complete her project, “Building Healthy Communities Through Diet and Wellness.”
“The Coming Home Program is a nurturing, supportive program that results in these individuals, upon graduation, being on their way towards rehabilitation, employment and personal healing,” Ircha said.
As part of her project, Ircha assisted in the health and nutrition of the program’s participants and their emotional rehabilitation by providing them with meals and care packages and participating in weekly meetings. She also raised awareness in her school community and prepared a guidebook to help others prepare nutritious meals on a budget.
“Health and nutrition are important to me because I am an athlete, and I am aware that people who have been incarcerated, in addition to other challenges that they are facing, like finding housing and employment, also have health struggles, and a good diet and self-care are critical,” Ircha said. “In addition, these individuals, which include both men and women, are struggling with their emotional health and they need something uplifting, and the feeling of belonging to a community, to succeed with their emotional healing.”
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ircha raised money for her project through bake sales and donations from the local community to prepare community dinners for more than 40 participants in the program. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, she was determined to continue to assist people in the program by delivering care packages to them and participating in weekly remote meetings.
“It is important for me to make a difference in my community,” she said. “I felt that I could accomplish this by showing program participants that they are not alone in their struggles and that other people care about them. In preparing and serving meals for them, I was able to share the gift of good nutrition and healthy eating.”
Ircha said the people in the program appreciated her assistance and expressed that she helped them feel a sense of hope.
“I realized that we are all in this life together, and no matter how young or old someone is, they can really make a difference in the lives of others,” she said.
Besides her involvement with the Girl Scouts, Ircha is an accomplished member of the varsity girls lacrosse team and varsity girls track and field team, and serves on the executive leadership team of her high school’s Habitat for Humanity Club. In September, she will serve as a Freshman Transition Leader to assist incoming high school freshmen adjust to high school. For the last three summers, she has interned at the Lupus Research Alliance and helped plan one of the organization’s biggest annual fundraisers. She also runs the annual Village of Bronxville Toys for Tots toy drive, which she co-founded with her older siblings – her older brother Steven, an Eagle Scout as a member of Boy Scouts Troop 5, and her older sisters Sasha and Kirsten, both Girl Scout Gold Award recipients. In addition, she and her family cook and deliver food once a month for an emergency food pantry in Westchester County.