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Girl Spotlight: Gold Award Girl Scout, Joanna M.

Meet 18-year-old Gold Award Girl Scout, Joanna M. The Sunny Isles Beach native and a Senior at MAST@FIU Biscayne Bay Campus launched a PSA titled “Lookin’ Good, Staying Safe”. The initiative addresses improper eye protection and the dangers of excessive exposure to UV light, an issue that impacts people throughout South Florida.

The factually based project was launched in partnership with Oleta River State Park and is supported by the city of Sunny Isles. The multifaceted campaign including the development of a comprehensive branding package, including:

· Social media presence

· A dedicated website

· Creating virtual informational sessions via Zoom

· Promotional collateral including flyers, sunglasses and t-shirts.

These assets were leveraged to further drive awareness throughout the community. While Joanna’s project may be complete, the initiative will live on through Sunny Isle’s commitment to continuing to promoting the importance of using sunglasses not as an accessory but a necessity of everyday life, throughout the city.

Describe your project?

My project, "Lookin' Good, Staying Safe", is all about teaching people how important it is to protect your eyes from the sun to prevent cancers and other ailments. I hosted a number of informational booths at Oleta River State Park where I distributed complimentary sunglasses and educated people on the importance of wearing them to protect their eyes. Oleta allowed me to put up signage which I designed that further spread education on the topic. I also set up a Zoom meeting with an Ophthalmologist where she taught the attendees what could happen to your eyes if you don't properly protect them from the sun.

How is your project sustainable?

Oleta River State Park has allowed me to keep signage up at the park to continue educating park-goers even when my Gold Award finishes. These posters have a QR code that links to my website, social handles, and educational videos related to the subject.

What gave you the inspiration to approach this topic the way that you did?

I've been volunteering with Oleta River State Park for years, so it seemed only natural to partner with the park staff on this project.

Why is this project important to you, personally?

After doing an internship at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in the summer of 2019, I realized just how prevalent sun-damage is in the eyes. Living in a beach town, my neighbors and I are constantly exposed to the sun so I thought it was vital to educate those around me about what I learned at this internship. Your eyes are what help you see everything around you so it's important to protect them and keep them healthy, and wearing your sunglasses is an easy and stylish way to do that.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame and how?

My biggest challenge was definitely during the outreach stage of my project at the very beginning. Contacting city officials and professionals to help with my project was no small feat, but I managed to find several people willing to help me after enough outreach.

How does this project contribute to your goals for the future?

In the future I'm interested in pursuing biological research, and through the field of ophthalmology I was able to learn a lot of science behind cancers and how UV rays actually damage your cells.

What did you learn about your community in this process?

I learned that unfortunately not enough people protect their eyes from the sun when they go out. Cancers in the eye and other ailments aren't talked about very much despite how prevalent they are.

What did you learn about YOURSELF?

I learned that when I'm passionate about educating others I won't let anything stop me, including my own shyness.

What college will you be attending?

I will be attending the University of Florida and will be majoring in Biology with a minor in Graphic Design.

“Girl Scouts has made me a well-rounded and determined person, and has allowed me to explore my passions and stand up for what I believe in.”