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Teen Scene

By Lori Draz and Cameron D’Mello

Welcome to Teen Scene. Each month, our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s Teen Scene author is 17-year-old Cameron D’Mello, of Holmdel. She is a senior at Biotechnology High School and a lifetime Girl Scout. This month, The Journal focuses on improving our living spaces to create personal oases of joy and tranquility. While Cameron is not a homeowner, she is a stakeholder in her community, church, and the Scouts. When she noticed a need, she rolled up her sleeves to complete her Girl Scout project, “War Veteran Memorial at St. Catharine’s Church.” The lessons were many, and the rewards are tremendous. Here is Cameron’s story.                                                                                              

When I was younger, one of my favorite things to do was garden with my mom. We always shared a passion for plants. Our house was close to a jungle, filled with all types of plants, and I absolutely loved helping her take care of it all and watching something new and beautiful grow.

In my church community, St. Catharine’s Church, I learned that many of the patrons were war veterans. I began talking to some of them and their families, and I soon realized that the church had no area where people could pay their respects or pray for the many veterans who worked at and attended our church. I knew they deserved recognition, so I decided to take action through my Girl Scouts Gold Award project. This project is the highest-ranking one you can work on, and I just knew that dedicating my project to acknowledging and honoring the many people who have risked their lives for our safety would be a project I could be proud of. 

I have been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, and I am grateful that I joined a program that values helping others so much. It allows young girls to make difference even from a young age. Now I’m older, and I still love gardening, so I decided to combine my passions for gardening and Girl Scouts to construct a war veteran memorial with a commemorative plaque on the grounds. I picked a spot by a pre-existing flagpole where I would design and build a tranquil space for contemplation. As anyone who has started a home improvement project knows, planning is key, and I spent many hours in preparation before even breaking ground. 

I first found an advisor, Mr. Carmine. My advisor is a professional gardener, who helped me work on the technical issues like how I wanted it to look, choosing the various types of flower, and all the measuring needed to get a diagram approved. I considered what plants would flourish in the environment and withstand our elements before selecting a mixture of chrysanthemums, roses, crepe myrtles, and boxwoods. 

Then I began discussing my project with multiple garden centers and was able to work out various deals and donations for all of my materials. These donations included more than 20 different flowers, bags of soil and fertilizer. Thanks to my Mom’s training and her green thumb, I was able to use many of the tools we already owned. I was also fortunate to have a plaque-making company generously donate and install the plaque on the grounds. 

Next, I reached out to my fellow Girl Scouts who were enthusiastic about gardening. They happily volunteered with the actual planting and creation of the memorial. Together, we spent two days ripping out the pre-existing grass and working hard to plant everything. The end result was a gorgeous garden and a calm, peaceful area for patrons or passersby to pray or meditate in this lovely, designated place. 

Once it was finally completed, I was able to talk after some of the sermons, discussing the importance of remembering veterans of the past and present and understanding their sacrifices. I am really glad I had this opportunity to help brighten the days of veterans and their families and bring recognition to the topic. 

I received some impactful messages after the project was completed, in particular, one from a war veteran. He said the joy he got from being recognized was one of the best parts of the whole project for me. It was also a really great feeling to drive by the area and see people actively using it; it was no longer just an obscure flag pole but a proper place of commemoration. 

The project had a few setbacks initially, such as timing, weather and figuring out how to get the supplies; plus it was the first project I ever led. In the end, I feel I learned so much about being committed and seeing something through to the end. I also learned leadership and management by directing the volunteers. A garden also teaches you patience and loyalty; I know because of the hours I spent making sure all the plants were growing correctly. I had to learn problem-solving and marketing communications to get all the vendors to participate. 

I believe that if there’s a project you’re passionate about, you should always go for it. There will be obstacles. There will be hours of planning and hard work. Things will go wrong, but when you stay committed, you can do almost anything. Putting together a terrific team of other passionate people really helps and makes it more fun too. It was amazing to see how many people in the community, even ones I didn’t know personally, supported my project and gave donations or words of encouragement. The support really meant a lot in keeping me motivated to continue forward. I firmly think you can do anything you are passionate about when you put your mind to it. 

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