Media is a passion for Division Avenue High School senior Nicolette Kenney. So much so that it was the basis and inspiration for the Girl Scout Gold Award she recently earned. The highest achievement a Girl Scout can receive, the Gold Award goes to Scouts who tackle issues they are passionate about and then works towards enacting a change in their community and beyond. For the Levittown native, it’s about ensuring future women are better represented in the male-dominated media industry. A Girl Scout since first grade, Kenney didn’t realize the gender imbalance until she enrolled in a sports journalism for teens program at Hofstra University.
“At Hofstra, we learned about radio, TV and all different aspects of the media, how to conduct our own shows and what really goes on behind the scenes,” she said. “Through going to those classes, I ended up learning women are really underrepresented in the media industry.”
Kenney’s passion for media started when she joined Division Avenue High School’s broadcasting club as a freshman. From here, she joined the sports journalism and broadcasting certification program at Hofstra. In looking for a topic to tackle for her Gold Award, helping other young girls get a foothold in the media industry became the cause Kenney threw her efforts behind. For the Gold Award Project, Kenney came up with a program she called “The Low Down,” a nod to Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low. Just as Kenney was going forward with her project, the pandemic struck, forcing her to adapt a virtual approach.
“Once quarantine hit, it was very hard to get the word out to people and have them involved,” she said. “I tried to make everything online and that’s where my Google Classroom idea came about. Normally, I’d have in-person sessions and open houses. But it was hard to get the word out to a lot of people and build a team for myself because the world was essentially shut down.”
Kenney started out by conducting a survey which garnered more than 100 anonymous responses from girls regarding media and female representation. She learned that 72 percent of these people, regardless of age or race, felt there is not enough diversity in the media. Kenney then created a Google Classroom for young girls to access which served as a hub for her program. She conducted Low Down sessions over Google Meet, where she spoke with girls virtually about females in the media and the importance of representing female voices. In addition, Kenney educated the girls on various types of media, taught them how to produce their own segments and provided professional tips and tricks. She also helped them practice their public speaking skills and more to help build self-confidence. The Google Classroom page holds three lesson plans with the necessary resources Kenney created to allow anyone to recreate the Low Down sessions with their own groups. Ten girls wound up completing the entire program, earning certificates of completion and having their project results posted on the site. Kenney hopes her Low Down program inspires girls to find their own voices and explore a future in media.
“I wanted to help empower young girls and teach them that they can use their voices to speak out about things that are important to them through media,” Kenney said.