Rhea Wanchoo has been involved in Girl Scouts since she was in first grade.
She sold cookies, did community service and steadily rose through the ranks to become a Girl Scout Ambassador, the highest rank Girl Scouts have to offer. While her latest promotion was an honor, it came in the midst of one of the biggest challenges we have ever faced: the coronavirus pandemic.
Wanchoo, 17, and now a junior at Osbourn Park High School, didn’t let that deter her. She instead decided to use her Gold Award Project – a task given to Girl Scout Ambassadors in which they create a sustainable project within their communities – to help children combat that challenge.
Wanchoo created Germbusters, an organization that helps children understand the coronavirus crisis in a manner suitable for them. Germbusters distributed over 200 activity/coloring booklets and posters to teach children how to follow public-health guidelines. The group also distributed kid-friendly masks to primary care facilities in Prince William County.
“I wanted to … address the issue in the media of there not being enough resources for children to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wanchoo said.
Wanchoo became inspired to do this after seeing a family friend struggle with a 3-year-old who was having difficulty adapting to social distancing and mask requirements. She soon began to contact those within the health industry and conduct research in pediatric psychology – resources that helped her create the materials she distributes today.
“I contacted public health professionals, primary caregivers … and I did thorough research in pediatric psychology … in an attempt to create resources they [young children] could use effectively and that would alleviate their concerns and frustrations during the pandemic,” Wanchoo said.
Although Wanchoo started the effort, Germbusters will survive after she has graduated from Osbourn Park. The school’s Key Club is planning monthly drives to collect masks and personal protective equipment, which will then be distributed to institutions that need them.
While Germbusters was a massive undertaking, Wanchoo did not stop there. When virtual schooling began in Prince William, she noticed the lack of socialization that resulted. With the blessing of Osbourn Park’s counseling department, she started Go2Support, a program that meets twice a month and offers virtual peer-to-peer support on topics like mental health and academics, as well as a Canvas discussion board that allows students to connect with each other.
The program was initially started with freshman and sophomores in mind, as they were thrown into virtual learning with little to no in-person high school experience, but has since expanded to a community of over 2,000 students in varying grade levels.
The program has received an abundance of positive feedback, with students telling her “Go2Support has been extremely helpful for me in organizing my virtual schedule” or “Go2Support has really helped me feel close to my friends despite the social isolation of COVID-19,” Wanchoo said.
“Creating that strong bond between students and helping the underclassmen through their years of high school is a really important type of development,” Wanchoo said. “It’s something that needs to be emphasized in education even beyond the pandemic.”