Published August 23, 2018
MARIETTA—Mattie Riordan, a senior at Blessed Trinity High School, Roswell, completed her Girl Scout Gold Award project this summer by creating a safe outdoor space for teens of St. Ann Church, Marietta.
A member of Troop 26214 of St. Joseph School, Marietta, Riordan’s project addresses the issues of juvenile violent crime and the digital divide.
Riordan has attended seven Catholic HEART Workcamp mission trips and has completed over 400 hours of community service in commitment to the Girl Scout promise to “help people at all times.” The daughter of Tim and Lori Riordan, she has been a member of the Life Teen and EDGE programs at St. Ann Church for the past seven years.
After a 12-year commitment to Girl Scouts, Riordan completed her Gold Award project of creating a 400-square-foot outdoor cement patio area with furniture outside her parish’s Life Teen office.
“I came up with the project idea when I was at Life Teen and noticed a lot of high school teens hanging out and crowding the office where daily business was trying to be conducted,” said Riordan. “When I asked why, I was told that they had nowhere else to go and came to the church to do their homework and use the internet. It never dawned on me that some teens in my community didn’t have use of internet.”
The patio area is a place for teens to do their homework and have access to both the internet and laptops. The patio took more than two weeks and 200 hours of labor, 8.5 cubic yards of cement, eight tons of gravel and 54 feet of railing to construct.
Riordan said many donated materials or time, especially Kevin Ostheimer of Ostheimer Concrete Paving. In addition to constructing the patio, she sought donations and purchased furniture to equip the space with seating and received 10 laptops donated from Ultimate Software.
Riordan communicated about her efforts through social media and speeches at church to raise awareness about schoolchildren left behind due to a digital divide.
Her research into the subject found that more than 60 million urban Americans don’t have internet access. This means many school-age children aren’t able to connect with teachers, access assignments or complete homework. Approximately 70 percent of teachers assign homework that requires use of the internet. A lack of reliable, high-speed internet, as well as the inability to afford technology or updates has created a divide between those who have technology access and those who don’t.
“My research also discovered that most juvenile violent crimes occur between the hours of 3-7 p.m. because many high school teens are left alone and without supervision,” shared Riordan. “While after-school programs provide a safe place for some teens, those that don’t play sports or attend after school programs are left without a safe place and become at-risk for committing crime or dropping out of high school. By creating a safe meeting place, a better sense of community is established helping teens stay in school longer.”
Riordan’s goal is to share what she has done with other churches and schools so they might provide similar areas for student use.
The Gold Award is the highest rank within Girl Scouts; less than five percent of all Scouts achieve the distinction.