Dezirae Todd went for the gold. And she got it.
At 19 years old, she is the first young lady, in 14 years, in Montezuma County to receive the Gold Award through the Girl Scouts of America. Todd was one of 74 girls across the state who earned the award last year.
She has earned every badge possible during her 14 years in the Girl Scouts. The final badge, and most prestigious award Todd could receive as a Girl Scout, was the "cherry on top of her sundae," Dezirae said.
In order to be considered for a gold award, a Girl Scout must complete two service projects, or complete one service project and receive the silver award. Todd has both her bronze and silver awards. She received her bronze award by volunteering at a church camp and her silver when she mentored middle school students. She also had an additional project under her belt, involving gardening and learning how to be self-sufficient without getting goods from a grocery store.
When considering the gold, the idea sort of hit her unexpectedly. Todd was a junior at Montezuma-Cortez High School, when she suffered a traumatic brain injury during a soccer game.
It was a normal day and a normal game. Todd was playing against Durango High School in April 2010 when she collided head-to-head with a Durango girl.
"We went to head the ball at the same time and hit our heads together instead," Todd explained.
The force of collision cracked Todd's skull, moving her brain in the process, causing a ventricular shift. This left Todd completely off kilter. She lost her sense of balance and she suffered from vertigo. The injury left her unable to stand and walk normally. She also had some memory loss and was forced to leave school for the last six weeks of her junior year and half of her senior year. She was happy that she had earned enough school credits to graduate early, so she was still able to secure her diploma.
It was her injury that led her to develop her award-winning project. As Todd was recovering, she started researching brain injuries and their effects. All the therapy she received to counteract the injury, was carefully documented as she found her way back to normalcy. It took a year before Todd felt like herself again.
She eventually was able to compile all of her findings and then she started writing a blog.
"The blog was to inform people all over of my story and have them share their stories, to encourage people with brain injuries," Todd said. "People can comment and share thoughts to motivate one another."
It took Todd four months to put her project together. Her blog attracted people from all over, including from Germany and Russia, to share their own encounters with brain injuries.
In order to be considered for the gold award, Todd had to present a proposal by interview to the Gold Award committee. The award must be obtained individually, without the help of another person. The Girl Scout must be of Senior or Ambassador rank, usually when they are in high school.
Todd was 18 when she presented her project. She received her gold award the year of her graduation from the Girl Scouts. The lingering effects of her injury has left her with headaches and some memory problems but that doesn't stop her from pursuing her goals in life. Todd credits the Girl Scouts with that discipline and determination.
"It (Girl Scouts) promotes confidence and perseverance," she said. "It gives girls the skills they need to go through life with that confidence in pursuing their goals and perseverance to get where they want."
She is now attending Colorado State University.