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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the first time ever, a teenager from Miami wins the national “Girl Scouts Gold Award”. She is one of just *ten* girls across the country to get the award this year.
The Girl Scouts chose Kelly Culhane because of her longtime efforts spreading the word about children losing their hearing due to loud noises.
“I’ve always been in music,” says the 17-year old Miami Palmetto Senior High. “I’m the vocalist for the jazz band at my high school.”
She has also been a Girl Scout most of her life, since age five. Culhane is very busy these days. A few years ago at age 14 she first reached out to the “Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation” in Miami.
“Three years ago I was listening to NPR with my mom and I heard an interview with Adele Sandberg which is the founder of the Ear Piece Save Your Hearing Foundation.”
Adele Sandberg is also a retired Miami-Dade County teacher, long concerned about what Culhane now says is an epidemic.
“Since I had been in music since I was in preschool, I wanted to know more,” says Culhane.
“I learned that one in five teens in the U.S. has noise-induced hearing loss by the age of 19. And 45% of music students have hearing loss by the age of 25.”
And it’s those statistics that inspired the teen to call the Foundation and get straight to work.
“With them, I focused on raising awareness about noise-induced hearing loss in teens and young adults,” she explains. “Noise-induced hearing loss is hearing loss caused by exposure to damaging levels of sound through use of personal audio devices and at noisy entertainment venues.”
Now Culhane travels with her mentor and Executive Director of the Ear Peace Hearing Foundation, training hundreds of teachers across Miami-Dade.
On this day in October, a teacher work-day, the two joined a class full of teachers at Kendale Elementary.
“I’d like to introduce you to Kelly Culhane,” Executive Director Sherilyn Adler said to the teachers. “She is a foundation ambassador. And she is also a National Gold Award Girl Scout. We’re here today to speak to you about noise-induced hearing loss and how to protect our children from the epidemic.
Among other things keeping Culhane busy these last four years, she created six educational videos.
“I taught music students about this type of hearing loss at a local elementary school. I created an educational brochure and poster.”
All before age she’s even entered college.
“She came to us very young. She was 14 when she first approached us. But she was very interested in the topic. And very motivated and just did an incredible job,” Adler points out. “The first thing we did was trained her to understand the problem. So she went through the same training we do with the teachers.”
Because of her tireless efforts, the Girl Scouts awarded Culhane its National Gold Award. She is one of just 10 girls in the U.S. and the first and *only* one here in South Florida.
The National Gold Award includes a $20,000 scholarship, training to polish her public speaking and a one-year commitment for speaking engagements across the country.
“Girl Scouts has always encouraged to just become leaders and step out of our comfort zone. That’s really helped me,” Culhane says about the organization she’s been part of so long.
“We are so proud of Kelly. We feel like she grew up with us,” says Culhane’s mentor, Adler. “She really took on a big endeavor and she stuck with it. And she’s gone above and beyond. ”
“I hesitate to say this was just like a project because she’s put in so many hours. Hundreds of hours,” Culhane adds humbly about her mentor. “And I think one of the best things about is that she and the foundation put a lot of trust in me, when I didn’t see as much of it, you know I didn’t have that confidence to begin with when I was 14.”
While Culhane plans to continue her music studies and her work with the Foundation throughout college, she says eventually she plans to go to medical school.