It began with curiosity. Diane Barber had heard rumors of Forsyth County’s past, but she wanted to learn the facts.
“I was not from around here, so I wanted to know what Forsyth has gone through to make it what it is today,” said Barber, a senior at South Forsyth High School.
She became so interested in the county’s history, Barber decided to make it her project for the Girl Scout Gold Award.
“I’ve always liked history and so I wanted to do something to help kids my age and younger understand what Forsyth County has gone through,” she said.
Barber began researching. She joined the Forsyth County Historical Society.
As her research grew, she decided to create a Web site to combine Forsyth’s history with the state’s, so teachers could incorporate it in their Georgia studies.
Though Gold Award requirements list 60 hours of work, Barber logged nearly 140 hours.
“I didn’t want it just to pass the test. I wanted it to actually help and I kind of expected my Web site to be a certain way and I was determined to make it that way, even if it took the extra time,” she said.
Only about 5 percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award each year. But having been a Scout for about 13 years, Barber wasn’t going to finish without it.
“It helped that my mom is the troop leader,” she said. “I’ve been with the same group of girls in my troop and we’ve become really good friends. I love the cause of helping the community and building leadership skills.”
Earning a Gold Award is goal six other members of the troop have pursued. Three have received the honor and the others are on track.
Julie McLendon, Barber’s mother, said the Girl Scouts organization was so impressed with her daughter’s project it gave her a $5,000 scholarship.
“They have different levels. Most are between $500 and $1,000,” she said. “She literally went combing through graveyards looking for the people whose information she put on the Web site because she wanted to make it very real.
“She married Georgia history standards with Forsyth County history and put together this Web site that she’s made available to [teachers].”
Barber said the scholarship will help cover some of her tuition at Florida State University, where she plans to study history with a minor in museum studies. She hopes to have a career as a museum curator.
“Instead of going to the beach for spring break, we’d go to historic houses in Savannah, or go to Williamsburg, [Va.,]” she said. “I’ve ended up loving and enjoying it and deciding that’s what I want to do.”