MARION -- In a year of disappointments, Victoria Shore was determined that the COVID-19 pandemic would not stop her from achieving her dreams of "gold."
That "gold," though, is a mark of excellence on a journey that the Marion High School senior began in the sixth grade.
With the successful conclusion of her "Lead Like A Girl" summit held in Marion over the weekend, Shore became one of the elite few to earn the Girl Scout's highest honor, the Gold Award.
"It's very exciting," said Shore's mom, Elizabeth. "I am so proud and happy for her!"
The award, which is equivalent to the Boy Scout Eagle Award, is one that only about 6 percent of scouts earn.
With the addition of this latest award, Shore will also be able to display the "Trifecta" on her sash, as she has already earned her Bronze and Silver awards.
Like her sister Gold Award winners, Shore will now be eligible for college scholarships.
"If I would ever enter the military I would do so at a higher rank," she said. "There are lots of opportunities for girls just because they've earned the Gold Award."
For her project, Shore decided to hold a leadership summit in Marion for area girls.
"I knew I wanted to do female empowerment," said Shore. "I went to one in Missouri, but when I searched for one near home, I found nothing."
So Shore began planning one that would take place over a weekend and provide opportunities for young women to meet and hear from female leaders in the region.
"Bringing an event like this to southern Illinois was the perfect opportunity to accomplish my dream of the Gold Award."
She worked hours planning the event that would have taken place in June.
Then, COVID-19 shut down everything.
"The Girl Scouts canceled all events in June and July," said Elizabeth.
When the events were reopened in August, it was still very limited, but September brought a few more freedoms, allowing Shore to adjust the schedule and hold the event with limited capacity, social distancing, and even offering the sessions via Facebook Live.
"It was definitely frustrating," said Shore, "but it made me re-evaluate different parts of the events."
She also had to deal with new protocols and schedule new speakers.
One of those speakers was Laura Chairez, the owner of La Galeria Mexican Cuisine and Creamery in Marion.
Chairez hosted one of the sessions at her business, talking to the girls about her business and encouraging them to dream.
"Either you jump and fall or you jump and grow wings to keep on going," she told the dozen girls in the group. "Your mind is the only thing to keep you from achieving your goals."
Chairez also told the girls how proud she is of Shore for her determination in holding the summit despite the setbacks and hurdles resulting from the pandemic.
"It was a lot more work than I anticipated, but I wasn't going to let it stop me," said Shore, adding that she was happy with the outcome.
That outcome included not only the dozen girls who attended in person, but also around 4,000 hits on virtual videos on Facebook.
She also noted there were "extremely impressive women that came through and helped" her to achieve her goals.
"There are no downsides to this," said Shore. "I have a sense of accomplishment and pride in myself that is totally worth the work, plus I'm leaving an impact on my community and the girls."