Riversider Bryce Pacourek’s capstone Girl Scout project was creating a career podcast to empower girls. | Jackie Pisano

Ever since first grade at Central Elementary School, Bryce Pacourek has been a member of Riverside Girl Scout Troop 51401 where she’s made lifelong friendships and embraced principles of good citizenship.

Whether through volunteering, learning about nature at Midwestern campsites or soaking in history lessons on a trip to London, Pacourek has spent the last 11 years enjoying the variety of experiences Girl Scouts offer. 

Now in the second half of her senior year at Riverside-Brookfield High School, Pacourek is checking off one of the final items on her adolescent bucket list, completing the Girl Scout Gold Award.

The highest Girl Scouts achievement, the Gold Award can be pursued by a high schooler who has completed her Silver Award, submitted a project proposal to her local Girl Scout council and logged at least 80 hours of work identifying a community need, created a project plan of action, gathered feedback from Girl Scout leadership and launched a project to inspire and educate others. 

Pacourek, who previously completed her Bronze and Silver awards, said earning those accolades proved she had what it took to tackle the highest scouting award. Two years ago, as Pacourek brainstormed Gold Award ideas, she landed on creating a podcast for girls featuring local women from a wide range of professions, speaking about the ins and outs of their careers and the motivations behind their career decisions. 

Bryce Pacourek | Jackie Pisano

“I’d had this idea for a resource I felt like our community was lacking, especially from personally struggling with deciding what kind of job I wanted to do in the future,” she said. “I figured this would be a very beneficial project.”

Creating the podcast, Pacourek said, could be her way of giving back to girls in her community by developing a career resource for girls and providing a place where they could learn about and explore a variety of career paths, regardless of gender norms that often accompany certain jobs and college majors. 

“I think girls may limit their career options since they may not have an understanding or awareness of various paths,” she said. “They may also be discouraged to try something due to fear of the unknown.”

“Women in the Workplace,” Pacourek’s podcast, consists of 24 episodes, featuring Riverside and Brookfield women who work in fields including technology, medicine, sustainability, engineering and education. 

“I sat down with them and asked them a range of questions, including recommended high school courses, educational requirements, day-to-day activities and pros and cons of their careers, just to get a variety of information that would be beneficial,” Pacourek said. 

With episodes ranging from six minutes to 28 minutes in length, Pacourek says her podcast can serve as a vital resource for girls who don’t have an adult female mentor in their field of choice. 

“I hope local girls can take this resource and realize how many career options are out there,” she said. “There’s so many careers that we just don’t know about and that women specifically might be afraid to learn more about or pursue. I hope women in the future step out of their comfort zones and step into careers that may be more male-dominated.”

Pacourek’s project not only taught her about the basics of interviewing, but proved to be a crash course in digital recording and editing. She recorded interviews via Anchor, Spotify’s podcast recording platform. Prior to this project, she had never taken a podcasting or broadcasting course.

“It was kind of challenging to learn how to use all the platforms and different editing softwares,” she said. 

Not only did the project teach Pacourek about podcasting and introduce her to women’s stories, it also helped her solidify her post-high school plans. 

A three-sport athlete at RBHS — she competes in cross country, basketball and track — next fall Pacourek is headed to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, to run cross country and track and study exercise science.

“I interviewed a woman in our community who is a physical therapist, and it helped me realize that it’s one of my interests and that I really enjoy that aspect of medicine and helping treat people,” she said.

Having now put the final touches on her project, Pacourek will receive her Gold Award at a ceremony hosted by the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana in June. 

As she nears the end of her time in Girl Scouts, Pacourek also hopes local girls can see that the organization is still as relevant as ever.

“I feel like Girl Scouts is a great way to meet new people and create a friend group,” she said. “There’s sort of a stigma that Girl Scouts is all about badges and building campfires, but you learn a lot more than that. You gain a lot of public speaking skills and get to do cool experiences like traveling and meeting people.”

To listen to “Women in the Workplace,” visit spoti.fi/3Jy7JTu