A Girl Scout since second grade, Sahana Vadayar’s Girl Scout experience came full circle when she reached out to Girl Scouts River Valleys (GSRV) staff about interning with them over her college summer break. “I didn't know what to expect or that it would even be a possibility, but I was surprised and very thankful that it worked out,” shared Sahana.
In line with Sahana’s career interests in computer science and business consulting, the internship centered on ensuring Girl Scouts River Valleys’ websites are accessible for all users. Sahana worked alongside the council’s web coordinator, Natalie Gove, to assess the current accessibility of the sites and develop a plan for improvement, including immediate and future updates.
“As part of our continued commitment toward diversity, equity and inclusion, we want to ensure our online resources are usable for everyone. Our websites are a primary resource for Girl Scout members,” Natalie explained as to why they chose to focus Sahana’s internship on this project.
Their initial assessment found that the sites were relatively accessible but needed fine tuning. Implementing tactics like giving links unique and descriptive names, using color with care, and including ALT tags for all images were some of the priorities the team identified for improvement. (Also called alt text, ALT tags are the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user's screen, or the invisible description of images which are read aloud to blind and low vision users on a screen reader.)
“Sahana did a lot of research on web accessibility, and once she became more comfortable using the sites’ platform tools, she took the lead in the study and building the roadmap for improvements, and she made many of the updates to the site,” Natalie said. “I really enjoyed working with Sahana. From the start I had trust in her skillset and work ethic because she was a Girl Scout.”
On how Girl Scouting prepared her for the work, Sahana replied, “Girl Scout camp! From being a camper to becoming a counselor, it really helped me. Through camp I learned how to troubleshoot and how to work with others on a goal. Camp planted the seeds for a lot of the skills I have now.”
Despite having to work together virtually due to the pandemic, Sahana and Natalie accomplished most of the work they set out to, resulting in increased accessibility on GSRV’s main website and a plan to continue the work to ensure the sites are up to accessibility standards.
“Becoming a Girl Scout staff member for the summer was a really cool growth experience for me and brought me even closer to the organization. I still use the skills I learned–from aspects of web accessibility to learning about how everything works in a workplace. Having gone through the program as a Girl Scout and then being able to see all the work and high-level thinking that went behind it was really beneficial to learn how an organization operates,” Sahana reflected.
Both Natalie and Sahana shared that the most rewarding thing about this project was the “full-circleness” of Sahana’s experience. She started Girl Scouts as a first-year Brownie, completed the program pathway, served on the GSRV Girl Leadership Board, was honored in 2020 as a Young Woman of Distinction, and as a college student came back and contributed to the mission as an intern on staff.
With the internship experience in her pocket, Sahana now feels more confident in her schoolwork and even more connected to Girl Scouts. “I hope to volunteer at day camp this summer and continue to give back to the organization.”