Miami Palmetto High School incoming senior Kelly Culhane has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award – the equivalent to the Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouting. Her project impressed the Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida enough that they named her as one of three nominees for the National Young Women of Distinction Award. The award winners will be announced this summer.
Culhane’s project is called Hearing Loss in Teens: An Alarming Trend.
“One in five teens in the U.S. will have Noise Induced Hearing Loss, or NIHL, by the age of 19,” she says. “It’s progressive, painless and permanent – but also entirely preventable.”
She’s spent the past three years working to raise awareness about the problem. She’s been working with the Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation on spreading the word.
“They focus on raising awareness about noise-related hearing damage due to unsafe use of personal audio devices and exposure to damaging levels of sound,” she says. “One important aspect of the Foundation is their Protect-a-Band Program.”
The Program trains music teachers and band directors about the dangers of hearing loss and how to protect their hearing. The teachers go back to their schools to teach their students. Then the Foundation provides the students with free high quality filtered ear plugs.
“This was the first part of the project,” she says. “I brought this to Palmetto’s music program, including the jazz, symphonic and marching bands.”
After her own training she became an Ambassador for the Foundation and is now training others.
“I taught the fourth-grade music students at Palmetto Elementary about NIHL,” she says. “Music students are especially at risk.”
Her project had multiple components. Training music students and teachers is one. Another component was the creation of six videos for the Foundation.
“In addition to the main 13-minute training video, I conducted four interviews, two of which were interviews with audiologists, and two were music teacher interviews about the Protect-a-Band Program,” she says. “The final video was a funny PSA-type video that highlighted the issue of hearing loss in young people.”
The videos are available on the Foundation’s website and YouTube.
One of the reasons she’s interested in this topic is because she is the vocalist for the Palmetto Jazz Band and has been involved with music since pre-school.
“The former music director at Palmetto, Kennan Torgerson, was inspired to make a presentation on this topic at the statewide Florida Music Educators Association Conference,” she says. “I assisted with that presentation in 2017.”
She created the official poster and brochure for the Foundation and sent them to 50 pediatrician’s offices and children’s hospitals statewide.
In May, Culhane was featured on WPBT’s program Your South Florida. Earlier this summer, she spent three days training Miami Dade County Public School teachers in the Foundation’s Dangerous Decibels curriculum in a summer academy for teachers seeking certifications.
For the past three years she has won the Palmetto PTSA Community Service Award. This past year, Culhane was the vice president of Inductions for the National Honor Society and was a member of the Science National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta.
“I competed in the math competitions this year, something I really enjoyed,” she says.
In college, she’s considering a degree in neuroscience, biochemistry or mathematics.
“I’ve always been interested in the medical field,” she says. “I’m leaning toward an interest in Neurosurgery or Neurology. I find the brain fascinating.”
She’s considering attending the University of Florida, Davidson College, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld