Sunday Conversation with Melissa Malena

Girl Scout troop earns more than badges with self-defense videos

To watch the self-defense videos of Senior Girl Scout Troop 1130 in Gwinnett County go to

Yes, Senior Girl Scout Troop 1130 in Gwinnett County does sell cookies. But this tight-knit group of 9th graders — some together since their Daisy days — does so much more. They’ve volunteered at the Georgia SPCA, made fleece blankets and decorated Christmas trees for children in the hospital, collected stuffed animals for Gwinnett firefighters to give children at the scene of emergencies. Most recently, the troop made a series of short videos posted on YouTube and other social media showing girls and women simple defense techniques to fight off a sexual assault. Senior Girl Scout Melissa Malena is an instructor in the videos, all of which end with the same message: Don’t be a victim. Fight. Run. Scream.

Q: How long have you been a Girl Scout and what do you like about it?

A: I have been a Girl Scout since kindergarten. I get to work with my friends to accomplish goals that we set for ourselves about topics that really matter to us. We get to choose what we want to do and I just think it is really cool to make an impact.

Q: Sexual assault is obviously a very serious topic. Why did your troop decide to focus on it?

A: Sexual assault is a topic that a lot of people don't like to talk about. It is a hush-hush kind of thing but it still affects so many people. The girls in the troop have felt scared in certain situations, though thank God nothing has ever happened to any of us.

Q: What are you trying to accomplish with your videos?

A: We are trying to give people who find themselves in a bad situation tools to protect themselves. The self-defense moves are easy to learn. We don't want girls and women to feel completely helpless.

Q: How did you divvy up the tasks?

A: We all tried to do an equal amount of work. Edie Garner is amazing at technology and worked on editing the videos and creating the YouTube channels. Amelia Stefanie is very creative and designed and distributed a flyer. Marisol Fernandez is a great writer and wrote the script. Janet Meador was the "victim" in one of the videos and Kathryn Slavny was instrumental in our social media presence. Sophia Allen and I compiled the moves and were the instructors.

Q: How did you two decide which moves to feature?

A: Sophia is a black belt and I'm a brown belt in Tae Kwon Do. We compiled moves that our different instructors have taught us that we have found effective and easy to teach through video. We can never guarantee that the techniques will work but doing anything is better doing nothing.

Q: Your troop did these videos to earn your Girltopia Journey and Visionary awards? What are those and did you succeed?

A: The Girltopia Journey Award is based on a project focusing on an issue that relates to girls and women. A Visionary Award is earned if you really make an impact. And yes, we earned both of those.

Q: What’s next for your troop?

A: We are now working on our Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn. It involves a long project that each of us will do separately. One of the girls wants to focus on the LGBT community and another wants to teach basketball to children with disabilities. I love dance — ballet, modern, jazz, basically everything under the sun. I want to somehow share that love with sick children in the hospital.