A leader on and off the court, Plainfield East’s Maddie Cyranek earns top Girl Scouts honor

Senior does not let limited playing time stop her from leading Bengals girls basketball team

Maddie Cyranek

Having been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, Plainfield East’s Maddie Cyranek considered it an important part of her life.

Important enough for Cyranek to make time for the Scouts while managing a busy schedule as a golfer and girls basketball player for the Bengals.

Cyranek was able to bring her love of Girl Scouts and her desire to make a difference at Plainfield East together when she formed the Women’s Empowerment and Equity Club at the school, which earned her the Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ top honor.

“I’ve been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, and it’s always been something that’s really special to me. It’s taught me about being there for others and being able to inspire others.”

—  Maddie Cyranek, Girl Scout and Plainfield East athlete

“It was unbelievable,” Cyranek said. “I’ve been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, and it’s always been something that’s really special to me. It’s taught me about being there for others and being able to inspire others.”

To earn the Gold Award, a scout must devote 80 hours of work into a project that is sustainable. Cyranek wanted to do something for the girls at her school.

“You have to identity an issue in your community, and I felt like women don’t get enough recognition at the school for the amazing things we’re doing,” Cyranek said. “So, I started the club to get a kickstart on that and help women get more recognition at Plainfield East.

“It’s been such a joy to watch the club grow, to hear women’s voices and to have a place where people feel they can speak openly.”

The club will go on after Cyranek’s graduation, meaning she has indeed created something sustainable at Plainfield East.

“Once I graduate from high school, there will be a new president who takes over the club,” Cyranek said. “It’s so exciting to know that I made a change at Plainfield East, and a change for the better.”

Plainfield East girls basketball coach Tony Waznonis is not surprised to see Cyranek making a difference at the school. He knows how much her positivity and energy make the Bengals better.

“(Assistant) Coach (Mike) Schmitt was mildly negative one time on the bench, and Maddie gave him a look,” Waznonis said. “She is the positivity on the bench. She brings the leadership to our bench all the time.

“I can’t overstate the role she has. In the locker room, the things we do outside with the team, she’s never afraid to speak up. After our first game, she was one of the first ones to speak up and say, ‘We can build from this, and here’s what we can learn.’ That’s quality leadership.

“She’s an outstanding kid, and we’re beyond blessed to have her.”

Cyranek is a reserve for the Bengals who knows she may not always get into a game, but that does not stop her from making an impact.

“I bring everything I’ve learned from Girl Scouts to the Plainfield East teams I’m on,” she said. “I’m always cheering on my teammates, because Girl Scouts has taught me that one of the most important things you can do is support, love and help others.”

Cyranek’s basketball teammates voted her to be a team captain.

“That speaks volumes to her that her teammates chose her, where a lot of times they’re going to choose the girls who are on the floor all the time,” Waznonis said.

Cyranek admitted it has not always been easy to juggle school, sports and Girl Scouts, but she’s glad she has stayed with it all.

“I had amazing Girls Scouts leaders throughout the years, and some of my best friends have been in my Girl Scout troop,” she said. “We stuck with it together, from elementary school to high school. I currently have a Girl Scout troop of three people, and it’s me and two of my best friends.

“I also have to give credit to my mom for pushing me. High school gets busy, I kind of put it to the side, and she was like, ‘You can do this. I know you can.’ ”

Now Cyranek is the one pushing her basketball teammates and giving them encouragement to keep going.

“Everyone says a loud crowd gets you going, a loud bench gets you going,” she said. “There’s nothing like knowing people are cheering you on. I’m OK with not playing if I can make my teammates better.

“If I can cheer them on, if I can make them feel better about their game, if I can do something to help them along the way, that makes me happy.”