This year, the Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council is pleased to announce that 32 local teens have been honored with the highest award in Girl Scouting: the Gold Award.
“One of the most impactful parts of Girl Scouting is earning the Girl Scout Gold Award,” said Tamara Woodbury, CEO of Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council. “This prestigious award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting and challenges girls ages 14–17 to initiate meaningful, sustainable change locally, nationally, or globally through unique ‘Take Action’ projects of their own creation.”
According to Woodbury, 2016 is extra-special as the Girl Scouts are celebrating the milestone 100th Anniversary of the Gold Award.
Earning the Gold Award is somewhat comparable to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout.
While both achievements require developing and completing a service project, Girl Scouts must create a project that is sustainable and continues to give back to the community long after she moves on.
Overall, the process usually takes 18 to 24 months and often involves seeking in-kind donations and recruiting volunteers.
Others recognize the value of the Gold Award, too. Some universities and colleges offer scholarships to award recipients and girls who enlist in the U.S. armed forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements.
“Empowering girls to lead is one of the greatest investments we can make,” said Woodbury. “When women adopt leadership roles, they contribute a unique set of skills, ideas and life experiences that enrich and strengthen communities. Girl Scouts, and the Gold Award specifically, gives girls the support and guidance they need as they step into impactful leadership roles.”
For many of these girls, this award is the culmination of more than 10 years in the Girl Scouts.
Here is a snapshot of the local honorees’ good works:
Kaylee Baker: Student Driver Magnets
Kaylee’s project reduced stress on student drivers by creating awareness among other drivers that students were behind the wheel. She created large, reusable magnets for cars that clearly state “Student Driver.” To promote their availability, she pitched a story to In & Out magazine, which ran a feature called “Driver Dilemma.”
Reeti Banerjee: Oral Health Education
With hopes of one day becoming a dentist, Reeti’s mission was to educate young children about the damaging effects of poor dental hygiene. Reeti researched the topic, and with a team of volunteers gave eight presentations, resulting in approximately 300 children receiving information and training on dental care.
Ruchi Banerjee: Socioeconomic Consequences of Teen Pregnancy
Ruchi’s Gold Award focused on educating fellow students about the socio-economic consequences of teen pregnancy, including health challenges, low income and limited career opportunities. Through the use of informational posters and announcements over the intercom at five high schools, Ruchi was able to reach more than 11,000 students.
Kate Barton: Gay-Straight Alliance
When Kate’s bisexual friend attempted suicide, she made it her mission was to create support for, and understanding of, the LGBT community. Kate launched the Gay Straight Alliance club. Today, the club has eight members, runs a website, hosts informational sessions for fellow students, and plans to host a Pride celebration.
Dorthea Boatwright: Students Cook
Interested in food-related issues, Dorthea focused her Gold Award on promoting healthy eating habits to college students. She created a blog and YouTube channel that features healthy recipes, cooking tips, and popular discussion topics. All the recipes require less than 15 minutes prep time, use inexpensive ingredients, and only need a microwave oven.
Katelyn Boisvert: Addressing the Plight of Monarch Butterflies
Katelyn’s Gold Award addresses the conservation of Monarchs and pollinators of all kinds, while also preserving biodiversity, promoting community awareness, and encouraging citizen involvement. With the help of 50 volunteers, she constructed a Monarch butterfly waystation and pollinator garden at Chandler Preparatory Academy.
Emma Brown: Cross Country Program for Kids
With a passion for cross-country running, Emma’s project created a running program that increases physical activity among students at her school. The 40 children who participated were each matched with a high school-aged mentor, giving the children one-on-one time with a caring teenager who taught them practical exercise skills.
Carmela Chaney: Science in a Shoebox
Carmela discovered that disinterest in science is often attributed to lack of early childhood exposure. To address this problem, she created 40 science experiments. Each science experiment covers a different topic and is self-contained in a shoebox. The kits have since been integrated into the curriculum at Khalsa Montessori School.
Ana Coker: Patio of Coexistence to Live the Difference
Ana aimed to unite The Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish by restoring their garden and giving them an enjoyable space for fellowship. To accomplish this, she planned three work days where volunteers planted hibiscus, trumpet bushes, and bougainvillea, installed an irrigation system and repaired and repainted two benches in the garden.
Rachel DeStigter: Teens Go Global
Rachel’s Gold Award aims to remove cultural barriers through education. Through working with AFS, a high school study abroad program, she created curriculum to help fellow students learn about and understand cultural differences. Overall, Rachel has shared her curriculum with more than 200 people online and during in-person presentations.
Chelsea Divins: Making Hannah’s House a Home
After volunteering for Maggie’s Place, an organization that helps pregnant women or new mothers by giving them a place to stay, Chelsea was inspired to do more. For her Gold Award, she collected donations and furnished a bedroom and bathroom in a home recently purchased by Maggie’s Place.
Ellie Fessler: Terminating Toddler Topple Overs
In 2007, Ellie experienced the tragic loss of her 2-year-old cousin after a large piece of furniture fell over. To increase awareness about the dangers of furniture falling over, Ellie developed a video tutorial about how to install furniture safety straps. Her project was featured in the Arizona Republic and local news channels 3, 5 and 12.
Kyra Friend: The Musical Method
Kyra’s goal was to increase access to musical education for the children at Little Ropers Childhood Development Center. She did this through the creation of a “musical garden,” a space where various instruments made from household items are available to children to experiment, play and make music with.
Reyna Gariepy: Epilepsy Awareness
In fifth grade, Reyna’s older brother was diagnosed with epilepsy. Because the disorder affected her in a profound way, she focused her Gold Award on teaching others how to perform first aid when someone is experiencing an epileptic seizure. In all, Reyna was able to educate more than 900 people about epilepsy.
Amanda Gomez: Arizona Beats ALS
Amanda’s mission was to increase awareness of ALS. To do this, she created a video of the annual ALS walk that encouraged fellowship and participation. As of February, 400 people have viewed the video and it has been shared on Facebook 15 times.
Tess Grossman: Hear & Now
Tess was born deaf and was later fitted with cochlear implants and taught to communicate orally. As a freshman, she founded a support organization called Hear & Now. Tess focuses on educating members about deaf culture, the struggles of being disabled, services offered by experts, and creating an environment for deaf/hard-of-hearing people in a hearing world.
Reba Joyce Hagen: Be Your Own Hero
Reba developed a presentation to raise awareness about bullying, suicide prevention and substance abuse. She shared the presentation with the principals and vice principals at 24 Arizona schools. She also hung informational posters at her school, hosted a booth during lunch hour where students could share their stories or find resources.
Emily Hartzler: BE FREE
After learning about the horrors of sex trafficking, Emily developed the idea for Quillow Care Kits –small kits containing a blanket, hygiene items, snacks, a sweater and information about resources for victims. She partnered with law enforcement agencies, who helped her distribute 355 kits to people in need.
Brittanee Hustad: Stifle the Silence
After losing her friend to suicide, Brittanee turned her grief into positive change by raising awareness about teen suicide. Through her efforts, September 10 is now Suicide Awareness Day in Arizona, the Teen Lifeline telephone number is now printed on all high school ID badges in her school district, and school staff can take online suicide awareness training.
Holly Jamerson: Cromer Courtyard Garden
Holly focused her Gold Award on increasing interest and accessibility to science by building a garden at Cromer Elementary. With the help of volunteers, Holly installed a pond, planted native vegetation and vegetables, and installed an irrigation system. Currently, the garden is used at least once a day by the teachers and students.
Rebecca Jernigan: Dogs Helping People
Rebecca’s mission was to strengthen the connection between humans and dogs. She held training sessions for junior dog trainers and made the training information widely available by creating a website. There have been more than 70,000 hits on her website! To connect junior trainers with trainers worldwide, she created a Facebook group, which has grown to 115 members.
Joelle Johnson: National English Honor Society
When Joelle realized Mountain Pointe High School did not have a National English Honor Society, she decided to create the club herself! The club has 54 members and continues to thrive. Club members receive benefits like national recognition, networking and scholarship opportunities, and through the club they take on projects to help the community.
Sophia Kirkland-Lopez: Operation Wallflower
Sophia’ goal was to increase knowledge of gardening and sustainability by transforming the wall at St. Joan of Arc church into a raised garden. After immense planning, she built the garden with the help of volunteers. The children at the church now have a beautiful garden where then can learn and play.
Samantha Mitchell: Got Guts?
Samantha’s goal was to increase awareness and understanding of gastrointestinal issues. To do this she created a video that outlined the issues, their side effects, treatments, and how others can be supportive. She gave presentations on the topic and developed a brochure containing this information that she distributed to 500 people.
Claire O’Brien: Family Shelter Library
For her Gold Award, Claire wanted to share her love of reading with children who may not have the same access to books as she had growing up. She set up a children’s library at La Mesita Family Homeless Shelter in Mesa. She collected 3,000 children’s books, set up a reading program for the children, and hosted an opening day celebration.
Erin O’Kray-Murphy: Animal Care and Awareness
Through volunteering at animal shelters, Erin learned that animals are often mistreated or abused in their homes. So she designed a curriculum to teach youth about the proper way to care for animals, launched an animal rescue club, and held a donation drive at her church, where she collected approximately $2,000 worth of supplies.
Adrianna Polyak: Seats for Souls
Adrianna wanted to do something to give back to her high school. During lunch, students had to sit outside on the grass and rocks or on hallway floors due to lack of seating. So Adrianna built and installed 12 eight-foot long benches on the school campus, providing an additional lunchtime seating for 72 students.
Ariana Schein: Prom Closet
Ariana partnered with Hacienda Health Care to create a prom closet for special needs children. The closet allows patients to borrow prom dresses, make-up and accessories so they can attend the prom hosted by Hacienda Healthcare. Overall, she collected almost 100 dresses for the closet.
Hannah Stevenson: PHS Girls Volleyball Website Development
Despite the success of Hannah’s high school volleyball team, there was a lack of support from fellow classmates. Hannah’s focused on increasing support of the women’s volleyball team by improving communication. To do this, she created a website for her team, developed its format and works year-round to keep the content updated.
Kaylynn Vavrick: Urban Dance
Teaching children to dance brings Kaylyyn immense joy. She made it her mission to provide the opportunity for children who could not afford classes, to learn to dance. To recruit students, she passed out fliers and held an informational night for parents. Over the course of seven weeks, Kaylynn taught 18 children the fundamentals of dance.
Rebekah Wagen: NDSC Survival Skills
At the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention, people with Down syndrome would often get lost, confused, or accidentally violate the safety rules at the hotel. Rebekah tackled this issue by creating a video PSA to remind attendees of the rules. The convention organizers reported the PSA worked so well, they plan to continue using it.
Renae Wilson: Mock Interview Clinic
When Renae began the college application process she and fellow students found themselves unprepared for college admissions interviews. To address the issue, she planned, organized and executed a mock interview clinic. Every student who attended participated in a practice interview and received immediate feedback and tips for improvement.