Sixteen young women earned the highest honor in past year
CONCORD, NH | The ultimate achievement for a Girl Scout is when she earns her Gold Award. The Gold Award means a girl has single-handedly changed the world – forever, and for the better. She has taken on a project in her community that will stand the test of time, has a real and meaningful influence on people’s lives, and leaves a legacy that lasts forever.
Sixteen young women in New Hampshire and Vermont have earned their Gold Award in the past year, and they were honored on Sunday, Nov. 11, by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains at the Young Women of Distinction Ceremony. Also honored were the 72 Girl Scouts who earned their Silver Award, and other Girl Scouts who embody the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ philosophy.
This year’s Young Women of Distinction Ceremony fell on Veterans Day, so a special flag ceremony took place, and the keynote speaker was Maj. Ana T. McKenna, an Army Reservist from Londonderry who has spent two tours in the Middle East. McKenna is also program manager for the Care Coordination Program in New Hampshire, which assists veterans and their families in all aspects of their lives. McKenna noted that one does not have to be single-minded, but can embrace all aspects of their interests, as she has done. Along with her Army Reserve and veterans care duties, McKenna also runs a dance studio. She encouraged all the Girl Scouts to continue their efforts to become adults of courage, confidence and character.
Gold Award projects tackled such diverse issues as teen depression, raising SAT scores, improving school spirit, gender inequality, mental health, opioid addiction, and keeping lakes healthy.
Family, friends and sister Girl Scouts applauded the many recipients, and listened raptly to the stories each Gold Award Girl Scout told of her journey to earn that award. Alexia Gilardi of Windham was brought nearly to tears as she told of her struggle to bring her project to completion despite numerous personal obstacles. Her smile returned and eyes sparkled as she told the crowd how she decided to persist and complete an entirely new project in just two months to meet the deadline.
One Gold Award Girl Scout was unable to attend, but sent a video of herself from Arizona, where she is stationed for training as part of the Vermont Army National Guard. Christina Wiles of Brandon, Vt., addressed bullying in schools for her Gold Award project, and advanced two ranks in the Army in recognition of her achievement.
Also recognized were the council’s top cookie sellers, Kacilynn Hernandez-Feliciano of Newton; Sarah Palmer and Madison George of Colchester, Vt.; Halie Baker of Salem; and Cheyenne Herdling of Cabot, Vt. Katherine Muise was awarded the American Heart Association Heartsaver Hero Award. Nine Girl Scouts were recognized for their participation in Destinations, a national Girl Scout travel program that takes girls around the world.
Of special note at the ceremony were the three Gold Award Girl Scouts from this area who were nominated by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains to be honored as National Gold Award Girl Scouts. This is the most prestigious award in the world for girls. They are Wiles; Sofia Fahsi of Nashua, N.H., whose “Ukuleles for the Youthful” project embraced the power of music to keep senior citizens in her community engaged; and Cassandra Levesque’s “Let a Child be a Child,” which resulted in the minimum age for marriage in New Hampshire being raised to 16. Levesque’s Gold Award project led to her desire to run for office, and, at 19, she was just elected and will be the youngest person to become a state representative for her hometown of Barrington, N.H.
The ceremony closed with a white-gloved color guard and Taps played on trumpet by Gold Award Girl Scout Sarah Heimberg of Merrimack.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Anne Berni of Salem, regarding her daughter Justine, who earned the Silver Award for her project of creating stress vests for cats. “She’s gained a lot of independence and communications skills.” Berni saw her now 15-year-old grow a lot over the year and a half she spent working on the project.
Justine Berni, holding an armful of flowers, certificates and cards, agreed that she learned a lot, despite being “terrified to sew.” She not only overcame her fear of needles, she now loves sewing and creating things from fabric, and is proud of being able to help cats find new homes and overcome that stressful transition.
Other Silver Award projects addressed recycling, clothing for needy kids, how to survive middle school, accessible playgrounds, help with math, and more.
“Today’s celebration is a testament to the dedication and hard work necessary to accomplish the highest achievements in Girl Scouts,” said Patricia Mellor, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. “These remarkable young women are a result of what Girl Scouts offers – programming that develops girls of the utmost courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.”
The council thanked Cabot for their sponsorship of the event.
Girl Scouts offers the best leadership development experience for girls in the world – one that is designed with, by, and for girls. No other organization combines the time-tested, research-backed methods with exciting, modern programming that speaks to today’s girls and is designed to cater to the strengths of girls’ leadership development. Gold Award Girl Scouts earn college scholarships, enter the military at a higher ranks, and are committed to creating a better future for their entire community.
About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our innovative leadership programs help girls discover, connect, and take action as they develop strong values, a social conscience, and a deep sense of self and their potential. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.