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Breaking stigma of mental health is goal of Gold Award Girl Scout

Gold Award Website - Emily Galeva

Emily Galeva of Lebanon earns Girl Scouting’s highest honor

LEBANON, NH – As a high school student herself, Emily Galeva could see firsthand how some of her peers were struggling with mental health issues – even though adults and others couldn’t recognize it. Depression and anxiety often manifest as poor grades or attitudes, missing class, or other inappropriate behavior. Add in the stresses that social media can put on students today and pressure mounts. She was determined to raise awareness of mental health issues and address the stigma that prevents students from getting help through her project, “Breaking the Stigma of Youth Mental Health in High Schools.”

Galeva gave more than 80 hours to this effort, earning the Girl Scout Gold Award - the highest honor available to a Girl Scout in grades 9-12.

“I would like to create a culture where students feel free to talk about mental issues and are supported by peers in the schools,” said Galeva, 17, of Lebanon. “Valuable resources are available to help with youth mental health. What is needed is a coordinated communication and delivery system. While many agencies can provide the substance to communicate, a youth peer support network can deliver the messages to improve youth mental health outcomes.”

Galeva took the lessons she learned as an intern at the New Hampshire State House under the Girl Scouts’ Girls Rock the Capitol program, internships at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, her athletic endeavors, as a counselor-in-training at a children’s camp, and more, and put them into action.

She took her message to high schools in New Hampshire, and represented New Hampshire students at multiple state events and programs, including the Youth Summit in Concord, 99 Faces at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, No Safe Vape on Facebook Live; the Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO), and more. She contributed valuable points of view from adolescent perspective to multiple New Hampshire and Vermont high school mental health cases and at other public programs and events.

“My biggest accomplishment was going to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center,” Galeva said.  “I had a speech at the hospital about mental health. It felt really rewarding to me. After my speech, I had a woman come up to me who said she lost her son a year ago. She gave me this rock - I still have it my room - that says ‘Believe there is good in the world.’ He was very young and took his own life. She thanked me. It meant a lot to me.”

At the Youth Summit, Galeva was invited to participate as a facilitator in several groups of more than 30 high school students on different topics and was interviewed by a TV, radio and newspaper reporters. On the second day, she took part of a panel reporting out the findings to adults - parents, clinicians and other professionals in the field. “I met a lot of good resources for mental health,” she said. “I pushed some of my friends to talk to some of the officials I met at the summit.”

She was also able to present her perspective on actual mental health cases through the ECHO project. “We did this online mental health awareness and help - kind of like a hotline,” she said. “Schools from all over the state, including North Conway where I used to live, presented individual cases of students who needed help.” A different topic was presented each week, like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. As they presented real-life cases anonymously, different people on the panel would suggest help. She was surprised how many adults were grateful for her input. She said they told her “I didn’t realize how much social media takes a toll on mental health. It made me feel good that my project was working.”

Galeva was fortunate to have made these connections before the COVID-19 pandemic closed off in-person events to her, but she continued what she could through virtual meetings.

She also found that working to make the world a better place as a Girl Scout was helpful. As she set out to talk to adults as a “little 16-year-old,” approaching them as a Girl Scout working on her Gold Award opened doors. “Having that title, being part of this organization, made it a lot easier for people to understand where I was coming from,” she said. Taking part in Girls Rock the Capitol gave her insight and skills that paid off. “That internship made me think of the process,” she said. “What you have to do to get people’s attention and make change. You have to use social media to get to people. Just looking back on it, the leadership, having it under my belt, was really helpful. It made it easier for me to talk to adults. A lot of my public speaking was put to use at the State House and strengthened my ability to talk to adults in higher positions - and to stand up for what I believe in.”

Galeva has served as a girl representative on the Board of Directors for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, the council serving Girl Scouts in New Hampshire and Vermont. She graduated from Lebanon High School this spring at age 16, and is considering many options in her future, including a gap year in North Carolina or with family in Bulgaria. She’s been offered an opportunity to work in the prosthetics field and is also considering a degree in psychology.

“I’m passionate about animals too!” she said. “Maybe some kind of research. I’m a very curious person. Anything with science and helping people.”

Gold Award Girl Scouts don’t just change the world for the better, they change it for good. The Gold Award is earned by girls in grades 9–12 who demonstrate extraordinary leadership in developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges. Since 1916, Girl Scouts have answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change. They earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.

Emily Galeva has answered the call to drive lasting, impactful change, and her Gold Award is a testament to her remarkable dedication to improving her community and the world. The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable.

About the Girl Scout Gold Award

  • Gold Award Girl Scouts on average spend one to two years on their project.
  • A Gold Award project must be sustainable after the girl’s involvement ends.
  • The average age of Gold Award Girl Scouts is 17.
  • Since 1916, more than 1 million girls have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent.
  • Gold Award Girl Scouts are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military.
  • University research indicates that noting you are a Gold Award Girl Scout on a college application is influential in the admissions decision-making process.
  • Twelve young women so far from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2019-2020 membership year as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.
  • The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable!

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 Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. 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