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Girl Scout gives high schoolers a way to reduce stress

Gold Award Website - Katherine Tiso

Katherine Tiso is now a Gold Award Girl Scout

AMHERST, NH – Life can be stressful for anyone. Reducing pressure on high schoolers trying to make it successfully through their academic life, social life, and now the COVID-19 pandemic was the goal for Girl Scout Katherine Tiso, which she accomplished through a program of stress-reduction techniques and a high school club called Stress Less. Tiso is now a Gold Award Girl Scout, earning the highest award possible for a high school-level Girl Scout for her project, also called Stress Less. 

Before the pandemic closed schools, “I noticed at my school there were a lot of kids feeling stressed and anxious,” said Tiso, 17, of Amherst. “I wanted to teach techniques to deal with stress. I think it was pretty helpful. I did a survey at the end of a few meetings and a lot of people said they’d enjoyed it and would use it in the future.”

Tiso’s advisor on the project and her Spanish teacher at Souhegan High School agrees that expectations are high for high schoolers. “The pressure to succeed is causing such a great deal of stress and anxiety on today's students,” said Kathleen Desmond. “Eighth-graders are worried about trying to earn high school credit and high schoolers are trying to earn college credit all while simultaneously navigating the world of teenage life. Add in the element of social media, and you can see why stress and anxiety are high.”

Desmond said Tiso wanted to provide a safe space where she and a group of people could come together and not feel the stress of what was happening in the outside world. “Together, we discussed possible activities, and during meetings we would come together to chat and take our minds off of the things that were weighing us down,” she said. 

Stress Less was formed as a school club, and as the students came together to talk and de-stress, Tiso guided them through different relaxation techniques. Her first meeting included coloring, conversation, and food. 

Just as she got the club rolling, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing students to do their school work remotely and adding a whole new layer of stress to students who were not sure how their classes, sports, proms, and graduations would work out. Tiso had to make adjustments to the new reality, taking her Stress Less club online. She found that simply laughing is a great release valve, sharing charades and Pictionary with the students online. They even did a multi-player online puzzle. 

Tiso’s project was also a lesson in perseverance. “When I first started I wanted to do (the project) about therapy dogs, and that didn’t work out because my dog, who was a therapy dog, died,” she said. Tiso had gone on visits to nursing homes with her dog, Molly, and said “I was inspired by the people who felt happy around her.” 

Now she has a new puppy that she is working to train as a therapy dog, and hopes to bring to the Stress Less club in the fall. 

To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, a Girl Scout must address a problem in her community with a project that is sustainable for at least three years, and so Tiso intends to continue running the club at her high school in the coming year, teach an underclassman to take over once she graduates, and created a document on how others can create their own Stress Less club to help people around the world.

While the club itself was successful, the process of making it work taught Tiso a wealth of skills that will be valuable through her life - project management, public speaking, courage, confidence, character, collaboration, community building, decision making, empathy, implementation, presentation skills, problem solving, time management, research, and organization.

Tiso is looking ahead to a future that she said may include being a nurse once she finishes at Souhegan High School next year. 

Editor’s note: Tiso was named the valedictorian of her class at Souhegan High School as she graduated in May 2021. She is now planning to attend Florida Gulf Coast University to study nursing.

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. 

Katherine Tiso 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 from New Hampshire and Vermont earned their Gold Award in the 2018-19 membership year as part of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, and six others so far in the 2019-2020 membership year.
  • 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