Leadership and Community Service


September 30, 2008

Alicia Gay
(212) 229-0500, agay@crt-tanaka.com

Michelle Tompkins
(212) 852-5074, mtompkins@girlscouts.org

New York, N.Y. –Girl Scouts of the USA has named America's top ten Girl Scout Gold Award recipients as its 2008 National Young Women of Distinction for extraordinary leadership demonstrated through their remarkable community action projects. The Girl Scout Gold Award, Girl Scouting's highest achievement, is earned by five to six percent of Girl Scouts ages 14-18.

The 2008 National Young Women of Distinction will be honored on Oct. 31 at the 2008 Girl Scout National Council Session/51st Convention in Indianapolis—the theme of which is "Girl Scouts Can Lead Anywhere." Among the 2008 honorees are a Delaware girl who taught younger girls to believe in themselves through hands-on experience in robotics, a Wisconsin Girl Scout who raised over $12,000 for needy students in Mexico, and a young woman from Colorado who honored a friend and shed light on a significant and tragic issue, suicide, facing teenagers today.

"The 2008 National Young Women of Distinction are outstanding examples of the kind of leadership Girl Scouts are capable of," says Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "By the courage, confidence and character they display, these young women make it abundantly clear that Girl Scouts truly can lead anywhere."

Girl Scouts of the USA and an external committee comprised of professional women selected the 2008 National Young Women of Distinction from a pool of a hundred applicants who had already earned the Girl Scout Gold Award. Each honoree has spent one to two years on a community action project that has far-reaching effects in her community and beyond.

Following are the 2008 National Young Women of Distinction:

Photo of AbbeAbbe, 17
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts
South Hadley, Mass.
As a result of her concern about wastefulness and its impact on the environment, Abbe began a food-waste composting pilot program at her school. At South Hadley High School she worked with a science teacher, the town's solid waste director, the state's Department of Environmental Protection and members of the school's Environmental Club to plan and execute the project. As part of the pilot program students use biodegradable plates and cups and place uneaten food in the compost bin. As a result of the project, her school's waste was reduced from 85 percent to 25 percent this year. Neighboring schools have contacted her school to replicate the program. Abbe is sharing her knowledge with the community – she has spoken at the Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom conference and hosted teach-ins at Whole Foods Market.

Photo of CarlaCarla, 17
Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts
Quincy, Mass.
Carla wanted to help young people overcome their disabilities. She started Embrace Your Diversity–The Wellness Group, a forum for high school students who are at risk of failing or having difficulty succeeding in high school. Members of the group learn coping and life skills in a safe environment which also allows them to talk about the problems they may be experiencing. Carla arranged for an array of experts to speak to the group while also leading a team of the school's nursing staff, guidance staff and a psychologist. Embrace Your Diversity–The Wellness Group is now a permanent program through the school's guidance department, and was selected as a winner of "2007 Tomorrow 25" by Bentley College and Time Magazine, an international leadership award for students who have worked to make a significant difference in their school or community.

Photo of EmmaEmma, 18
Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee
Brentwood, Tenn.
Embodying the key tenets of Girl Scouting – courage, confidence and character – Emma established Room in the Inn, a program at her synagogue to bring homeless men and women into the congregation to spend the night during the winter. She began the process by presenting her ideas to the synagogue board and conducted community outreach to implement the program. Over the past two years, she has worked with over 250 members of her congregation to provide services to the homeless. The program has grown from serving six guests per month to between eight-14 guests per month.

Photo of ErinErin, 17
Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay Council
New Castle, Del.
Proving that girls can shine in math and science, Erin started GEMS: Girls Empowered by Math and Science. She founded the group at Neighborhood House, a non-profit community center, to share her love of engineering and technology with girls from low-income households. Next, Erin started a team with the girls for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST Lego League (FLL), where she helped the girls build a robot for the annual FIRST competition. Her team received the "Against All Odds Award" and qualified for the FLL Regional Competition. Next year, GEM will be offered at Girl Scout camps all around New Castle County.

Photo of JenniJenni, 19
Girl Scouts of Citrus Council
Clermont, Fla.
Showing her keen eye for canines and understanding that a healthy and exercised dog makes a better companion and neighbor, Jenni saw a need for a recreational area for dogs in her community and founded the Paw Power Dog Park—the top dog park in Central FL and one of top in the nation. As part of her research, she spoke with dog and pet shop owners on the needs for a park, met with officials from City of Clermont and then with the Lake County Parks and Trails Department and several park rangers to find a location. She soon recognized that the park would require a lot of resources including pavers to build pathways, agility equipment, fire hydrants, etc. Jenni earned money to purchase these items by holding a dog wash and she recruited volunteers to do things like clear trees from the area.

Photo of NataliaNatalia, 17
Girl Scouts of Black Hawk Council
Madison, Wis.
In an effort to unite high school teenage girls in action-oriented leadership for social change, Natalia started Madison S.O.S. (Speak Out Sister). As part of her project she planned a Young Women's Leadership Forum, a series of workshops on leadership, advocacy, prejudice and oppression. She then organized Voices of Courage, an event showcasing local female leaders. Since receiving the award, Natalia continues to maintain the group, which will be painting a local mural and developing a status report on crucial issues affecting girls. The project was selected as a $10,000 grant recipient in the Case Foundation's Make It Your Own Awards, and the model for the project was so successful that it is being used by Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton. Mount Holyoke College is also using the model.

Photo of SarahSarah, 18
Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes
Little Chute, Wis.
Recognizing that many students around the world aren't as fortunate as she is, Sarah took action by starting Backpacks Beyond Borders, a campaign to benefit her town's sister village of Citlaltepec, Mexico. Sarah recruited nearly 200 Wisconsin students to write letters to children in Citlaltepec and collected nearly $12,000 in monetary and supply donations to provide backpacks, sports equipment and school supplies for nearly 2,000 Citlaltepec students. She even established educational scholarships for eight deserving students. It's no wonder Sarah was made the ambassador to Citlaltepec.

Photo of ShannonShannon, 18
Girl Scouts of Colorado
Colorado Springs, Colo.
In memory of a close friend who committed suicide, Shannon created a 30-second public service announcement entitled: "Break the Silence: Don't Keep Suicide a Secret." After directing and editing the film, she presented it to over 300 people at the Suicide Prevention: Crisis Among Teens and Young Adults conference. Shannon promoted her PSA and its message that kids shouldn't stay silent if they think a friend is suicidal through local and even international media outlets. She has appeared on her local news station and newspaper and was also contacted by the BBC in England. To further increase visibility of this vital message she posted the PSA on YouTube and TeacherTube and has received over 1700 hits so far. The state of Montana has featured her PSA as part of their local teen suicide prevention efforts and it's being used in the Safe Teen program in schools in El Paso County.

Photo of SohiniSohini, 16
Girl Scouts of Central Texas
Austin, Texas
As a display of her passion for preserving local green spaces, Sohini removed invasive vinca plants along the bank of the Spicewood Springs Tributary, and also mulched, cleaned and planted 70 native plants there. She encouraged girls from the foster home to which the land belonged to work with her to preserve the waterway. As part of her project she also designed a brochure and fliers on stream friendly practices. Sohini's goal was to create a desirable habitat for the Jollyville Plateau Salamander, a candidate for the endangered species list. She was selected to present her project at the Youth Forum for the Environment organized by the US Fish and Wildlife Service of the Southwest Region. She was also the recipient of the President's Volunteer Service Award from the USA Freedom Corps.

Photo of WhitneyWhitney, 17
Girl Scouts Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana
Olympia Fields, Ill.
During this election year, Whitney showed her passion for politics by hosting the Political Forum for Teens (P.F.T.). As part of this project, she surveyed 2000 teens in her high school and noted that her peers knew more about national than local/state politics. To correct their lack of information on governance of local communities, Whitney invited three mayors, one trustee, police officers, and a state representative to provide their insights. More than one hundred participants from seven suburbs of Chicago came together to discuss solutions to problems in their schools and communities. Whitney planted the seeds to allow other teens to connect with local officials and have a voice in government.

Girl Scouts and Leadership
Girl Scouts of the USA has a 96-year tradition of building leadership skills in girls. Research shows that Girl Scout alumnae represent 70 percent of women serving in Congress and 66 percent of women of professional achievement. Illustrious alumnae include Eileen Collins, the first woman space shuttle commander; Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard University; and Katie Couric, the first woman to anchor a network evening newscast.

About the Gold Award and National Young Women of Distinction Honor
The Girl Scout Gold Award has evolved from a long line of Girl Scout leadership awards going back as far as 1919. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout between 14 and 18 can earn. Currently between 5-6 percent of eligible Girls Scouts earn the Gold Award annually. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 50 hours or more, dedicated towards a service project that has lasting effects in their community. In 2008, Girl Scouts of the USA will recognize the extraordinary achievements of Girl Scout Gold Award projects by honoring a select group as the 2008 National Young Women of Distinction. Find out more information on the Girl Scout Gold Award.

About Girl Scouts
Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls with 3.6 million girl and adult members worldwide. Girl Scouting is the leading authority on girls' healthy development, and builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. The organization strives to serve girls from every corner of the United States and its territories. Girls Scouts of the USA also serves American girls and their classmates attending American or international schools overseas in 90 countries. For more information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect or donate to Girl Scouts, call (800) GSUSA 4 U (800-478-7248) or visit www.girlscouts.org.