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19 Local Girl Scouts Earn Gold Award, Most Prestigious Award in the World for Girls
By Autumn Jarrett - Tuesday Mar 02, 2021
Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC) is pleased to award its most prestigious honor, the Gold Award, to 19 local girls this year. This distinguished award, considered the most difficult to earn, challenges Girl Scouts in grades 9-12 to take action in their communities by tackling an issue they are passionate about and developing sustainable solutions to local, national, and global challenges.

“Recipients of Girl Scouts’ highest honor are part of an elite group of Girl Scouts who have distinguished themselves as prominent leaders in their communities and as true change-makers,” said Tamara Woodbury, CEO for GSACPC.

According to Woodbury, Gold Award Girl Scouts are visionary leaders, and this year’s awardees have tackled prominent issues by sharing the importance of bees to our ecosystem, educating the community about climate changes and sustainability, helping eliminate the stigma around mental health, teaching self-defense to individuals with and without Autism, creating libraries and activity stations for seniors in assisted living, creating a space to properly retire American Flags, and so much more.

The Gold Award calls Girl Scouts to develop their collaboration and problem-solving skills, while gaining confidence and lifelong leadership capabilities as well as leaving a positive impact.

“In addition, Gold Award Girl Scouts are proven to show significantly higher success in life reaching their goals in education, career, and volunteer work, compared to non-alums,” says Woodbury.

With the Gold Award, girls can take advantage of unique scholarship opportunities, be entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade when they join the military and distinguish themselves among the competition in the college admissions process and when entering the workforce.

To protect the health and safety of this year’s recipients, their families, and GSACPC volunteers and staff, the 2021 Gold Award ceremony will be held virtually on Saturday, March 27.

This year’s recipients, who have been working hard to become Gold Award Girl Scouts for the better part of two years, and their impactful projects are:

Hannah Barsema, Mesa
Peanut Butter and Jelly Back to School Drive
Having donated to her local community food bank, Extended Hands Food Bank in Fountain Hills, Hannah was familiar with the types of food donations they received. She realized how some foods might not be kid-oriented, so she decided to lead an annual donation drive to collect foods that kids enjoy eating, like peanut butter and jelly. She held two successful drives in 2019 and 2020 that brought in many jars of peanut butter, jelly, and other food items. She also created a video to explain the purpose and impact of the food drives and worked with a school club that will help continue this effort in the future. Through this process, Hannah learned how to be more confident in herself and advocate for causes she is passionate about. Hannah has been a Girl Scout for ten years and currently attends Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She is majoring in global security and intelligence studies.

Emily Blink, Flagstaff
Just Bee
Understanding the importance bees play in our ecosystem, Emily wanted to educate others and set up some safe spaces for bees around her community. She built four bee houses and installed them at Riordan Mansion, The Pioneer Museum, and GSACPC’s Shadow Rim Ranch. To raise awareness, Emily successfully led an in-person presentation for nearly 1,000 kids before the pandemic and hosted a presentation for her troop. Her presentation covered the importance of pollinating bees, the different species, and how to help protect them. She used all this information plus other resources and learning activity ideas and created a website. Emily said the pandemic caused her to canceled a couple of her events but it taught her patience. She also grew in confidence, learned leadership skills, and how to stand up for herself. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to attend Northern Arizona University to study biology.

Alina Boorse, Phoenix
Alina was inspired by the recent efforts of climate change, wildfires, and pollution. She was compelled to educate others about sustainability and urge the next generation to think and act sustainably. She developed a curriculum around recycling, water conservation, climate change and led virtual presentations to youth and adults. In total, she hosted 20 workshops and uploaded videos to YouTube and Instagram. Before the pandemic, Alina hosted a few in-person workshops where she asked kids to make a commitment to the earth on a paper leaf and add it to a tree to be displayed. Alina said this activity would remind kids of their commitments and be more conscious of environmental issues. She hopes the next generation is aware of how they can help restore or protect our planet. Through Girl Scouts, she learned to be strong and that there is power in her voice. Alina has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to major in kinesiology and minor in environmental science.

Robin Bozik, Chandler
Stigma Ends Here
The stigma around mental health has almost always been visible to Robin, as she has close friends with mental illnesses or disabilities. This is why she created a website to address and educate others about mental health, mental illnesses, locating resources, getting help, or helping others. Her goal was to raise awareness that mental health is nothing to be ashamed of and something every person should monitor closely. Her message and website were shared in an email forum at MIT, reaching students and alumni. Robin shares that the pandemic placed restrictions on meeting others and added stress to the planning. Despite that, she learned how to dig deep and find the motivation within herself and a new love for doing research. She has been a Girl Scout for nine years and is currently attending Clark University. She is studying English and biology with plans to become a genetic counselor ultimately.

Cara Curran, Scottsdale
Self-Defense for Those on the Autism Spectrum
An experienced martial artist, practicing for 13 years and teaching for six, Cara wanted to introduce a new audience to self-defense. Having many friends and family members on the autism spectrum, she wanted to use her self-defense knowledge to prepare for uncertain situations. Due to the pandemic, Cara couldn’t host in-person classes, so she created a series of easily digestible YouTube videos that taught mental and physical self-defense for people with and without Autism Spectrum Disorder. In her 12 years of being a Girl Scout, she said this project made her realize her love for teaching and helped her grow in her confidence and compassion. She credits Girl Scouting with helping her figure out who she wants to be and what she’d like to pursue in the future. She is pursuing business marketing with a focus in international business at Paradise Valley Community College, with plans to transfer to Loyola Marymount University.

Cayton Hale, Chandler
Beat the Heat Project
Riding horses since she was a kindergartener, Cayton has long been involved in the local equestrian community. Having spent many summers training in the Arizona heat, she wanted to create awareness of the dangers that the high summer temperatures present to riders and horses. She developed a heat safety poster to be shared at her barn and other locations in the Valley. She shared them on social media and with the Interscholastic Equestrian Association. In addition, Cayton transformed an empty casita space on the property into a cool-down area where horses and riders can safely escape the heat while training. Since then, she’s noticed the space utilized daily during the summer and as a community space throughout the year. “I learned that I really have the ability to be a leader,” says Cayton. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to attend college this year.

Emily Inserra, Buckeye
Perserving Conservation
After recent events and learning about wildfires happening in parts of Arizona, Emily felt drawn to help local wildlife. She learned how animals’ habitats are impacted or destroyed by these fires and how they rely on vegetation to survive. By reaching out to her network, Emily worked to gain tree donations she could plant to help re-introduce potential shelters and help combat air pollution caused by the fires in the Heber-Overgaard region located in the Navajo County on the eastern side of Arizona. This area was some of the most impacted by the recent Rodeo-Chedisky fire, not only did she help plant trees, but she also helped trim existing trees but also prep and clean the area. Some of the lessons she’s learned are patience and believe in your own inner power. Emily has been a Girl Scout for 10 years and plans to attend a university and major in nursing with a minor in psychology.

Jade Knight, Woodruff Navajo County
The Dying Art of Sewing
Having observed a decline in the ability or interest in sewing among her peers, Jade’s long family history and knowledge on this topic inspired her to pass this skill onto others. When COVID-19 hit, her plans changed; instead of teaching an in-person class on sewing and preparing quilts, she quickly transitioned to hosting online classes that taught girls how to sew masks for essential workers. In addition to helping 15 girls build competency in using sewing machines, she donated over 400 masks to doctor's offices, schools, grocery stores, and other businesses in her community. She bolstered her people skills and learned a lot about patience while teaching others and doing so in a virtual space. Jade credits Girl Scouts for giving her a safe environment to explore her passions and how to do the right thing even when it’s hard. Jade has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to study medical laboratory sciences at the University of New Mexico.

Kathryn Neumann, Phoenix
Students for Sustainability
Kathryn’s passion for the environment inspired her Gold Award, which involved founding the Sustainability for Students club at her high school to educate and mobilize her peers as well as reduce the waste output by the school. She made significant gains in driving awareness and a deeper understanding of recycling. She noticed a drastic change in attitudes over the five years working with the club, shown by an increase in volunteer support, as well as the school administration’s moves to support awareness efforts and a formal recycling program. Kathryn says her Gold Award taught her about effective communication, compromise, and learning to assess and listen to advice objectively. She says the Girl Scouts community fosters love and growth, and has imparted a call to service. She was a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to attend university to major in environmental engineering to pursue a cleaner, greener world.

Nia Richardson, Scottsdale
Angel Adult Day Center Little Library
Originally Nia planned to install and organize a “free little library” at a local youth center but after spending some time with her grandmother who suffers from dementia, she was inspired to change her location to Angel Adult Day Center. It was especially meaningful for Nia since her grandmother had been a school librarian. To collect books, Nia hosted an in-person drop-off and virtual book donation drive accepting books appropriate for dementia patients. After receiving donations, she installed a library space at the center, introducing a new activity and shared responsibility for the seniors. “I gained first-hand skills in project planning and I also realized the importance of having a sense of purpose is essential to our mental well-being,” says Nia. She also said that her 10 years of Girl Scouting provided a constant source of friendships and opportunities for growth. In the future, she plans to attend college and major in environmental science.

Rhiannon Ridley, Gilbert
Giving Care to Memory
While visiting her grandmother at a memory care facility, she learned that center had been missing some hands-on activity stations. This has impacted the residents' daily routines, and Rhiannon wanted to ensure the residents and her grandmother stayed engaged. Using some of her cookie proceeds and donations, she installed several activity stations and painted a few pictures to hang up around the facility. The stations included a baby station where residents can take care of baby dolls, a pet care station, and a dress-up station complete with dresses and ties, and hats. The residents have expressed how much joy this brought them and its positive impact on their mental health. A lesson Rhiannon learned during this process was being patient and that anything can be achieved with hard work and time. And a lesson she had learned in her 12 years of being a Girl Scout is “to be kind and respectful to everyone no matter who they are, how they are, or how they act.” After graduating from Mesquite High School, she plans to attend an in-state college or the Air Force Academy.

Gabrielle Roman, Scottsdale
Be the Change Club
Through volunteering and becoming aware of inequalities in society, Gabrielle decided to mobilize her peers with consistent and accessible volunteer opportunities through her Gold Award. She created the nonprofit Be the Change club at her school, which takes the initiative to help people and address issues they see around them. The club began by engaging low-income students in STEM and the arts and providing funding for Title I schools. Gabrielle then linked the club with YMCA to continue directing members to weekly volunteer opportunities. What started as 60 people in the first meeting has now become a massive presence at her school and online through the website she set up: Gabrielle has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and says she learned that with her confidence and abilities, nothing can stop her. After she graduates, she plans to attend university and major in Biomedical Engineering.

Megan Rziha, Chandler
Camp Field Improvement
When Megan saw the field at GSACPC’s Willow Springs –her summer home away from home– had trip hazards, insufficient grass, and an anthill, she wanted to give back to the camp and future campers by improving the field through her Gold Award. After analyzing the drainage and conducting hours of research, she mobilized a group of volunteers around her corrective action plan. Megan replaced the anthill with a garden play space, cleared the field of major rocks, spread mulch from camp across the field (to serve as a play-friendly surface and a source of nutrients for the soil), and started a test plot for a drought-resistant, non-allergenic grass seed that would be better suited for the camp field's uses. Megan realized her strengths of organization and planning could bring about positive change, and this project improved her communication and people skills. Camp helped her grow as a person over the 13 years she was a Girl Scout. She is currently studying landscape architecture at Arizona State University.

Ainsley Snyder, Gilbert
Rainwater Recycling Garden
Inspired by her love for her school community, Ainsley’s Gold Award provided the Gilbert Classical Academy’s Special Education Department sustainable garden boxes and curriculum for students to develop fine motor skills through gardening. She created a gutter system to collect rainwater, designed and built the boxes, and developed the program guide to make the project sustainable. The program focuses on helping students exercise their hand-eye coordination and small muscle movements by caring for the garden. The installation of the garden has provided the opportunity for many students to develop their skills for years to come. It was very rewarding for Ainsley to provide skill-building opportunities for others for years to come. She said being a Girl Scout for 12 years gave the many opportunities she wouldn’t have had otherwise, and helped her become a well-rounded adult. Ainsley is now attending Idaho State University on a golf scholarship, studying Chemistry and Mathematics for Secondary Education.

Eileen Spahle, Scottsdale
Outdoor Barbecue
When she learned about a project needing some artistic and hands-on support at a local center that offers service to people with disabilities, Eileen knew this project was perfect for her. It incorporated two of her biggest passions: art and being of service to people with disabilities. In partnership with The Adaptive Recreation Center of Scottsdale, Eileen helped bring an outdoor kitchen space to life. She help remodel the area and added hand-painted tiles to the space. She also wanted to bring more awareness about this center, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, she was limited on ways to do this. Despite this challenge, she learned skills like managing obstacles, project management, and communicating with a team. She has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to study occupational therapy with a minor in art at the Dominican University of California.

Jane Spellman, Tempe
American Flag Retirement
Jane’s grandfather was a veteran and very active in the American Legion, which bolstered her love of country and inspired her Gold Award. She learned the American Legion in Ahwatukee didn’t have an American Flag Retirement dropbox, which resulted in a surplus of flags that couldn’t be retired. Many were left in garbage bags at the front desk of the Ahwatukee Recreation Center. She decided to provide a drop box for worn and tattered flags and increase awareness of how to retire flags properly. She partnered with the American Legion, organized fundraising, secured boxes to repurpose, and painted and installed them. Jane also organized neighborhood events about properly retiring natural and synthetic fiber American flags, resulting in the retirement of over 200 flags. She then created a website and posted training on YouTube to educate the community for years to come. She has been a Girl Scout for ten years and plans to become a doctor after graduating high school and completing an undergraduate degree.

Chloe Stoops, Gilbert
Women in STEM
Fascinated by science since a young age, as she was getting ready for college Chloe realized the lack of female representation and role models in this field. As she learned of all the challenges women face and the shockingly low numbers of women in STEM, she wanted to make sure future generations of women didn’t face these. For the next few months, Chloe researched and interviewed several female STEM professionals and shared their stories on a website she built called In addition, she shared resources for girls to help stimulate interest in these fields or to get started in one! To spread awareness, Chloe distributed business cards with her website at schools and secured a place in the ASU Chapter of Society of Women Engineers newsletter and website. “I hope this will encourage other girls, like myself. Over the course of my project I have learned that I have the ability to make a lasting impact on others,” says Chloe. She’s been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to major in aerospace engineering and minor in astrophysics.

Victoria Thurman, Tempe
Healing Art
Victoria’s great-grandfather Carl was a World War II veteran, a resident of Westchester Senior Living, and the inspiration for her Gold Award. He once told her it would be nice to have pictures and memories around his residential facility to foster nostalgia and warm, calm feelings. Understanding that photography could help seniors with anxiety, depression, and mental health, Victoria decided to introduce photos to the center for residents to enjoy. She took over 1,000 photos and created photo books for three nursing homes, had 15 photo canvases made for the dementia unit, and created a website and YouTube channel that hosted videos of photography to be played as an activity for the residents. She received so much praise from the residents that they requested more! And Carl was so very proud. In her 10 years of Girl Scouting, Victoria has learned to be a leader, built her communication skills and the confidence to take on new challenges. She looks forward to attending an in-state university in the future.

Charlie Unsworth, Peoria
Hope for a Future
Charlie has gardened and grown produce since she was five, which has created a passion for understanding the countless benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. She wanted to share this knowledge and cutting-edge skills for cultivating produce with the next generation through her Gold Award and set up hydroponic gardening systems at Lookout Mountain and Roadrunner Elementary schools. As a component of their STEM studies, the students enjoyed watching the plants grow and eagerly anticipated eating the produce. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 school closures halted the use and harvest of the gardens, but the teachers reported they intend to resume the gardens when school attendance normalizes. This experience helped Charlie develop time management skills, and she realized she wants to pursue a career in education. A Girl Scout for 13 years, Charlie says she learned how to advocate and stand up for herself. She is currently applying to colleges and hopes to attend her top choice Northern Arizona University to double major in History and English.