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26 Girls Earn Highest Award in Girl Scouts

Prestigious Gold Award given to Girl Scouts for their impactful community service projects.

Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council is proud to announce that 26 Girl Scouts have received their Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive.

This prestigious award requires a girl to stretch her skills and step forward as a leader to meet a local or global need, and to create sustainable change. In the process, she develops and enhances her own leadership, determination, creativity and confidence.  For many of these girls, this award is the culmination of more than 10 years in the Girl Scouts, and countless hours of dedication to their community.

The awardees are:

Laura Abril

“Reading Buddies”


Laura’s Gold Award is a reading buddy program at Palomino Library that targets literacy issues and fosters a love of reading. Rather than a tutoring program, the project empowers teenagers and children through mentorship.


Cori Ellen Ander

“Going Green for the Gold”


Cori discovered that the majority of Gilbert school cafeterias were not recycling, and her project was born. She decided to focus on teaching students and staff to recycle. By the time she was finished, Styrofoam was banned in Gilbert school cafeterias and she reduced cafeteria waste by 50 percent.


Katie Becker

“Glendale Prep Mentorship Program”

New River

After discovering the low retention rates at Glendale Preparatory Academy, Katie created a mentorship program that provided a support system for students. The program matched new students with a mentor trained to provide them with the academic and social support necessary to succeed at the school. All but one student who completed the program returned the following year.


Eliza Burke

“Meghan’s Garden”


After the death of a dear friend, Eliza wanted to create an environment that invited quiet reflection and healing. To achieve this, she chose to build a garden at St. John’s Episcopal Church. She planted five trees in the garden, installed a new irrigation system and built a brick path.


Alexis Halee Cohensitt

“The Contact List"


Alexis’ best friend was in a serious car accident caused by texting and driving and she wanted to prevent others from making the same mistake. Alexis recruited a production crew and created a video to increase awareness about the dangers of texting and driving. She presented her video at multiple driving schools and spoke to the students about the risks of texting while driving.


Emily Cruse

“Growing Together Giving Garden Compost Area and Garden Lessons”


Emily realized that many children do not know where their food comes from or how it is grown. She decided to focus on teaching children at a local elementary school about community gardens. To achieve this, she partnered with a community garden on Glendale Avenue and 2nd Street and held a class to teach children about gardening and composting.


Hayleigh Daughtery

“Teen Suicide Prevention through Empowerment”


Hayleigh’s Gold Award aimed to help teens experiencing suicidal emotions boost their self-esteem and cope in a healthy way. First, she created a blog that shared tips about dealing with negative emotions. She also organized a suicide awareness concert held at a local church where teens shared their experiences and insights about suicide.


Catherine Desmond

“Music is the Universal Language”


To raise awareness about the value of high school music programs, Catherine co-founded a local chapter of Tri-M, an honors music society, at Liberty High School. She created brochures, visited middle schools and met with parents to explain the benefits of participation in the high school music program. She also spent many hours in community outreach – performing at community concerts, homeless shelters and retirement communities.


Emily Devore

“Life is Good VBS”

Litchfield Park

Emily noticed lack of free, Christ-centered programs available to children in her community. She addressed this issue by writing and developing a Vacation Bible School (VBS) curriculum geared toward children in kindergarten through fifth grade. During fall break, she implemented the 5-day VBS at Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School with the help of 40 volunteers.  


Heather Grace Garrett

“A Place of Worship”

Fountain Hills

To counteract the hectic pace of life, Heather created a prayer garden where the community could go to allow the beauty of nature to inspire and enrich their lives during prayer or mediation. She took special care to select Arizona-appropriate trees and flowers for the garden and built an irrigation system and a retaining wall.


Alexandra Gilliland

"Organize, Assist, and Donate - Helping Children First Academy”


Alexandra helped Children First Academy by creating a spreadsheet and donation pick-up form to add structure to their donation center. She also helped the school relocate to a larger campus and led a sock and underwear drive, the school’s two most needed items.


Kathryn Gleason

“Youth Sports Angels International”


Kathryn wanted to help provide under privileged children with the fun, stability and community that playing sports gave her. To achieve this, she organized a sports goods drive and collected more than 400 items. Next, she made a trip to the Boys & Girls Club in Nogales, Mexico to donate the items.


Katewyn Hoppis

“Seniors Stay Connected”


Katewyn’s goal was to teach people in assisted living homes computer basics and how to use Facebook to communicate with family and friends. She had to accommodate a diverse set of learning styles. For example, some of her clients had learning disabilities, terminal illnesses or minimal experience with a computer. 


Meghan Keller

"Vision Therapy Awareness”


Meghan learned that nearly one-fourth of students have undiagnosed vision problems, so she decided to take action. She presented information about vision therapy to teachers, created an informative video and assisted in screening an entire school. Because of her efforts, many students were diagnosed with vision problems, and are now receiving the help they need.


Lillian Kelly

“Homeschool College Planning”


Many families in Lillian’s homeschool group were unsure of the college application process. To address this, Lillian organized a seminar for homeschooled students and families to learn about higher education opportunities. She recruited community partners and colleges give presentations and provide materials for the event.


Taylor Kelly

“Awning in the Garden”


Taylor wanted to engage the youth at her church by teaching them how to build and plant a garden. First, she advocated for donations from church members to support her project. Then, with Taylor’s leadership, the children built raised beds, filled the beds with soil and planted flowers.


Meghan Kenney

“Get Up and Dance!”


After learning that the childhood obesity rate is rapidly increasing, Meghan decided to design a dance class that included a stretching session, warm-up, two choreographed routines and movement games. To make sure her program could be replicated, she produced a DVD of the class and distributed it to her students and other childcare programs.


Amanda Michelle Murray

“Theatre Facility Renovation”


While searching for an item in the prop room at Bourgade Catholic School, Amanda had a dangerous accident because the room was in disarray. She decided to take action by leading volunteers in cleaning and organizing the prop room. After her project, the theater department’s production process is easier, safer and more efficient.


Lindsay Olson

“Bridge Rebuild”


At the Page Springs Hatchery in Cornville, Arizona, the park fixtures had become run down. Lindsay decided to help by stabilizing the bridge, making it feel safer to cross. She also improved the aesthetics of the hatchery by staining the bridge, the pond handrail, a bench and seven picnic tables.


Mary Margaret Petersen

“Life House Renovations”


Mary decided to renovate the storage room and repaint the bathroom in the Life House, where her church’s youth group meets. She organized a team of volunteers to insulate, dry wall and paint the storage room and bathroom, and install a new light fixture.


Alicia Popik

“Life House Youth Group Building Renovation”


The exterior of Alicia’s Life House youth group building at her church had deteriorated and needed major renovations. With her team of volunteers, Alicia replaced the rotted paneling and framing, and also painted the building’s exterior. Alicia says it has been gratifying to help provide a meeting place that the youth group members could be proud of.


Jordan Shinn

“Crafting Through Crisis”


Jordan organized and facilitated craft workshops at the Child Crisis Center. Her mission was to show the children that they are loved, while also helping them positively express themselves. She also painted murals for the crisis center to create a more inviting atmosphere.


Skyanne Simonson

“Project Skin Cancer Awareness and Prevention”


Skyanne’s goal was to increase awareness of sun damage and its effects. She gave presentations about sun damage and prevention techniques at the YMCA, summer camps, schools, sports teams, community events and her church. She also created business cards, designed a website, printed brochures, reached out to local publications and attended community events.  


Emile Stubbert

“Bullfrog Eradication”


When Emile learned that American Bullfrogs are damaging Arizona’s ecosystem, she decided to take action. She went to Horseshoe Ranch Pond, where the wildlife has suffered because the American Bullfrog preys on endangered native species. She organized a team of volunteers to build a fence around the pond, preventing bullfrogs from entering the area. To date, no American Bullfrogs have been observed.


Tressa Lynne Teetsel

“Young Pioneer Program at Living History Museum”


Tressa decided to focus her Gold Award on creating fun and engaging history lessons for children. She partnered with Pioneer Living History Museum in Phoenix, and designed an interactive educational program. Next, she hosted a “Girl Scout Day” at the museum that 70 girls participated in.  


Sydney Van Horn

“Spread the Word to End the Word”


Sydney launched a campaign that aimed to end the use of the word “retarded.” To share her message, she partnered with Best Buddies, a club that promotes inclusion for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Sydney also made daily announcements to the student body, lead school activities that promoted inclusion and produced a video featuring a student that shared the negative effects that the word “retarded” had on her life.