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Meet the 2020 GSACPC Gold Award Girl Scouts


Girl Scouts change the world! Nowhere is this more apparent than in Girl Scout High Awards, through which girls address community issues by identifying an issue in their community and implementing sustainable change. Thirty-three Girl Scouts in our Council earned their Gold Award this year, for making a lasting impact in our local communities. 

Meet the young and remarkable women changing the world for good: 

Margaret Atkins

Water Safety 101

Margaret was inspired by her summers spent as a lifeguard to share her knowledge of water safety with her community. She organized and hosted three water safety events at the Gilbert Fire Department, The House of Refuge, and her neighborhood pool. At her events, she taught people of all ages the importance of knowing how to prevent drowning and what to do in case of emergency. Margaret also created a “Water Safety 101” video. She posted on YouTube and it currently has over 300 views. This video will continue to help others learn about staying safe in the water. Margaret credits Girl Scouts for giving her the confidence to become a strong leader and speaker and the determination to overcome adversity. Margaret has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to study journalism or communications after graduating from Chandler Preparatory Academy. 

Cynthia Bateman

Art and Ag Patio

Cynthia’s passion for agriculture inspired her Gold Award, which involved developing a small area of unused land at her high school, Highland High. An empty dirt-filled area at her school was transformed into an outdoor patio filled with garden beds, a tree, and a seating space to host students for academic purposes but also for them to have a place to wind down. Cynthia says her Gold Award has taught her the importance of communicating effectively and how to adapt to situations while working on completing a challenging goal. Through Girl Scouting, she has made lifelong friends who have taught her to be the best version of herself. She was a Girl Scout for nine years and is currently attending Northern Arizona University. 

Kori Berra

Restorative Justice in Prescott High School

With the recent rise in mass shootings, schools throughout the nation have begun enforcing active shooter drills. Kori noticed these drills weren’t being taken seriously by her classmates – so she took action. Kori implemented a program at Prescott High School called Restorative Justice, which is a theory of justice that focuses on repairing the harm caused by hurtful behavior. The practice is conducted by holding a productive conversation to address how an event affected those involved personally. Kori’s research led to the creation of a student-led Restorative Justice club at her school that was qualified to take on cases turned in by school administrators. The club created a safe space for students to proactively address conflict and misunderstandings before they lead to revenge-oriented actions, often a motive of school shootings. Kori was a Girl Scout for 13 years and is studying biomedical science at Northern Arizona University.

Sara Curry

Costume Closet Makeover

In charge of costumes for her high school’s play, “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Sara had a difficult time accessing the school’s full inventory and quickly pulling costumes. She found that costumes had been stored incorrectly, and it often took too much time to search for a single piece. To solve this problem, Sara sorted through their one thousand costume items and designed an online database that featured a description and photo of each one. Now theatre club members can quickly search the inventory by keyword to find where an item is located. By creating an online database to manage the inventory, she has also garnered more interest from students to join the club. Sara has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and said this project has helped her recognize her strengths as a leader. She is currently enrolled at Arizona State University, studying environmental engineering. 

Sadie DeShon

Taming Trichotillomania Workshop

Sadie’s Gold Award was personal. Struggling with trichotillomania, a disorder causing compulsive hair-pulling, she aimed to bring awareness of it and educate students at her school. Sadie hosted a day-long workshop for students and their parents who struggle with trichotillomania. The workshop consisted of team-building activities, group discussions, and presentations from three professional counselors. She also created a Facebook support group for students to continuously encourage each other, share their stories and progress. In their feedback, participants called the workshop helpful and uplifting. By being vulnerable and sharing her personal story, Sadie felt rewarded to see how she had inspired and encouraged others to be brave. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to attend a university to study history.

Kansas Earnshaw

Building a Fence Around a Non-Retrieval Area 

From a family with a strong agricultural background, Kansas was determined to protect the food source for elk and deer in northern Arizona when she learned they were not getting enough nutrients. Wet grasslands, called riparian meadows, were constantly being destroyed by large vehicles driving through the meadows near Long Valley, north of Pine. Kansas teamed up with the Arizona Elk Society to build a log fence to protect the riparian meadows from further damage and allow the natural vegetation in the area to regenerate, directly supporting the growth of the elk population. It took over two years to complete this, as drought and forest fires intermittently put work on pause. Kansas credits her Gold Award for teaching her to stay motivated and persevere no matter the circumstance. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to major in environmental studies and sustainability at the University of Arizona.

Juliet Farr

A New Chapter in Reading

Reading has always been a passion for Juliet, and she wanted to encourage more reading among elementary school students in her community. To increase accessibility to books for the students, Juliet created “library boxes” in the Tempe Elementary School District. Library boxes are small-scale versions of a library where students can trade in books they’ve already read for new ones. This system allows students to borrow books and exchange them for others at their leisure, thus sustaining the supply for other students. Juliet also created book logs for the library boxes she built to track the number of books borrowed or given. Juliet has been a Girl Scout for 11 years and plans to double major in Marketing and Design with a minor in Mandarin once she graduates high school.

Nichole Geist

Rainbow Gold

After noticing a limited supply of LGBTQ+ books in her school library collection and community libraries, Nichole decided to take action by introducing resources into her high school and the Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in her area to help educate teens. She also built lending libraries at local foster homes, support groups, and youth centers, allowing people to trade in old books for new ones. Among the resources she provided were over 500 LGBTQ+ fiction books featuring positive representations of LGBTQ+ characters and a website that she created where the community can learn about local events, support groups, and read about others’ LGBTQ+ journeys. Nichole has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and credits her troop for showing her that each person is unique, and everyone has something special to contribute. 

Visit Nichole’s website to learn more about her Gold Award and how to access LGBTQ+ resources. 

Jasmine Goode

Knitting Know-How

Inspired by her grandmother’s passion for sewing and knitting, Jasmine dedicated her Gold Award to reintroducing textile arts to youth in her local community. She started a club called “Knitting Know-How” where women of all ages would teach each other to knit, crochet, and participate in other crafts. Her club appealed to people from ages two through 80 which gave all generations the rare opportunity to regularly collaborate and converse together. She brought inspiration to the young participants and sparked creativity in the seniors at local senior housing facilities. Many members expressed that this club gave them confidence, new friendships, and social skills and encouraged them to try new things. Jasmine says her Gold Award increased her leadership and time management skills. She was a Girl Scout for eight years and currently attends Phoenix College. She plans to transfer to Arizona State University and major in geoscience. 

Kimberly Hartle

Helping Hands

While taking her first sign language class, Kimberly realized how little she and her fellow classmates knew about the language and the deaf community. She decided to spread awareness by creating a website called Simple Signs. It contains lessons on basic American Sign Language as well as information on the deaf community and their unique culture. The website garnered over 1,200 visits in just a few weeks and continues to grow. People from countries around the world have accessed Kimberly’s website and several visitors have reached out to her expressing their enthusiasm about the site. Kimberly is thankful for her nine years as a Girl Scout, especially for reminding her how unique each person is. She believes learning about others’ differences helps build a stronger and closer community. Kimberly is studying biological sciences at Arizona State University. 

Visit Kimberly’s website to learn more about her Gold Award.

Ashley Holt

People Helping Pets

Ashley wanted to give back to the AZ Humane Society through her Gold Award because of her own experience of adopting a dog and her general love for animals. She toured the facility and learned they were always in need of blankets because typically, cats and dogs are given blankets when they are sent home. Ashley created an educational brochure detailing shelter services and the need for blankets. She also organized a no-sew blanket event where she explained the need for donations and led 60 people in creating 156 no-sew blankets. Through her experience, Ashley learned that she is capable of being a leader and the importance of communication and time management. She has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to study engineering at the University of Arizona. 

Holly Hoogstra

Mindful, not Mind Full

In 2018, Chandler High experienced a tragedy when that year's valedictorian committed suicide. This was a hard time for everyone at the school and left Holly wondering how students cope with stress. She decided to develop and implement a mindfulness program to help students learn emotional coping techniques to manage stress and anxiety. She worked with staff, including her psychology teacher, and had a Mindfulness Room designated along with 1,000 positive affirmation bookmarks and 500 stress balls. She also created a club, Instagram page, and brochures to spread awareness of mental and emotional health. To measure her success, she surveyed students using a 1-5 grading system, five being healthiest. The school average was 3.6, and after a few months, it rose to 4! Holly says this project has taught her project management and communication skills. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to earn her degree in economics.

Emma Horn

STEM Educational Program

A passionate STEM scholar, Emma decided to make STEM education more accessible to all students by designing a STEM activity program from the ground up. In partnership with the staff at Guadalupe Library, Emma developed an easy-to-deliver curriculum for the staff and library volunteers. Along with the initial pilot program, multiple programs have been successfully hosted and Emma’s goal of making STEM programming more accessible for children in her community has been realized. Through her Gold Award, Emma learned the importance of communication and conducting research prior to building a project. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and credits Girl Scouting for building her confidence and her drive to pursue her passions. She is currently enrolled at Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University studying mechanical engineering. 

Alexa Howell

Queen Creek

After taking an American Sign Language class during her sophomore year of high school, Alexa gained greater awareness of the need to create more accessibility to activities for those who are differently abled. Alexa connected with her school’s Garden Club mentor and offered to rebuild the garden, so more students were able to participate. Alexa built standing garden boxes, a shed, and stools for the garden. She then created captioned videos with lessons on how to plant and care for the garden so those who are hard of hearing can participate. Alexa’s efforts encouraged more students to join the Garden Club and existing students to come back the following year. Having been a Girl Scout for 11 years, Alexa feels the sisterhood has shaped her into the person she is today. She plans to study mechanical engineering after graduating from Queen Creek High School. 

Ashley Hufford

Hope for the Homeless Animals

After visiting animals at the Maricopa Animal Shelter, Ashley knew she wanted to support the animals with supplies as well as make pets more adoptable. After raising $700 through donation efforts, Ashley sponsored 15 spay and neuter procedures at Altered Tails, a low-cost spay, and neuter clinic. She also educated students at local schools about overpopulated shelters and hosted an event for Girl Scouts to create pet toys to donate. Ashley also led a donation drive where she collected pet supplies and over 500 pounds of dog and cat food. Lastly, she paid the adoption fees of two animals who had been at the AZ Animal Welfare League for a long time to make the dogs more adoptable. Ashley has been a Girl Scout for 10 years and says this program has given her a platform to express her voice. Ashley will be attending Arizona State University to study interior design. 

Lauren Hyland

A Contemporary Tin Pan-Alley 

Lauren has a passion for music. She grew up playing the bass but only had access to a low-quality instrument due to the lack of affordable quality instruments. This inspired Lauren to help people find high-quality, affordable instruments and teach others tips and tricks to play on below-par instruments. Lauren traveled to three schools and taught the basics of playing guitar and bass as well as giving a presentation on common issues students face when playing used instruments. She then put all her valuable information on a website she created called Contemporary Tin Pan Alley. Lauren also hosted two community talent shows where she raffled two guitars for the community to win. She credits Girl Scouting for shaping her into a well-rounded person through countless activities. Lauren has been a Girl Scout for 10 years and will be studying business management at Northern Arizona University. 

Visit Kimberly’s website to learn more about her Gold Award. 

Samantha Janssen

Plants Need to Be Conserved

Samantha noticed the vegetation at Riparian Reserve at Water Ranch in Gilbert was suffering. She teamed up with a local naturalist to help guide her through the process of rehabilitating the desert landscape. After laying out her plans, she received a generous donation from Mountain States Wholesale Nursery to completely revamp a quarter of an acre of land on the reserve. Samantha cleaned out dried vegetation and replaced them with new native plants to promote a healthy environment. Samantha then created a YouTube video to spread a message to the community on the importance of the conservation of native plants and landscapes. Through the Riparian Reserve’s Agents of Discovery App, Samantha was able to share information about the conservation work she had done and inspire others to continue to protect the land. Samantha has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to study engineering at Arizona State University. 

Ashley Lucas

Peoria Goes Green

After discovering the shortage of recycling bins at her school, Peoria High, Ashley dedicated her Gold Award to making her school more environmentally conscious. She created a club and hosted informational booths about the importance of recycling, reducing waste and the impact it has on our earth. After successfully securing a donation of 40 recycling bins, she developed a schedule where her club would pick up the bins and properly dispose of the recyclable materials. Through this process, Ashley was able to measure her results by how many bins they had to empty on a weekly basis and the number of materials each week. Ashley’s Gold Award inspired her to focus her future studies on sustainability and has taught her to be a better leader. She has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to major in sustainability at Arizona State University. 

Shannon Maloney

Saving the Environment One Step at a Time

Shannon was disappointed the recycling program at her school ended due to a cost increase. She set out to reinstate it by educating her peers on the importance of recycling and how contaminated recycled materials negatively impact the program. Then she created sustainability initiatives following the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. To reduce, Shannon collected over 300 signatures pledging to reduce their plastic straw usage and gave out 500 environmentally friendly straws. To reuse, Shannon worked with her principal to have water bottle filling stations installed at her school. And lastly, she reinstated the importance of recycling to faculty, recommending a new recycling company to her principal, and additional recycling bins. She also added one more R: Refuse, which encouraged her peers to refuse the use of plastic straws and bags. Shannon has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to study geology after graduating high school. 

Ashley Minks

Caring for the Homeless

In researching the homelessness crisis in our state and around the nation, Ashley decided to dedicate her Gold Award to raising awareness of this issue and support the local organization La Mesa Ministries. She organized a donation drive and collected clothing and blankets for the organization, which offers services to people experiencing homelessness. She also helped expand La Mesa’s children's ministry program and created social media accounts and content to reach more people in need. She credits Girl Scouts for preparing her with skills she can use later in life and skills necessary to be an effective leader. She has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to study neuroscience and cognitive science at the University of Arizona.

Megan Nelson

Math Path

While math may be a subject some students despise, Megan learned to love math and hoped other students could, too. She learned that students with a stronger math foundation are more likely to take advanced courses, more likely to earn an undergraduate degree and have a higher income. For her project, she established the first math tutor center at her local Boys and Girls Club. She asked for donations from local businesses to purchase supplies, recruited high school student tutors, and students from elementary and middle schools who needed tutoring. As of February 2020, her club had successfully tutored 604 students, with over 90 hours of tutoring work recorded. Megan feels this project increased her self-confidence, improved her writing techniques and communication skills. She has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to attend a university and become a scientific researcher. 

Gabrielle Nevers

Glittering Guard

As an active member of the Color Guard program at her school, Gabrielle dedicated her Gold Award to supporting, improving and growing this team. Gabrielle noticed a lack of interest in this activity. To combat this, she hosted a “Try It Out Night” for incoming freshmen students to learn about the program and rehearse intro-level routines. During this process, she also re-organized, properly stored and cataloged all the flags. Her organizational efforts were applauded from visiting band directors in the region and her recruitment efforts led to the team doubling in size. Gabrielle learned time management, problem-solving and organizational skills. She credits the Girl Scout Cookie Program for helping her become a better leader. She has been a Girl Scout for 11 years and will attend Northern Arizona University to study elementary and special education. 

Emma Parry

Litchfield Park
Theatre for Youth

Theatre and performing arts were some of the ways Emma learned to be more confident. Throughout her involvement in theatre, she noticed fewer people attending or auditioning and wanted to bring awareness to performing arts to youth in her community, especially to those who are shy or don’t have access to theatre programming. For her Gold Award, Emma wrote and performed an anti-bullying one-act play inspired by The Wizard of OZ to 40 special needs students in her community. She managed the team and put together the logistics and supplies needed to perform the play. She then developed virtual kits and made them accessible to anyone via a website. Her Gold Award taught Emma that hard work and help from others can lead to making a difference. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to attend Northern Arizona University to major in biology and chemistry. 

Brooke Pfingsten

Awareness of Mentality

After Brooke’s best friend tried to commit suicide multiple times, she wanted her Gold Award to bring more awareness to this problem and educate other teens on suicide prevention. She produced a video with different testimonies of people who have contemplated suicide, have been depressed or have experienced PTSD. In this video, she included prevention information and resources, as well as hotline information for people in need. She uploaded the video to YouTube and conducted surveys, which showed most viewers learned something new. Through this process, Brooke now feels like she can accomplish any task. She has been a Girl Scout for seven years and plans to study elementary or special education at Grand Canyon University. 

Davina Saber

Multicultural Club 

To help her foreign student peers, Davina founded a Multicultural Club at her school and provided opportunities for students to make new friends and learn about each other’s cultures. Davina led the club to participate in school events and service projects. They volunteered in school athletic activities, stadium clean-ups and at neighboring schools’ events. In total, they completed over 75 volunteer hours. Davina’s goal of inclusivity made a great impact not only at her school but on the club members. She learned that no matter how small, the effort one shows to an individual can impact their whole life, and despite differences, all kids want to experience true friendships. She has been a Girl Scout for 9 years and plans to join the U.S. Air Force. 

Jacey Salisbury

Jacey Feeds at Jaycee Park

After witnessing the number of people and pets experiencing homelessness in her community, Jacey took a different approach to help them. She reached out to her city’s Councilwoman, Jennifer Adams, and learned that people with pets are often denied housing because government housing assistance requires pets to be vaccinated. To help, Jacey enlisted a local veterinarian to provide vaccinations for seven homeless pets, ultimately leading to their owner’s acceptance by housing requirements. She also handed out over 800 one-gallon bags of cat and dog food, dog booties, leashes, collars, and other necessities to homeless pets. Her work was recognized by Mayor Mark Mitchell, who declared Oct. 29 Jacey Salisbury Day in Tempe. Jacey says that through Girl Scouting, she has learned teamwork, responsibility and project management skills. She has been a Girl Scout for 12 years and plans to study psychology and business at Arizona State University. 

Jessica Schuchman

Paradise Valley
Bunnies and Books

The fear of being judged by her peers pushed Jessica to overcome her dyslexia by improving her reading skills with the help of some furry critters. As a child, Jessica would read to animals to develop her reading and build confidence. For her Gold Award, Jessica wanted to give this same opportunity to other children. She started a reading program called “Books and Bunnies” for children ages five to 12 at the Tranquility Trail Animal Sanctuary, where children could spend their time reading to bunnies. Jessica also partnered with the Jones Gordon Lower School, which arranged quarterly field trips to attend her program. Jessica’s reading program is now available to the public once a month. She credits her Gold Award to teaching her how to lead and organize large tasks. She has been a Girl Scout for seven years and hopes to attend Stanford University. 

Sierra Smith

Physics of Flight

Sierra’s love of physics and aviation-inspired her to share her knowledge with others in a fun and interactive way. After multiple trial and error experiments, Sierra created a mock wind tunnel for under $100 that physics teachers around the world could use in their classes. Sierra designed blueprints, created an instructional guide, material list and lesson plans for others to be able to create the wind tunnel. Once she gathered everything needed, Sierra created a YouTube video where she demonstrates the entire production process. Sierra shared this resource with the public through social media. She credits Girl Scouts for inspiring her love of STEM over the past eight years and plans to go to college to become a Naval Aviator. 

Tressa Stevenson

Computer Confusion

After witnessing her grandma struggle to operate a smartphone and navigate through social applications, Tressa realized there was a need for senior tech classes. For her Gold Award, Tressa developed curriculum, volunteered as the computer tutor at Chandler Senior Center, and taught computer classes to a group of 35 seniors. Her curriculum not only taught seniors how to use smartphones and computers but also how to be safe and efficient online and while using social applications. The seniors she taught expressed how this helped them feel up to date with modern communication styles and less isolated and lonely. Tressa has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and credits Girl Scouts for helping her speak up for change. She plans to attend Arizona State University and study global politics and Spanish.

Elise Stoops

Birthday Bags for Foster Children

Elise has always enjoyed helping others, especially young children. As she learned about children in foster care, she thought of ways to help them and bring more awareness to their experience. She created an informational website about children in Arizona foster care, with information on how to help, and articles about this issue. Elise also hosted a donation drive at her school to collect birthday gifts and gift bags to donate to AZ Helping Hands, a non-profit that provides basic needs and care to children in foster care. Her drive successfully collected over 100 items and provided the opportunity to share key information on this issue with the community. Through her Gold Award, Elise learned time management skills and how to be a better leader. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to major in nursing at an in-state university. 

Learn more about Elise’s Gold Award by visiting her website. 

Emily Stopher

Better Bags, Better Desert

Emily participated in a clean-up event at South Mountain Park and Preserve, where nearly 8,000 pounds of trash was collected. After realizing most of the trash was plastic grocery bags, Emily dedicated her Gold Award to building awareness of the impact plastic bags have on our environment. Emily educated over 300 people on the importance of using reusable bags and how to properly dispose of them. Emily hosted drop-off destination events to exchange plastic grocery bags for reusable bags. In each reusable bag, she included a handout with information about her Gold Award and how to assist in reducing plastic bag usage. Emily collected over 12,000 grocery bags and worked with Sprouts Farmers Market to properly recycle them. Emily expresses how Girl Scouts has given her a platform to advocate for causes she’s passionate about. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to study environmental engineering. 

Amanda York

International Distinguished Scholars Club

With a mission to instill the importance of education in her peers, Amanda started the first student-led club at her high school called the International Distinguished Scholars Club. The club aimed to promote peer-to-peer learning and teach skills like teamwork and goal setting. The club also focused on providing resources to pursue post-secondary education and provided a safe space to grow and plan for the future. She shared all the resources the school has for club members and how to use them. The club organized a school-wide community project and collected 250 children's books to donate to a local daycare. They also read to children, organized books and assisted teachers at this daycare. Amanda’s club increased the desire for members to pursue college. Her experience taught her many levels of leadership. She has been a Girl Scout for ten years and plans to major in chemistry to pursue medical school. 

Diana Zaun

Foster Fever

After fostering two puppies for the first time, Diana felt she needed to bring greater awareness about fostering animals and how it provided needed help to shelters that are at capacity. Diana raised money to purchase pet supplies and created 60 care packages to be given to future foster families. In addition, she personally fostered 28 puppies and 2 adult dogs, all of which, except five, were adopted. Through her efforts, she has grown the foster animal program at the Coconino Humane Association and helped more dogs be nurtured in a family environment to help prepare them for adoption. Diana feels that earning her Gold Award has helped solidify her plans for the future and has improved her communication and leadership skills. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to major in veterinary science at University of Arizona.