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22 Local Girl Scouts Earn Gold Award, Most Prestigious Award in the World for Girls


(PHOENIX – March 28, 2022) – Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC) is pleased to award its most prestigious honor, the Gold Award, to 22 local young leaders this year. Demonstrating outstanding leadership skills while discovering sustainable solutions to local, national and global challenges, this distinguished award is earned by Girl Scouts Seniors or Ambassadors, in grades nine through twelve, who are truly making a difference.

“Our 2022 Gold Award honorees are the embodiment of tremendous leadership and true commitment to a cause,” says Mary Mitchell, interim Co-CEO of GSACPC. “These Gold Award Girl Scouts have established themselves as innovative leaders and changemakers.”

This year’s Gold Award winners are tackling prominent issues their communities face today by raising awareness on life-threatening food allergies, educating the public on saguaro cactus health, hosting self-defense classes for all ages, collecting thousands of dollars in unused medical equipment for underprivileged groups, bringing awareness to opioid addiction, teaching proper etiquette for service animals, giving communities access to the clothing to be their authentic selves and much more.

While leaving a lasting impact on the community and the world, Gold Award Girl Scouts improve their problem-solving, communication and time management skills while creating a legacy and making the world a better place.

As a nationally recognized symbol of leadership, the Gold Award can also open doors for unique scholarship opportunities, allow girls to enlist at an advanced rank when joining the United States Armed Forces, stand out among the competition in the college admissions process and more.

This year’s Gold Award ceremony was be held on Saturday, March 19 at Parsons Leadership Center in Phoenix. Special guests included GSACPC’s interim Co-CEOs, Mary Mitchell and Christina Spicer, Board Chair Lupe Camargo, Debbie KerrMinor and Colonel Dick Minor from the Military Order of The World Wars, and the Council’s Gold Award Committee.

At the ceremony the awardees received their Girl Scout Gold Award pin, a Gold Award certificate and letter of congratulations from the Girl Scouts of the USA, a signed certificate from Girl Scouts- Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, and congratulatory letters and certificates from national, state, and local elected officials. 

The 2022 Gold Award Girl Scouts and their impactful projects are:

Elaine Apple

Rebuilding Willow Springs Trails

Elaine will tell you that attending Girl Scout Camp since she was nine years old has played a significant role in her Girl Scouting experience. She has participated in Leap, Counselor-in-Training 1 and 2 programs and even became a counselor last summer. Hosting hundreds of campers each year allowed her to mentor younger girls, gain leadership skills, and focus on increasing skills in a specific program area. Over the years, she grew particularly fond of Camp Willow Springs and turned her passion for exploring trails into a Gold Award project. Elaine improved trails at the camp by making trail signs for all the trailheads and intersections. She also cleaned up the trails hoping campers could learn how to navigate trail systems better. A Girl Scout for 13 years, Elaine plans to attend Penrose Cosmetology School and apply the entrepreneurial, innovative, and leadership skills she's learned as a Girl Scout. 

Joy Brown

Trousers for Trans

From a young age, Joy has questioned traditional gender roles regarding clothing. Understanding the lack of support that transgender people face, Joy pursued her Gold Award project, a clothing drive for the transgender community called Trousers for Trans. Setting up clothing donation boxes across multiple Arizona universities and events, Joy's drive collected enough clothing to fill a 15-foot U-Haul truck. The clothing was distributed to Arizona State University's Rainbow Coalition, a student-led coalition that advocates for the rights, safety, and overall health of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. In addition to collecting clothing, Joy wrote guidelines and created informational cards on "how to be an ally" to share on social media. As a Girl Scout for 10 years, Joy has been able to step out of her comfort zone and learn community building and communication skills. After graduating from Chandler Preparatory Academy, Joy looks forward to attending college at Northern Arizona University for a degree in hotel and restaurant management and art history.

Megan Burke

Hushabye Nursery

Having lost a cousin to opioid addiction, Megan used her platform as a Girl Scout to earn her Gold Award by bringing awareness to this addiction and helping those whom this drug abuse has impacted. She partnered with Hushabye Nursery, a non-profit that helps infants experiencing Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. This is a condition in which babies are born in an opiate-dependent state due to their mothers being on opioids while pregnant. Megan held a donation drive in which items donated to the nursery would allow women in the program to "shop" the items. Her actions helped boost participation in classes and brought awareness to the community. Megan spoke to many people, educating them on how opioid addiction impacts others. Her work supporting the non-profit also secured more volunteers and donations, making a lasting impact in the future. Through this project, Megan shares that she has learned vital communication, collaboration, teamwork skills, and how to stay focused on goals when challenges arise. A Girl Scout for 11 years, she looks forward to pursuing a career in politics.

Marisa Chaidez

Get Outdoors Today

As a lover of the environment and spending time outdoors, Marisa's Gold Award project aimed to improve youth and adult mental and physical health. She encouraged individuals to build skills and participate in adventure opportunities to become thoughtful and caring environmental stewards. To spread her message, Marisa created a website and YouTube channel showing the wonders of the outdoors – encouraging youth to get outside and explore. Marisa has been a Girl Scout for five years, an experience she says has allowed her to grow as a person in fun and exciting ways while exploring new places. A student at Freedom Prep Academy in Gilbert, Marisa plans to attend college and pursue a major that involves working with people, a skill that she says she improved during her Gold Award project.

Maya Channer

Atalanta Women: 365 Days of Empowerment

Inspired by all the research she was doing, Maya learned about hundreds of accomplished women who made history and thought of a way to educate others. With interest in technology and coding, she created an app and developed a team to help write 365 stories of women, with hundreds of other stories to add. She successfully coded the app Atalanta Women and published it in the Apple App Store. Atalanta Women highlights a woman each day and allows users to search and favorite their stories. It has been downloaded nearly 200 times and shared across her school network and community. Overcoming coding challenges and time management, Maya has learned how to lead a team, organize research and data, and has grown her confidence through her work. Girl Scouts showed her that being a leader isn't all about being outgoing. It's also about patience, organization, communication, and kindness. A Girl Scout for 13 years, she is currently completing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design for Theatre at the University of Southern California.  

Grace Cypert

Surgery Preparation Kits

After researching cleft palates and talking to doctors at the Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center, Grace felt inspired to help patients recover from these surgeries. Cleft lip and cleft palate result when facial structures developing in an unborn baby do not close completely. They require surgery and specific instructions post-surgery. To help manage their care, Grace came up with the idea to send patients home with a recovery kit that includes a detailed calendar with activities for care, a cookbook of liquid recipes, a toy, a deck of cards, a storybook about clefts, and a gift card to purchase smoothies. She gained support from the community and raised donations to complete the kits, and has gained feedback from the doctors and nurses at Barrow Cleft and Craniofacial Center that they have been beneficial to the patients who received them. Grace has learned to be a leader, confident, diligent, creative, and generous. She has also learned the importance of community service and friendships through this Girl Scouting experience. A Girl Scout for 12 years, she looks ahead as she plans to major in sustainability at an Arizona university.

Araceli Franco

The Young Generation of Changers

Araceli used her Gold Award project to educate students of all ages on climate change and water awareness. Inspired by her love for the outdoors and her passion for educating others, Araceli created lesson plans for grades K-12 on the impact of climate change and water issues on our Earth. With games, activities, full lesson presentations, and engagement sheets included on her site, Araceli's project is estimated to reach over 29,000 students. In addition, her work is being implemented into numerous school and non-profit curriculums in the upcoming spring semester in Arizona. Serving as a Girl Scout for 11 years, the organization has remained a constant in Araceli's life. She is in 11th grade at BASIS: Goodyear with plans to graduate early and attend college to earn her master's degree in computer science and engineering.

Megan Gibbs

Queen Creek
Theatre Tech for Hope

While working backstage as a theater technician in multiple productions at her high school, Megan realized that the lack of headsets did not allow the team to communicate effectively. In addition, the headsets the school provided did not allow crew members to move freely backstage. So, Megan made it her mission to raise money to buy new headsets for the theater program through her Gold Award project. Megan raised enough money to purchase eight wireless headsets using her Girl Scout Cookie proceeds, Fall Product Program sales, and selling customized buttons to audiences for each school production. In addition, Megan educated her theater group on using these devices through stagecraft classes. A Girl Scout for 12 years, Megan has learned critical character-building skills that have shaped her into who she is today. Now a graduate of Queen Creek High School, Megan looks forward to seeing future productions at her high school now that the theater group has the equipment needed to put on the best show possible.

Maria Gonzalez

Skate for Fitness

Maria combined her passion for figure skating and her dedication to addressing physical inactivity in today's youth for her Gold Award project. She created an in-person instructional Skate for Fitness event to encourage youngsters to take the ice and be more active in their everyday lives. Children took part in a 20-minute skating lesson and were coached by Maria on the importance of staying active. In addition, they were treated to an exhibition skating session where ten figure skaters performed their program for the 300 attendees. Maria also created an educational blog,, where she highlighted the health benefits of figure skating, featured other young figure skaters, and more. In addition, Maria's event inspired several attendees to begin taking skating lessons on their own. As a Girl Scout for nine years, Maria has learned important leadership, collaboration, and communication skills that she used for her project. Maria is a sophomore at Hamilton High School and wishes to pursue public health in college.

Ariella Hirsch

Helping Hand

While selling Girl Scout Cookies outside of a grocery store, Ariella noticed a veteran in his wheelchair struggling to carry the items he'd just purchased. He was even hauling a plastic bag with a gallon of milk by his mouth. Ariella immediately knew she needed to create a solution. Ariella's Gold Award project, Helping Hand, does that by allowing persons dependent on wheelchairs to download a PDF tutorial that helps users create a device out of PVC pipe - designed to be easily attachable to the handles of most manual wheelchairs. The device (patent-pending) attaches to allow the individual to self-propel their chair and access their possessions in an accessible way. The device can hold bags open and is designed to be affordable (less than $20 of materials) and accessible, as PVC pipe is available at most hardware stores. Her website,, targets disabled veterans and others in the wheelchair community. Her instructions have been downloaded over 300 times. In her 12 years of Girl Scouting, Ariella has learned life skills like public speaking and built the confidence to make a difference in the lives of others. She is concurrently enrolled in high school and a university with plans to receive her undergraduate degree in engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Senya Izzo

Cave Creek
Sensory Boards

Dreamcatcher Healing Ranch is an equine therapy center that helps people heal through educational and positive equine and ranch experiences. After meeting the owner and learning about their mission, Senya knew she wanted to help this community and get involved. The ranch experiences include horseback riding, adaptive riding, group outings, and more. Senya wanted to add to these healing experiences, so she created sensory boards for patients while riding on the horses. They helped with cognitive skills, motor skills, problem-solving, and were intended to be incorporated into the healing process of the therapy sessions. Senya also provided tutorials on how to make them so anyone could make them at home for themselves. Through her 13 years in Girl Scouting, she shares that she's learned so many valuable life skills, made invaluable friendships and had many incredible opportunities. She plans to attend Northern Arizona University to earn her degree in dental hygiene. 

Amaya Jones

Self Esteem Documentary

After experiencing self-esteem challenges and seeing how it impacts mental health, Amaya wanted to raise awareness and help others overcome it. For her Gold Award project, she produced a forty-two-minute documentary interviewing multiple teenagers, a psychiatrist, and a social media influencer on self-esteem and the variables that lower or increase it. Amaya's questions to these participants shed light on a common theme.  She discovered social media impacts youth self-esteem by creating unrealistic beauty and living standards. Participants also discussed how it can have a positive influence on self-esteem if users create a platform to celebrate our differences.  Amaya believes we need to find a healthy balance while on social media and stay true to ourselves because everyone is beautiful and unique in their own way. In her 12 years of Girl Scouting, she has learned to stand up for herself and is proud to have gained essential life skills like public speaking. Amaya attends the University of Arizona with plans to earn her degree in veterinary science.

Brianna Lopez

Reading Every Day

Brianna's love for reading inspired her literary Gold Award project. She created a book bag program that gave elementary school students access to high-quality literacy books and daily resources to encourage them and their families to read together every day. These bags consisted of three books, a folder with sample reading comprehension questions, a reading log, and literacy games and activities. In addition to the literary book bags, Brianna also created YouTube videos for her project to explain how educators can introduce it to their classrooms. A Girl Scout of 13 years, Brianna says that her involvement has taught her to love herself and her community. Brianna attends Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix and will graduate with honors this year. After graduation, she plans to attend Arizona State University, where she will major in nursing and continue graduate studies to obtain a nurse practitioner license.

Madalyn McKee

Study Garden

A proud alumni student of Abraham Lincoln Traditional Elementary School, Madalyn noticed two empty spaces on campus that she could transform. For her Gold Award project, she decided to change those spaces into gardens that the school's garden clubs could use. She asked and received donations from Home Depot, Lowes, and Harbor Freight for materials and installed raised garden beds and plants. Since installing the gardens, the clubs have been using the space to learn how to garden and identify plants. She is proud to give back to the school she attended since kindergarten. She remembers attending a summer garden program at the time, which is no longer available and hopes this space gives future Lincoln students that opportunity. Madalyn’s 11 years of Girl Scouting has taught her customer service skills, the importance of giving back, and has given her a sense of pride. Madalyn plans to become a physician's assistant.

Julie Nutter

Kindness Rock Garden

For many incoming high school freshmen, making new friends and building a routine can be a challenge. Wanting to help students in this situation feel more connected and make new friends, Julie created a Kindness Rock Garden at her school. She led a team of volunteers and hand painted hundreds of rocks with bright colors and positive sayings for students to enjoy. At the rock garden, students are encouraged to introduce themselves, make a new friend, and most importantly be kind to one another. “I learned that it is important to never give up on what we are trying to do. Girl Scouts has given me so many opportunities and helped me become confident and make friends,” shared Julie. We can see how important creating connections is to her. She has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and plans to attend a community college, transferring to a university to major in Secondary Education with a focus on History.

Shanti Oza

Taste the Teal

Living with life-threatening food allergies and knowing their impact on mental and physical health, Shanti set off on her Gold Award project to raise awareness on the effects of food allergies. She educated others on important topics such as how to prevent an anaphylactic reaction from becoming fatal, how to safely prepare food for those with allergies, and more by creating a website and social media page. Shanti's project eventually led her to speak to Arizona congressional leaders on the FASTER Act, which paves the way for label transparency by making sesame a top allergen. Shanti also advocated for the Food Allergy Research Caucus, which addresses the financial burden on minorities with food allergies. As a Girl Scout for 11 years, Shanti credits the organization for shaping her into who she is today. She is a student at Arizona State University pursuing a degree in elementary education to become a principal, governing board member, and superintendent.

Michelle Pangilinan

Empowerment for All

After hearing and witnessing multiple incidents at school, third-degree black belt Michelle began to question the safety of others and their ability to defend themselves. So, she launched her Gold Award project, a self-defense seminar created to share knowledge with anyone about protecting themselves, no martial arts experience required. Michelle instructed over 100 girls, boys, and women, from kindergarteners to working professionals through virtual seminars. In addition, Michelle also created six self-defense tubs with funds she raised, distributing them to centers and schools across the Valley to help spread her message and knowledge. A Girl Scout of 13 years, Michelle credits the organization for giving her an interest in leadership that inspired her Gold Award project. Michelle attends Northern Arizona University's Honors College, where she is pursuing her bachelor's and master's degrees in business administration. She looks forward to growing her martial arts school and continuing to share her self-defense knowledge along the way.

Paige Petrine

Cave Creek
Outdoor Classroom

Formerly serving as president of her middle school's Green Club, Paige wanted to give future students at Sonoran Trails Middle School the opportunity to have positive outdoor experiences. She revamped the former garden and turned it into an outdoor learning space. For her Gold Award project, Paige planted over 20 trees and plants, installed multiple garden beds, and installed a watering system. In addition, Paige created lesson plans for science teachers to incorporate into their curriculum. Despite delays due to Covid, the project came together to provide students with an educational and fun space that will continue to be maintained by the school's Sustainability Club (SEED Club). A Girl Scout since kindergarten, Paige is set to graduate from Paradise Valley High School and looks to study chemical engineering or biochemistry.

Katie Prator

Exploring the Sky

Growing up surrounded by STEM with her father serving as a Solar System Ambassador for JPL/NASA, Katie was inspired at a young age to discover the universe and encourage others to explore the skies. For her Gold Award project, Katie collaborated with professionals at Gilbert Rotary Centennial Observatory to create different lesson plans for students in grades K-5 centered around astronomy and space exploration. Katie's website,, contains over 90 activities for individual, group, and outdoor settings. Katie has been a Girl Scout for 13 years and has grown her confidence and learned valuable leadership and independence skills. A recent high school graduate, Katie now works full-time as a lifeguard at her local YMCA and looks ahead to college and her future career moves. Her Gold Award project has encouraged her to pursue STEM fields in the future.

Alesandra Reyes

Service Dog Etiquette

Alesandra grew up as a dog owner and trained a service dog through her school's service dog training course. She realized that many individuals are unaware of the importance of service dogs and their proper etiquette while working. In her Gold Award project, Alesandra sought to educate individuals in her community on the different traits, types, and requirements for trained service dogs while informing others about the dangers of distracting them. A Girl Scout for 14 years, Alesandra’s experience has taken her worldwide from Mongolia to Greece and allowed her to make lifelong friendships along the way. As a graduate of Arizona Agribusiness and Equine Center Paradise Valley, Alesandra’s Gold Award experience and expansive knowledge of service dog training have helped her consider further education and a possible career path in the service dog training sector.

Eden Sapien
Saving Supplies Saving Lives

When left with an expensive brace unable to be donated after her brother suffered a broken arm, Eden used her Gold Award project to establish partnerships with non-profits to give unused medical equipment to those who can't afford it. Partnering with Esperança, a Phoenix non-profit that provides seniors and low-income community members with medical supplies or equipment they need, Eden collected over $175,000 (and counting) in medical equipment from individuals across the Valley, exceeding her goal of $100,000. In addition to collecting equipment, Eden created a website for her project containing informational videos and more. A Girl Scout of 11 years, Eden learned valuable leadership, public speaking, and organizational skills while pursuing her Gold Award, and she has created a lasting impact in the community that still occurs today. She is a junior at Sandra Day O'Connor High School and looks to attend a university to study business after graduation.

Ella Werre

Save Our Saguaros

After the death of the saguaro cactus in her front yard, Ella was inspired to learn about saguaro health and the issues that are affecting their lifespan in urban areas. For her Gold Award project, Ella created a brochure to educate the public on saguaro health as well as a website,, with more information and images of fallen saguaros across Phoenix. Expanding her project onto the iNaturalist platform allowed others to log saguaros in their communities and establish the population to help scientists better maintain cactus health. As a Girl Scout of 12 years, Ella has learned new skills through camps, activities, and badges, making true friends along the way. A graduate of Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Ella's passion for the environment brought her to Michigan State University, where she is currently majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology.