Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) recognized and celebrated its Gold Award Class of 2022 on June 12, 2022, at Bucknell University.
More than 150 family members and friends joined GSHPA to honor its Gold Award Girl Scouts at a reception and ceremony. The afternoon event highlighted the important projects completed by the honorees, honored the Girl Scouts with a formal pinning ceremony and gave girls a chance to meet their Gold Award classmates. Attendees also heard from Janet Donovan, GSHPA President and CEO, and Adrienne Vicari, GSHPA Board Chair, on the significance of the Gold Award.
This year, 68 Girl Scouts earned their Gold Award, and 40 attended the program to receive recognition for the differences they made in their communities. This year’s Gold Award class represents 20 of the 30 counties in GSHPA’s council footprint.
The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. The award provides Girl Scouts in high school the opportunity to select a community issue important to them and use their passion to make a difference. Eligible Girl Scouts are required to devote a minimum of 80 hours to problem-solve, plan and implement their ideas for change to earn the Gold Award.
Class of 2012 Gold Award Girl Scout Janelle Almondshares her Girl Scout experience.
By Catherine Amoriello
It’s a big weekend for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania (GSHPA) as we prepare to recognize and honor 68 Girl Scouts at the Gold Award Ceremony at Bucknell University this Sunday!
The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn and provides Girl Scouts in high school the opportunity to use their passion to make a difference. This year’s Gold Award Class represents 20 of the 30 counties in GSHPA’s council footprint, and we are so excited to celebrate the girls for their accomplishments.
In honor of this special time, we asked former Class of 2012 Gold Award Girl Scout Janelle Almond of Cumberland County to share her experience of going Gold and what Girl Scouts means to her.
Can you share what your Gold Award project was and why you chose to pursue it?
My Gold Award project involved developing a curriculum for an event for elementary aged girls. My church had hosted a girl’s sleepover event annually for many years, which I had always enjoyed attending. When I was in high school there was no leadership for that event, so I revived it with this curriculum entitled “True Beauty, Inside and Out.” Games, crafts and activities all focused on celebrating the girls’ inherent value and beauty and empowering them to live confidently, courageously and kindly. I have long been passionate about finding and celebrating the beauty in everything and everyone, but sometimes that is hardest to see and celebrate in myself. With a passion for teaching and mentoring as well, coming alongside younger women with what I have learned along the way in my journey is one of my greatest joys.
What are some of your favorite Girl Scout memories?
Some of my favorite memories of Girl Scouting involve camping with my troop, especially sitting around the fire making mountain pies and s’mores and singing and laughing together. Some of the best memories stem from things that didn’t go quite right – like when we went winter camping and all the bananas froze because the unheated portion of the cabin got so cold. Also taking on new challenges I might not have otherwise, including white water rafting.
This year, we have 68 girls in our council who earned their Gold Award. What career and young adult advice would you give them as they take this next step in their journey?
Live out the Girl Scout Law. When people know they can trust you to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and to take responsibility for what you say and do, doors will open for you. Respect yourself. Advocate for yourself and don’t be afraid to offer what you have to give confidently. Also know that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it. To ask for help is to show humility and a willingness to learn, which is a strength and not a weakness. Respect others and authority, and operate with integrity. Use resources wisely, make the world a better place by putting beauty into the world in how you speak, act and create. Be a sister to every Girl Scout and every human you meet. Seek to truly see and understand others and want the best for them, and surround yourself with community who see and want the best for you, too.
What was your biggest takeaway from your time in Girl Scouts?
Girl Scouts definitely had an impact on me in terms of helping me develop leadership and people skills, as well as my teaching and training skills that serve me so well now. I learned a lot about confidence and goal setting, and the value of community, civic engagement and connectedness with others. Also, survival skills, from car maintenance and repair, to self-defense and fire building, have been so practical and given me confidence for facing everyday life. It was also a gift in encouraging me to explore the arts, like music and dance!
Chloe Wegrzynowicz: Girl Scouts creates spark in building confidence in self and in helping others
Taking the time to learn about some of GSHPA’s Alumni is probably, hands-down, one of the most favorite aspects of my work here in the marketing and communications department for Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania.
The day-to-day duties are also rewarding, but when I get a chance to learn more and be inspired by our members, especially those Girl Scouts that have taken action to the next level, it’s the perfect reboot that I need.
The story of Harrisburg native and recent high school graduate, Chloe Wegrzynowicz, is one such reboot. Here’s her story in the making. She speaks loudly for those who might need a voice. We are lucky to have her in our ranks.
GSHPA: Tell us a little about yourself: Where did you grow up? Siblings? Your current schooling and your career track.
CHLOE: I am from Central Pennsylvania, but was born in Harrisburg, PA. I have a younger sister and three half-brothers. I am especially close with my sister Haley. I am currently enrolled at Emory University (Go Eagles!). I will hopefully be double majoring in Spanish (BA) and Philosophy, Politics, and Law (BA PPL) or Spanish (BA) and Anthropology & Biology (BS). After Emory, I aspire to continue my education and become an immigration lawyer or oncologist. I’m a little unsure yet but I definitely want to use my life to learn more and help others.
GSHPA: What are some of your favorite memories regarding your Girl Scout experience?
CHLOE: Being a Girl Scout was one of my favorite things from high school. I made some of my best friends through Girl Scouts. Every fall we would go to a festival, which was especially memorable. My favorite memories are the ones in which I was with my sister scouts, which is just about all of my memories. But, I wouldn’t be where I am without their support and encouragement.
GSHPA: Has your experiences in Girl Scouting affected your leadership style/experience now. If so, can you explain?
CHLOE: Yes. Before I joined Girl Scouts I was incredibly shy. However, when I went to my first meeting everyone was kind and open to hearing what I had to say. Throughout the years, I learned to have a voice, which has helped me to be a better leader. Now, I have the confidence to be who I am, as I am, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
GSHPA: Tell us a bit about your Gold Award project.
CHLOE: I wanted to address bullying, and more specifically peer pressure as it relates to self-validity amongst high school students. There was a great deal of bullying, peer pressure, depression, and party-culture at my high school, and I wanted to do something to address that. Confidence was something I also really struggled with, especially as a Type One Diabetic I often felt very self-conscious. After two of my peers passed away, I decided to dedicate my project to helping students “Believe” in themselves. I painted a mural inspired by one of my favorite quotes by Dante Alighieri, “From a Little Spark May Burst a Flame”. I also filmed a documentary addressing how exactly those issues affected students from three different schools/backgrounds. Lastly, I gave a speech in front of my student body about my experiences with confidence and the path to learning to not only love others but to love yourself, too.
GSHPA: What are some ways you can recommend participating in the Girl Scouts as a volunteer?
CHLOE: There are so many ways to volunteer with Girl Scouts. I think the best way to volunteer is to go through the Girl Scouts webpage. Troops need help with field trips, cookie sales, and sometimes guest speakers for badges. It’s also nice to give advice to younger Girl Scouts who are looking to work for a Gold Award.
GSHPA: If you have any particular hobbies that you would like to share, we would love to hear about them!
I love creative writing. It is one of my favorite things to do.
I also exercise every day; I love lifting and yoga especially. My goal is to learn Titthibasana
I play the piano for fun and am currently teaching myself the Ukulele.
The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn. Seniors and Ambassadors work towards earning their Gold Award by taking on issues they feel passionate about and making a difference in their community. Not only is earning the Gold Award an amazing achievement on its own, but it can also open up doors for those who earn it, through scholarships, college and career opportunities, and more. The Gold Award year runs a little differently than our typical Girl Scout year, and our most recent Gold Award earners are in the class of 2021. The most recent Gold Award year ran from April 2020 to April 2021, and we are so excited to celebrate with the class of 2021 virtually this May.
We have had so many amazing Girl Scouts earn their Gold Award in our council. This year alone we have 58 Gold Award Girl Scouts throughout GSHPA! In reflection, and as a fun way to share some Gold Award experiences, I connected with a few council staff members to ask them about their Gold Award projects. Caroline Jaeger, our Product Program Outreach Specialist, earned her Gold Award in 2013, and Gina Naticchi, Volunteer Support Coordinator in the Scranton area earned hers in 2003, and both were kind enough to tell me about their experiences!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about your Gold Award project?
Caroline: My Gold Award project was titled Laxin’ Legacy. I played lacrosse from a very young age and knew I’d be going on to play in college when I was thinking about what my project would be. I knew I wanted to combine my passions and decided to have lacrosse be incorporated into my Gold Award. I arranged a mentorship program between the high school girls lacrosse team and the local rec team. Once per week during the spring season, myself and a group of high school girls from the lacrosse team would go over to the rec team’s practice to coach/run their practice. During this time we would do two things: 1) teach an advanced lacrosse skill to help them for when they reached high school tryouts, and 2) sit down and have a conversation about what to expect when you get to high school – not just athletically, but socially and academically – and answer their questions to prepare them for a successful and easy transition to high school. At the end of the season, I gave them a manual of everything we coached them on, and the high school team continued to run this program after I graduated.
Gina: I put on a huge flag retirement ceremony in my town. There had never been a flag retirement held in my town before and I felt that with all the buildings that had flags outside, it was a great idea to hold one so businesses had a way to properly dispose of old flags. I ended up contacting and collecting old flags from businesses and set up collection boxes all around town for people to drop off old flags. I then planned an entire ceremony that involved several local organizations, including Girl Scout troops, Boy Scout troops, fire departments, American Legions, VFW’s and local politicians.
2. What is something you learned from your project that has stuck with you into adulthood?
Caroline: When you combine your passions in life with whatever you are working on or working toward, you will have success and you will enjoy the journey. This was true when combining my love of lacrosse with my Girl Scout Gold Award, and it is true now with having a career in an organization that I am passionate about.
Gina: One thing I learned is how quickly the community was willingly to help me. I specifically remember I was hoping to get a local priest or pastor to do a small prayer at the start of the flag retirement ceremony. I called a local church that I wasn’t a member of, to see if they would be willing to do the prayer at the ceremony, and the church immediately said yes. At the time, I figured since I had no connections and wasn’t a member of the local church, they would say no. The fact that the church went out of their way to help me, really showed how my town was willing to help each other out when asked. It’s such a small detail, but clearly it means something to me when I remember it from almost 20 years later.
3. What skills did you learn from earning your Gold Award that help you today?
Caroline: There were so many skills that I learned and grew during my Gold Award that help me today, and most of them are centered around leadership. Some of these skills include planning, public speaking, and time-management. The skill of leading my peers was a significant one. At the high school age it is easy to be a follower or just hide in the crowd. Doing my project forced me to rally my peers – my teammates – to help me out and get them just as excited about this impactful project as I was.
Gina: Leadership, communication, and organizational skills. It doesn’t sound like it would be a lot of effort, but putting on a successful flag retirement ceremony took a lot of time and work. At the time, I had only been to a few flag retirement ceremonies, and I would go, help put old flags in a fire and would leave. Because I wanted my project to involve the entire community I spent a lot of time reaching out to businesses about collecting flags. I also spent a lot of time planning the actual ceremony itself because I wanted to make sure that I involved local organizations as speakers. Even something as simple as finding a location was difficult because I had to make sure the area was large enough for the ceremony but I also needed to make sure that the fire dept had easy access in case something happened.
4. In your opinion, why should girls want to earn their Gold Award?
Caroline: Girls should be driven to earn their Gold Award because it gives them an opportunity to make an impact on this world in a way that they decide, and it sets them up with a foundation for success at such a pivotal time in their life.
Gina: Girls should want to earn their Gold Award because it’s the highest achievement you can earn in Girl Scouts. I love knowing that I started Girl Scouts when I was in Kindergarten and continued it through High School and was able to earn the highest award. Very few girls earn their Gold Award and I love being part of the elite club of Gold Award recipients. It also feels so good knowing I did a successful project that helped my community. Participating in product program, going camping and earning badges is a huge part of Girl Scouts, but helping the community was always my favorite part.
Earning a Gold Award takes a lot of time, hard work and passion. I think the best way to see that passion first hand is to take the time to talk to a Gold Award Girl Scout near you! You can also view our Class of 2020 and learn about their projects at the bottom of our Gold Award website page. Keep an eye out for the Class of 2021 coming soon! Have you earned your Gold Award? Let us know in the comments!
The Girl Scout Gold Award is something that most Girl Scouts have heard at least once in their time as members, but only a small group end up achieving. It is the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve has a girl member. One piece of the Gold Award is to address a root issue in the area of a girl’s choice. The root issue they will tackle could be anything from food insecurity to intergenerational relations to social injustice and everything in-between. The ultimate goal of a Gold Award project is to not only address a root issue, but to also allow girls to build and demonstrate their leadership skills in a positive way so they can continue to be leaders into adulthood.
Sounds pretty amazing right? On top of the benefits already mentioned, Gold Award Girl Scouts can receive special scholarships when pursuing secondary education. And Gold Award Girl Scouts interested in join the military are entitled to enlist at a higher pay grade. Additionally, this distinction impresses many potential employers who are looking for individuals with initiative, creative problem solving skills and established leadership abilities.
While there are so many great things about earning your Gold Award as a Girl Scout, there are also many myths and misconceptions about the Gold Award and how to earn it.
So let’s break down a few of those to help our girls and volunteers better understand the world of Gold Award…
Myth: Girls can only earn their Gold Award if they have been a member of Girl Scouts since Daisies (K-1st grade).
Fact: Girls can join Girl Scouts at any time and still earn their Gold Award! We recommend starting your Gold Award in 9th or 10th grade (as a Senior Girl Scout) so you have plenty of time to complete the prerequisites (see next Myth) and your Gold Award project. We are happy to help girls who start later in their Girl Scout journey complete their Gold Award as well.
Myth: Girls have to earn their Bronze and Silver Awards before starting the Gold Award.
Fact: We have two prerequisite paths and girls must choose one of these paths before starting their Gold Award project:
1. Two Senior or Ambassador-level journeys
1. One Senior or Ambassador-level journey and Silver Award
Girls are given these options to ensure every Girl Scout can pursue their Gold Award if they way even if they have not received any previous higher awards. The goal of both journeys and the Silver Award is to teach girls the difference between community service and a Take Action project, which is the foundation of a Gold Award project. Girls need to understand how to identify and address a root issue and how to build that into a project, and through completing journeys and/or the Silver Award, they will progress much more easily into the Gold Award project expectations.
Myth: Girls can earn the Gold Award as a troop or group project.
Fact: The Gold Award is an individual award and therefore each Girl Scout must choose their own Gold Award project. While troop members and troop leaders can be a great support and are more than welcome to join a girl’s “Gold Award Team” it is important to note that the Gold Award is an individual award rather than a group project.
Myth: Girls can just choose their parent or troop leader as their Project Advisor
Fact: A Project Advisor should be a “subject matter expert” on the issue or topic being explored in a Gold Award project. We strongly encourage girls to connect with someone in their community to fill this role so they can find someone who can best support them throughout their project. Additionally it give the girls the opportunity to network outside of her immediate family and Girl Scout circle.
Myth: Girls can raise money for another existing organization that they care about as their Gold Award project.
Fact: No, due to federal IRS regulations GSHPA has to follow as a non-profit organization, our members cannot raise funds for an outside organization. While they can collect physical items to donate (coats, toiletries, animal food, etc.), they cannot solicit monetary donations for an outside organization. The overall goal of the Gold Award is for girls to find creative and unique solutions for their project and show their leadership skills to address a root issue and this goes beyond collecting resources.
Myth: Girls have until their 18th birthday or high school graduation to complete their Gold Award projects.
Fact: Girls have until September 30th of the year they graduate high school to complete their project. Graduation year of 2021? You have until September 30th 2021 to complete your project.
Myth: You do not need prior approval to start your project and only need to submit a Final Report.
Fact: All Gold Award candidates MUST use GoGold for every step of their project, starting by submitting a Gold Award Project Proposal. Once submitted each proposal is reviewed by GSHPA’s Gold Award Management team. The team will then connect with the Gold Award candidate for a short interview to ensure she is set up for success. During this interview the GSHPA Gold Award Management Team will either approve the proposal or share feedback/suggestions needed to add before approval. Once the Gold Award project is formally approved the Girl Scout can begin! After completing her Gold Award project the girl will submit her Gold Award Final Report in GoGold for final review and approval before she is officially named a Gold Award Girl Scout.
Myth: Girls and families have to be financially responsible for your project’s expenses.
Fact: No, there are many ways to fund your Gold Award project! The GSHPA Fund Development department can help create a plan for each girl pursuing her Gold Award to help her fundraise and find creative fundraising solutions. Girls can also use money earned through the Fall Fundraiser and Cookie programs as well as approved additional money earning opportunities (the Gold Award Management team can help guide you on this).
Myth: Since the Gold Award is an individual project, the girl has to do everything alone.
Fact: No! It is important to note that there are many people who are there to support each Girl Scout through her Gold Award journey. While developing a Gold Award project girls will create a team of multiple individuals helping them along the way allowing them to further their leadership skills! The Gold Award team can include family, friends, fellow Girl Scouts, community members, etc. Additionally, the Project Advisor is there to help guide girls through obstacles and issues that may arise during their project. And don’t forget about troop leaders, parents, etc. which will be a Gold Award Girl Scout’s biggest cheerleaders along the way! And last, but not least the GSHPA Gold Award Management team is here to help! We can answer any questions you have, we will coach you throughout your project and can help you strategize if you have to change your project along the way. We will also be here to celebrate with you when you cross the finish line of your project!
Hopefully this has given you a better idea of what Gold Award is all about!