Girl Scouts of South Carolina–Mountains to Midlands Honors 36 Gold Award Girl Scouts

Clinton, SC – Girl Scouts prepares every girl for a lifetime of leadership.  From taking a night-time hike under the stars to accepting a mission on the International Space Station; from lobbying the city council to holding a seat in Congress; from running her own cookie business today to tackling cybersecurity tomorrow, Girl Scouts are stepping up.

While the Girl Scout Gold Award sees little publicity, it is the most prestigious award in the world for girls, the most difficult to earn, AND it is only available to Girl Scouts.

Gold Award Girl Scouts are making the world a better place.  They are inspiring leaders whose Gold Award projects are impacting the world of STEM, education, agriculture, medicine, and more on a local, national, or global level.

Girl Scouts who demonstrate outstanding leadership by initiating and completing sustainable service projects were recognized with the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award in Belk Auditorium at Presbyterian College on Sunday, May 6, 2018.

This year’s Gold Award Girl Scouts are: Julia Babineau, Greer; Anna Bennett, Simpsonville; Mary Strahley Benson, Columbia; Adeline Cagle, Columbia; Robin Conner, Simpsonville; Eugena Davis, Sumter; Tatianna Davis, Sumter; Elizabeth Dillard, location withheld; Megan Drake, Aiken; Jaelyn Ellis, Columbia; Jolie Eppes, Simpsonville; Quinn Filler, Spartanburg; Sara Fuller, Chapin; Sakeena Ghandour, Irmo; Tinley Johnson, Clemson; Izabella Kamieniecki, Greer; Ashley Liddell, Boiling Springs; Ra’ven Logan, Spartanburg; Elizabeth Malejko, Lexington; Alexis Miles, Columbia; Emily Miller, North Augusta; Blake Osborne, Moore; Sydni Parnell, Columbia; Kiersten Potts, Irmo; Brynn Reese, Simpsonville; Sarah Roberts, Laurens; Samantha Rush, Boiling Springs; Victoria Singleton, Irmo; Bailey Stephens, Clinton; Elizabeth Stevenson, Aiken; Akari Stolt, Lexington; Alexis Stone, Gilbert; Laura Stuart, Columbia; Emma Walker, Greenville; Mae Webster, Spartanburg; Katherine Wood, Columbia.

Julia Babineau’s project focused on helping save the bee and butterfly population. To do so, she created a pollination garden to give the bees and butterflies a safe habitat. To make sure that her community was educated and aware, Julia created awareness packets that were given to different home owner associations that described the project, why it is important, and a detailed planning sheet for other communities to build their own pollination garden.

For her Gold Award, Anna Bennett tapped into her true passion of sewing. She teamed up with Sew Creative Kids Studio to teach young students how to sew pillowcases and drawstring backpacks. The pillowcases were donated to the Salvation Army to be used at local shelters and the backpacks were donated to Fostering Great Ideas, an organization that helps children transition into their new foster homes. Anna was able to have an impact on her community, as well as educate a younger generation.

Mary Strahley Benson discovered how hard it was to find good resources for struggling readers and the dyslexic. For her Gold Award project, Strahley brought awareness to her community through her Dyslexia Awareness Campaign.  Through this campaign, brochures were created with resources attached for the public. These brochures also include warning signs for preschoolers and kindergarten students as well as a checklist to check the ability of the children.

Through the help of medical professionals at Palmetto Health Hospital, Adeline Cagle was able to create scoliosis videos for patients who may have scoliosis, to use at home. These 25 videos bring paper exercise instructions to life. The videos are available for patients at Palmetto Health Hospital and will soon be released for public view. Adeline’s project was also featured at a city-wide health fair sponsored by the Junior League of Columbia; where she was able to have two scoliosis patients share their stories and encourage families to be proactive with back checks.

Robin Conner learned and recorded self-defense classes safely and effectively at the Greenville Academy of Martial Arts. One technique she learned and taught others is Jeet Kune Do, a self-defense technique developed by Bruce Lee.  Her 20 self-defense class videos were uploaded to her Gold Award website; allowing her project to reach a wide and diverse audience to teach simple and effective self-defense moves. Her website not only features her videos, but links to other self-defense classes offered in the Greenville area.

Eugena Davis wanted to impact her local community as well as others with knowledge on teen pregnancy. Her website teaches teens the importance of sex education and offers the latest teen pregnancy rates. Eugena was very passionate about her project as it allowed her to take charge and be leader in her community.

The mission of Wisdom on Wheels is to bring awareness and educate children and teens on bone disorders, as well as express the importance of healthy bones. Wisdom on Wheels is a public website, which also holds “The Bone Book,” created by Tatianna Davis. “The Bone Book” is an easy read informational guide with a list of common bone disorders and their descriptions.

Elizabeth learned that she had a huge passion for helping people. Because of this, she wanted to make sure that people felt comfortable and safe. Elizabeth teamed with Greenville Area Interfaith Hospitality Network and renovated a transition home for homeless families to use while getting back on their feet. Her renovation photos and impact were shared via social media and with her local church.

Megan Drake wanted to impact her community by seeking out the best way to help foster parents in her community. She created two Foster Family care communities, which are groups of 5 people who deliver and provide one meal a month to current foster parents. These communities are huge support groups for current foster parents. Volunteer members of the Care Communities groups were trained before participating so that they are able to learn more about the need of foster families in the local community.

Jaelyn Ellis’ project brought awareness, interest, and participation to local youth in the Mann-Simons site, a preserved historic African-American owned site that is the only remaining building of a collection of stores and homes owned and operated by the same African American family from approximately 1843 until 1970. Middle and high school students were invited to special events, such as listening sessions, to increase awareness of the site. Jaelyn also creates short films and informational brochures for her community.

Jolie Eppes wanted to bring a connection to her community and youth by having a space for activities and festivities that is easily accessible. Her creation of the pavilion provides space and helps inspire youth and adults in her community to come together and connect. Since the installment of the pavilion, more events have taken place, including an increase in youth at the church. Jolie has a committee that will keep the space well preserved for years to come.

 The Gift of Literacy is a book drive that provides at-home reading materials to immigrants and their children as they learn English. Through this project, Quinn Filler was able to become an English tutor for a local Adult Learning Center and brought classmates to learn how to tutor as well. Quinn has learned how to maintain positivity, make connections within her community, and recognize issues to resolve them.

After the destruction of Sara Fuller’s high school choir room and choral library, she decided to make it easier to store items to keep them from getting destroyed. Sara created a digital catalogue database that helps sort sheet music for the choral department at Chapin High School. Sara also created the position of “Choral Librarian”; a selected student to be trained on how to use the catalog and update it throughout the year. To help other schools with choral music organization, Sara created a website that will show students how to create a digital database for their school.

Sakeena Ghandour partnered with FoodShare, an organization that supplies fresh foods for low- income homes, and created a digital catalogue of recipes. These recipes were uniquely created to match the boxes of food that are provided to the low-income homes. Sakeena also donated an iPad and printer station at FoodShare, so that families without computer or printer access could search and print out the recipes at FoodShare.

Tinley Johnson partnered with The Community Martial Arts Foundation to create self-defense seminars. Tinley was able to host seminars for women to learn how to protect themselves in the event of gender-based violence as well as other topics at the Pickens County Advocacy Center. Through her project, two other organizations have connected to host more self-defense seminars in her local community.

Izabella Kamieniecki constructed two lending libraries and dedicated them to Brook Glenn Elementary School and Riverside Tennis Club. Izabella is passionate about reading, so she worked with the afterschool program at Brook Glenn to read with children and help with homework. Brochures were also left at the school, along with a large donation of books, to challenge kids to read more and to know the fundamentals of reading.

Ashley Liddell wanted to make sure that she impacted her community through her Gold Award Project, just as her grandmother impacted her life. She created “Little Comfort Blankets”, small baby blankets, to craft a connection between the mother and child in an unplanned pregnancy. She worked with a non-profit, BirthMatters, who works with mothers who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Ashley dedicated the project to her abuela (grandmother) who passed away; just as she made these blankets for Ashley and her sister when they were born. Ashley learned that it wasn’t about earning the Gold Award, but giving back to her community in the most impactful way.

Ra’ven Logan’s project focuses on educating her local community, especially teens, as well as making sure the community understands why teen violence has a negative impact.  Through this project, a local seminar will be held each year, with the help of law enforcement, to inform community members and youth of the statistics and what measures to take when encountering teen violence.   Ra’ven also made sure that brochures with helplines and other resourceful websites have been place at her high school and other locations.

Elizabeth Malejko wanted to make sure that community members knew the proper way to retire the USA Flag, as well as explain the history of why the USA Flag is important. Through her project, Elizabeth has created coloring books, poster boards, brochures, and bookmarks with famous quotes and USA Flag pictures so that kids are able to learn the proper way to retire a flag. Elizabeth also hosted a live video to walk her community through each step. Her information can be found at her local library.

Alexis Miles partnered with a local elementary school and created Brighter Smiles. Her project teaches 2nd grade students how to properly brush their teeth, and what to eat to keep their teeth healthy. Each student was provided with their own hygiene kit, as well as a take home toothbrush chart to document their brushing and flossing. Alexis also created a toothbrush pledge that is currently posted in the nurse’s office at the elementary school as a reminder to the student to keep great oral hygiene.

Emily Miller educated her community by making sure that they received the knowledge of the storm water infrastructure in North Augusta and how it impacts the environment. Her project also focused on maintaining the health and beauty of her community. Emily redesigned a forebay to help reduce waste in a nearby stream. She was also able to educate local business owners, and local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops.

After being a participant on a mission trip to Costa Rica, Blake Osborne saw a need that not only would benefit another country, but could also benefit her local community.  Blake created 20 Bible Story books in Spanish and English, with illustrations hand drawn by her.  Fourteen of the books were donated to local schools and churches, while the remaining 6 were donated to children in Costa Rica.

Sydni Parnell’s project focused on the importance of friendship. Sydni built and installed Friendship Benches at two elementary schools in her community; targeting 3rd-5th graders. These benches are currently being used as catalyst to help build friendships. Sydni also surveyed the students to see what words they used to describe a great friend. Those words were placed on both of the benches to impact all students.

Kiersten Potts has a passion for women getting involved in engineering. To inform girls of this field, Kiersten created the Young Women in Engineering Club at her high school. This club meets twice a month to create 1-2 projects each year. So far, they have built a picnic table for a local organization and created a Rube Goldberg machine for the special education department at Dutch Fork. This club also will have female engineer speakers to share their advice and how to be in such a field.

Brynn Reese created and led a choir at a local retirement center. Through weekly rehearsals and help from the Bailey Manor manager, Brynn and the choir prepared three shows: a Memorial Recital, Rio-themed Cruise Show, and a Christmas performance. Brynn was also able to put together a book summarizing the studies on the effect that music has on individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and the elderly.

Sarah Roberts saw a need to create an inventory system for the food bank at a local church. Upon creating the inventory system, Sarah was able to produce a recipe book with healthy recipes that could be used with the foods from the food bank. Sarah was also able to help deliver fresh vegetables from the church garden to the elderly who were shut in.

Samantha Rush’s Reading for Hope project aimed to attack the lack of books in the children’s hospital. Through generous support, Samantha was able to donate 8 Nook Glowlights with more than 200 preloaded electronic books to offer activities for children, and most importantly, to promote reading. The Clement’s Kindness Fund for the Children will also allow donations to go towards purchasing eBooks and updating the devices.

Victoria Singleton wanted to tackle the issues of littering and pollution of our environment. She educated numerous individuals on how to protect the environment and preserve the Earth. She also cleaned up the Dutch Fork High School’s courtyard and the garden of Heritage at Lowman. Victoria planted perennials so that flowers can grow back each year. She also used other materials that are durable to all types of weather.

Bailey Stephens partnered with her local Humane Society that is new to the area. She designed their Instagram page to help advertise dogs and cats that are currently at the shelter.  Bailey also created flyers to use in her local community to spread awareness about the importance of animal adoptions.

Elizabeth Stevenson’s Gold Award addressed the need for active shooter/intruder awareness and preparedness training at her high school, as one was not in place. In collaboration with Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, all high school administration, faculty, and students participated in the training. Elizabeth also created a diagram on what to do in an active shooter/intruder situation for the faculty and students at her high school. This training is now an annual requirement for the school. Strict security measures have also taken place since Elizabeth’s Gold Award was implemented.

Akari Stolt’s Gold Award focused on Autosomal Dominant Optic Atrophy (ADOA); a rare hereditary disease that causes loss in vision and damage in optic nerves. She spread awareness in her community, and now on her college campus, to educate individuals on how they can help and support finding a cure. Akari has also created a brochure with links on the research that has currently been done on ADOA, as well as ways to donate to the cause.

Alexis Stone teamed up with the local foster care homes to create educational presentations and brochures to educate others on the importance of literacy. She was able to donate over 400 books to children in the foster care system. Alexis partnered with Leola’s Place, a local store owned by Senator Katrina Shealy. A book box was also placed outside the store to allow others to join and donate books for foster children.

Laura Stuart partnered with God’s Storehouse to assist with the refurbishing and renovations of their store. God’s Storehouse was affected by the 2015 flood that took place in Columbia, SC. Many items were destroyed as well as the facility, including electrical work, ceilings, and the roof. With the help of a grant and donations, Laura was able to supply most of the needs for the store so that they could serve their community once again. Laura also created a string art piece that is now hung at the renovated facility.

Emma Walker’s Gold Award project allowed her to build, paint, and install a new playhouse for her local Ronald McDonald House. The original play area was torn down due to reconstruction and Emma wanted to make sure that kids had an area to have fun. Emma was able to add new decking to the playhouse. She was also able to share the importance of STEM.

Mae Webster transformed an empty room at the Bethlehem Center into a thrift shop for young, low-income families expecting babies. The mothers would attend parenting classes provided by BirthMatters in order to receive vouchers to use at the thrift shop. All inventory of the thrift store was donations from preschools in Mae’s community. The families not only received these items without the financial burden, but they also were able to leave with confidence and prepare for their new arrival. BirthMatters Thrift Store was also able to be mobile for those who did not have transportation.

Katherine Woody worked closely with FootCare Ministry, who keeps the feet of homeless individuals clean and provides them with shoes and socks. To help the ministry keep up with what they have in stock, Katherine created a digitalized inventory system to be used. She also took a step further and worked with a podiatrist to create reference guides for volunteers to identify and treat medical conditions that are present in feet or to know when an individual needs to seek medical attention. Katherine also created a training manual for new volunteers and sent information about the volunteer opportunity in her church’s newsletter.

Since 1916 Girl Scouts have been earning the Gold Award by making meaningful, sustainable change in their communities and around the world.  The Girl Scout Gold Award acknowledges each recipient’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but making the world a better place for others.  These young women are Go-getters, Innovators, Risk Takers, and Leaders.

Gold Award Girl Scouts spend, on average, one to two years on each project.  The requirements of the Gold Award are designed to strengthen each girl’s leadership skills, encourage her to explore career opportunities and to make a commitment to self-improvement.

These girls are inspirations to our communities.  We hope you will consider stories on the girls from your area to really highlight the difference these girls are making and will continue to make in our world.  Please don’t hesitate to contact me for pictures and contact information.

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For more than 100 years, Girl Scouting has helped girls develop positive values and become active, responsible leaders in their communities. With emphasis on personal growth and leadership development through service to others, Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Girl Scouts of South Carolina-Mountains to Midlands serves more than 7,000 girls, grades K5-12, and nearly 4,000 adults in 22 counties of central and western South Carolina, including Abbeville, Aiken, Anderson, Cherokee, Chester, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenville, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Oconee, Pickens, Richland, Saluda, Spartanburg, Sumter, and Union.