A standard of excellence, the Gold Award recognizes Girl Scouts who make a difference, show extraordinary leadership, high morals, and a strong desire to make the world a better place.
Among those attaining the lofty honor in recent months were a collection of talented and highly dedicated South Pasadena teens including Anya Baranets, Lindsey Kuwahara, Olivia Hunt, Hannah Staudenmaier, Ashlyn Kawami, Juliana Fong, Louisa Petrillo and Anna Riffle.
Over a span of at least 80 hours, they implemented a challenging, large-scale innovative project incorporating community service, career planning and personal development.
The Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting, is a national award presented to those making a measurable and sustainable impact, and addressing local challenges related to a national and/or global issue.
They’re go-getters who are focused, engaging, problem solvers, risk takers, and willing to go the extra mile. Roughly only about six percent of all eligible Girl Scouts reach the Gold Award level.
Due to COVID-19, those recognized for the Gold Award from both the 2020 and 2021 year will be honored next June.
The local teens showed courage, confidence, and character to complete the many tasks necessary to achieve the top mark in scouting. The following is a description of their project:
ANYA BARANETS – Troop 15441
Anya Baranets, a senior at South Pasadena High School, combined a love for writing and poetry with a strong desire to assist underserved communities, leading her to the Elizabeth House in Pasadena to complete her Gold Award project.
The Elizabeth House, according to its website, “was founded in 1994 to address an unmet community need: shelter and services for pregnant women and their children experiencing homelessness.”
Over a seven-week period, Baranets conducted a poetry workshop with an average of five women at the house. The one-hour sessions consisted of Anya teaching a different style of poetry each week, before guiding the women in writing their own work.
One week, Baranets taught the art of Zentangle as the group created black and white drawings to accompany their poetry.
When the project came to an end, Baranets collected enough material to self-publish an anthology of their work, which she presented each of the participants at a wrap-up party. There is also a copy located at the Elizabeth House.
To gain the participant’s full attention, Anya provided childcare during the course.
LINDSEY KUWAHARA Troop 12521
Lindsey Kuwahara, a Girl Scout for 13 years, built an educational raised planter garden at Villa Esperanza’s residential apartments in Pasadena for adults with developmental disabilities.
“I also created care guides with information on how to maintain each of the plants, and recipe books with simple meal ideas that incorporate the vegetables and herbs from the garden,” explained Kuwahara.
Her goal was for Villa Esperanza residents “to further develop their skills of independence by taking care of and nourishing the garden by following a simple set of responsibilities,” said the local teen. “It also provides the residents with a nearby food source that they can use in their meals that is an environmentally-friendly alternative to store bought products.”
The garden, noted Kuwahara, also provides a peaceful space for the residents, “allowing them to gain a variety of skills and learn more about healthy living, meal preparation, responsibility, and communication.”
Her project has successfully been implemented into Villa Esperanza’s Independent Living Skills Program, transforming unused space into an educational opportunity for its residents.
OLIVIA HUNT – Troop 12521
Olivia Hunt, who has been apart of Girl Scouting for 13 years, created a community garden kiosk, including a poster board, featuring a roof and storage compartments where people can make announcements.
“It prioritizes the goals of allowing individuals inside the garden and outside the garden to communicate, eliminate waste, and give the garden something they needed,” explained Hunt in wanting “to contribute something positive to my hometown and community.”
The community garden kiosk, explained Hunt, contributes to the overall problem of reducing waste and creating an interest for others to pursue a potential green thumb.
“I chose this project because of the overall importance of acknowledging the need to assist in the preservation our earth,” she said. “The impact this project strives to make is eliminating waste and spreading the word.”
HANNAH STAUDENMAIER – Troop 16751
Hannah Staudenmaier, who has spent 11 years in Girl Scouting, calls her Gold Award project “The Los Angeles River: A Rebounding Habitat,” recognizing how urban waterways impact ocean health and costal communities.
She created a walking map and river guide of wildlife and local establishments along the Glendale Narrows of the Los Angeles River.
“The Los Angeles River is an overlooked, once natural, waterway that is rebounding because of the efforts of local activists,” explained Staudenmaier. “These efforts are improving the quality of wildlife in the river. The surrounding communities and the ocean that the Los Angeles River connects to also benefit from this effort.”
Staudenmaier’s project culminated with her writing and producing a documentary about the history of the Los Angeles River and the efforts to restore the waterway.
The guide will be available through her community partner, LA River Kayak Safari. Hannah led several clean up and education events with FOLAR (Friends of the LA River) and Heal the Bay.
ASHLYN KAWAKAMI – Troop 12521
For her Gold Award project, Ashlyn Kawami’s chose to shed light on the many benefits of public art.
As a way of bringing comfort to those residing at the Pasadena Ronald McDonald House, she painted a 20 x 8-foot colorful mural at the site that provides care and support for families while children facing life-threatening illnesses receive treatments at nearby Huntington Memorial Hospital
“I chose this topic since art is my choice form of expression,” said Kawakami.
In addition, the teen, who has been in scouting for 13 years, worked with a group of eager young artists at the South Pasadena/San Marino YMCA to create mini-murals, “displaying positive energy and unity amongst one another,” she explained.
JULIANA FONG – Troop 16751
Juliana Fong, part of Girl Scouting for a dozen years, created a public speaking curriculum for foster children at Hillsides, a Pasadena nonprofit providing five core programs offering a variety of innovative services for at-risk children and their families.
“Many of these children come from broken homes, are withdrawn, and lack proper communication skills,” said Fong, who conducted a series of workshops “to help them build their confidence in speaking up in front of others.”
As captain of her school’s speech and debate team, she wanted to create a program to help foster children gain confidence in public speaking. “I initiated an innovative curriculum to help these children learn to openly communicate with others,” explained Fong. “With these skills, these foster children can now be more successful in school and in their relationships with others.”
LOUISA PETRILLO – Troop 15441
Louisa Petrillo, who has been in Girl Scouts for 12 years, created ““(Im)perfectly Me” for her Gold Award project, explaining it “taught high school girls that how their body looks on the outside should not determine how they feel on the inside.”
Petrillo believes the message is important to evolving high school students “because confidence and self-worth are crucial when it comes to learning to love yourself,” she said, noting the way her project addressed the issue of self-confidence in teenaged girls was completed in a couple of steps.
“First, I created the Body Positivity Club, in which I hosted a lecture series of inspiring speakers,” explained Petrillo. “Basically I would email and coordinate with people who are for example makeup artists or yoga instructors or nutritionists, etc. and then have them come in to talk to the club and we would have sort of an open discussion with the club members.”
In addition, she painted and hung handcrafted signs with uplifting messages above the mirrors of the South Pasadena High School girls’ bathroom.
It’s a place is “where many girls go to make sure they look pretty or up to standards and I thought ‘What if I could put a different message into these girls’ heads?’ ” Petrillo said. “So I spent hours painting quotes on pieces of wood and together with the janitor and my dad, we hung them up over the summer before school started.”
The effort was funded through a yard sale and Girl Scout cookie sales. “Overall, my project took me 89 hours to complete and looking back, even though it was a lot of work, it was also a lot of fun,” noted Petrillo.
ANNA RIFFLE – Troop 12521
Anna Riffle, part of the Girl Scouts for 13 years, created a resource library for the Holy Family Giving Bank, which provides direct relief to those in South Pasadena and neighboring communities who face food insecurity and hunger.
“I chose this project because the Holy Family community is very close to my heart,” said Riffle. “I know that some might have no/limited access to the Internet, and I wanted to provide an accessible way for them to find resources offline.”
She researched resources and organized them by category (shelters, food banks, etc.) to support members of the parish and those who receive aid from the South Pasadena Catholic Church.
In addition, Riffle hosted a food drive, helped prepare and serve lunches, while sharing her resource library to those who receive assistance from the Giving Bank.