January 13, 2010
NEW YORK, N.Y.—Girl Scouts of the USA is proud to announce its 2009 National Young Women of Distinction honorees. Each of the ten young women has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award—the highest award in Girl Scouting—and has been selected as a National Young Woman of Distinction for demonstrating extraordinary leadership in the completion of her community action project. The Girl Scout Gold Award is earned by fewer than six percent of all Girl Scouts.
Each honoree spent one to two years on a community action project that has had far-reaching effects in her community and beyond. Among the honorees this year are authors, advocates, and environmentalists with projects based in a wide range of locations—from India, Africa, and China to neighborhoods in Louisiana and California.
The young women will be honored at a special awards ceremony on February 27 during the Girl Scout National Corporate Leadership Meeting in St. Louis.
"Earning the Young Women of Distinction designation is truly a remarkable achievement, and these young women exemplify leadership in all its forms," said Kathy Cloninger , Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of the USA. "They saw a need in their communities and around the world and took action. Their extraordinary dedication, perseverance, and leadership, is making the world a better place."
Silver Sage Girl Scout Council
Twin Falls, Idaho
Originally from Fiji, Hosanna moved to the United States following a coup d' état in her homeland. She founded 2-Way Street to empower, enable and encourage refugee and at-risk immigrant youth to develop a sense of community identity in the United States. With the support of adult and student mentors, community organizations, schools, and various agencies, youth participate in service, educational and mentorship programs to foster civic responsibility. 2-Way Street's motto is, "It takes all of us to do what we are called to do." Hosanna and 2-Way Street motivate youth to reach their full potential, providing a valuable asset to both youth and their respective communities.
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles
La Cañada, Calif.
After researching a high-traffic area where trucks were repeatedly involved in collisions, Malia discovered that the California Department of Transportation had erroneously noted that trucks were not allowed on the route. Malia also learned that GPS devices were directing trucks to the hazardous area and there were no road signs to warn drivers of the impending steep mountain area. She advocated for a law to ban trucks from the route by letter-writing, petition-signing, public speaking, and testifying before the state legislature's transportation committee. After her research, another truck accident occurred—killing two people and injuring a dozen others. In August 2009, a law to ban trucks on Angeles Crest Highway was passed because of her efforts.
Caribe Girl Scout Council
An avid soccer player, Angeles created Clinicas de Soccer en Juan Domingo, a sports program for children with limited resources in an underserved community in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. "My goal was to make a difference in the lives of young people," she said. The program involved the participation of parents, physical education teachers from the local public schools, and donations from the private sector. Students not only learned how to play soccer, but also Yoga and the benefits of good nutrition. She has indeed made a difference in their lives. Three talented students have been able to continue soccer lessons in a private league and the soccer clinics are continuing to provide services in the same place where Angeles first began her work.
Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey
Basking Ridge, N.J.
Reading Exchange—was founded out of a desire to empower girls in East Africa to reach their highest potential through reading. Shannon noted that "collecting book donations and renovating the SHARE classroom was relatively easy; the challenge was convincing the mothers to allow their daughters to stay and read afterschool—and not being immediately available to do the household chores of collecting water, farming, and caring for siblings." So she partnered with Community Solutions for Africa's Development (COSAD), an international nonprofit, and in 2008, Shannon created the first SHARE room in the Kiteyagwa Primary School in Bukoba, a rural village in Tanzania. To date, SHARE, whose slogan is, "Today a reader, tomorrow a leader," has expanded to three Tanzanian schools, helping approximately 150 girls improve their reading and English language skills.
Girl Scouts of Louisiana East
New Orleans, La.
Touched by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, Maris decided to contribute to the continuing revitalization efforts in her hometown. Her project addressed the lost tree canopy in New Orleans. She organized and led efforts to plant 26 caliper trees in New Orleans East, a section of town north of the Intercoastal Waterway. It was the first tree-planting mission of its kind in the area. Maris partnered with Parkway Partners, a New Orleans-based group dedicated to urban forestation. Her work not only beautified the area, but also fostered awareness of the increasing need to replace trees in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana
Project Laughter is a multimedia art form using theater, video and reading to bring humor to hospitals and school programs in and around Chicago. As creator of Project Laughter, Leah wrote an original play—The Wonderful and Amazing Adventures of Princess Clementine—and staged it with members of her school's theater troupe. "The play is about the journey a young girl took to learn to love herself and discover her place in the world," Leah said. She created a DVD of her performances and then wrote, illustrated and hand-bound the story of Princess Clementine. The DVD and book can be used for educational purposes, lifting the spirits and opening the minds of children throughout Chicago.
Girl Scouts of Northern California Cupertino, Calif.
Monisha's compassion for children with disabilities was the motivation for the Indian Disability Center. "People who are visually impaired in poor countries like India are often the most persecuted and have the least chance of climbing out of poverty," she said. "The odds are stacked against them from birth, as there is nothing to help them gain an education, continuing the vicious cycle of poverty." Monisha discovered that less than five percent of reading materials are in an accessible format such as Braille or talking books. She established a free learning center in the region of Chennai, India, exclusively for people who are visually-impaired. At the center, they can use assistive technologies to browse the Internet, access important educational and informational materials, or simply check e-mails and keep in touch with friends and family.
Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta
Morgan wanted to help victims of abuse so she started both the Victim Support Initiative, which provides 500 brochures filled with helpful information for victims of abuse and are distributed by the DeKalb Police Department's Special Victims Unit, and Change in a Bag, which provides abuse victims a fresh change of clothing. Morgan also founded Stronghold Atlanta to help women and children who are victims of domestic violence. When people enter a hospital or shelter after reporting abuse, their clothing is taken for evidence and they are given a hospital gown to wear or offered clothing from a rummage closet. Stronghold Atlanta provides new or gently used outfits for use by the victims.
Girl Scouts of Central Texas
Following a devastating earthquake in Sichuan, China, on May 22, 2008, Vivian focused on the children affected by the disaster. She created Adopt-a-Pal, with a goal of fostering fellowship between American teens and Chinese children who lost their parents or were disabled during the earthquake. She recruited American teenagers fluent in Chinese to serve as pen pals with the Chinese children. She prepared the volunteers to write letters to address the specific needs of the children, and she sent them a 71-pound care package that included high-quality backpacks, MP3 players, journals and school supplies. The pen-pals continue to write to each other.
Girl Scouts North-Central Alabama
Hanna's personal struggle with dyslexia inspired her to help others. She wrote an online book, Hanna and Her Dinosaur, which chronicles Hanna's early experiences with the disability. "I hope that my book helps many children receive the early intervention needed to be successful in life." Hanna also wanted to provide parents with the top signs and symptoms of dyslexia. "Dyslexia is often viewed as an 'invisible disability.' What's more, many school systems fail to recognize dyslexia as a disability, preventing children from receiving the help they need." Hanna's online book is a universal educational tool for people of all ages.
Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls with 3.4 million girl and adult members worldwide. Girl Scouts is the leading authority on girls' healthy development, and builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. The organization serves girls from every corner of the United States and its territories. Girl Scouts of the USA also serves American girls and their classmates attending American or international schools overseas in 90 countries. For more information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect, or donate to Girl Scouts, call (800) GSUSA 4 U (800-478-7248) or visit www.girlscouts.org.