A group of local Girl Scouts made history at the Arlington-Fairfax Elks Lodge last month by collectively all winning one of the most prestigious awards the Girl Scouts can bestow: the Gold Award.

“It is our highest award that can be earned. At present, only about 6 percent of all Girl Scouts earn a Gold Award. First you have to qualify to start the project, then you have to complete a suggested project length with specific steps,” says Girl Scouts Assoc. 54 Chair Kitty Awtrey. “A gold award follows the recipient throughout life. It is actively recognized in the college admissions process, for scholarships, by employers, and the United States Military. Gold Award Girl Scouts who join the armed services enter at one rank higher than other recruits.”

2018 Elk’s Lodge Gold Project Descriptions:                      

Tiana Petruccelli – Troop 6280

“Tiana designed and constructed a pollinator garden at Riverbend Park, Great Falls, and planted a variety of pollinator-friendly plants. She also designed an educational sign to inform park-goers of the decreasing population of pollinators and how we can help them.”

Brooke Balducci – Troop 2483

Brooke’s project was SWIM - Safe Water Instruction for Minors, which offered free swim lessons for economically disadvantaged children.  To qualify, the children had to be between 6 and 12 years old who DID NOT know how to swim.  They also had to show eligibility through a variety of programs such as Free/reduced lunch, Medicaid, SNAP, and Section 8 Housing.  The children were taught basic swim skills over a 4-week period that included floating, a variety of strokes, how to use reaching assists, and how to recognize emergencies and call for help. 

Pharron Savage – Troop 4248

Pharron focused on the epidemic of elderly loneliness and abandonment.  She created and implemented a plan to pull together a small group of youth volunteers to visit seniors, at a nearby nursing home, over an extended period of time.  The visits included care packages for the residents. The project made a great impact on everyone involved.

Alexandra Murphy – Troop 1323

Alexandra designed, organized, and ran a free STEM summer camp for children of our military service members. She taught the students how to run experiments using the scientific method. Her activities were interactive and exploratory-based and the children experienced the satisfaction that comes from investigation, discovery, and solving problems. She was a role model for all of the children, but particularly to the girls, by instilling an excitement for STEM. As a result of the positive feedback, particularly from the girls and their families, the child services center is starting a “Girls Can Too” club.

Megan Crone – Troop 2678

Megan designed an anti-bulling program at Wesley Church and Preschool to include a short video and a teacher lesson plan.  In addition she built two Buddy Benches to help teach friendship and the importance of including everyone. The teachers will show the video and explain how the Buddy Bench works each year in their playground rules/anti-bulling lessons at the beginning of each school year.

Alicia Lopez – Troop 4243

Alicia created a statewide spoken Latin program called Latina Loquenda (Latin must be spoken).  She organized events that allowed students to experiment with a new aspect of the language and teachers to bounce ideas off of each other.  She created materials to help other people easily replicate the program. Events were held in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Northern Virginia, and was also introduced and run at the Virginia State Latin Convention and the National Latin Convention in Ohio in 2018.

Mikayla Jenkins – Troop 40668

Mikayla wrote and introduced a bill to the VA State Legislature that would make it illegal to confine a companion animal in an unattended vehicle under conditions that could endanger their health or well-being; or to transport companion animals in an open cargo area of any vehicle without being properly secured in a transport container, while the vehicle is operating in the state of Virginia.

Ihsika Govil – Troop 217

Through a partnership with the Washington Regional Transplant Community and Donate Life Virginia, Ishika convinced others to register as organ donors, reaching an audience of over 2,000. She created posters to hang up at DMV’s, published a persuasive article in a local newspaper, and designed an organ donation geo-filter for Snapchat. 

Elizabeth Meade - Troop 897

Elizabeth created a curriculum of academic skills to help students adjust to entering middle & high school, giving workshops and creating a website to share with others.  The curriculum focuses on the areas of note-taking, organization, studying, and time management; tasks with which students often struggle.  The workshops included two all-ages sessions at Reston Regional Library and one session for 6th-grade students at Terraset Elementary.  The website, www.1pageatatime.net, features detailed instructions to help students succeed in these areas, plus advice for specific subjects, stress relief tips, and links to additional resources.

Erin Spalding – Troop 1323

Project description: Erin Spalding created a documentary on the teen poverty and homelessness in Fairfax County to bring awareness to these young people and how they can be helped. The video includes interviews of organizations that work with teens in poverty and ways that viewers can help their peers. The documentary is posted on YouTube and has also been shared through news articles and the social medias of different organizations.

Eleana Ergener – Troop  2684

Eleana created and taught a six-week after school Creative Writing course for local elementary school students. She loves to write, and wanted to help younger students discover their own passions for writing and storytelling, as well as learn skills in collaboration and discussion. 

Annali Menjivar Gonzales – Troop 1400

Annalie hosting a “Life Prom” at my local senior living center. Her intention for the Life Prom was to bring together senior citizens to participate in a fun, intergenerational social event that also provided awareness to the File of Life program, plus offer the opportunity to register for one. A File of Life is a fridge magnet and card that is designed to help in life threatening emergencies, by providing vital information to first responders. Her prom not only educated senior citizens and teens, but also brought a lot of joy.

Elizabeth Crishock – Troop 1323

Elizabeth’s Girl Scout Gold Award focused on girls and S.T.E.M.  She partnered with a local Title I grade school to provide reusable S.T.E.M. Kits for their 4th and 5th grade science classes to help prepare the students for the 5th grade VA science SOL  Elizabeth created the instructional videos with local 4thand 5thgrade students to demonstrate all the experiments.  In addition, Elizabeth produced a 45-minute documentary on “Women in S.T.E.M”.  She interviewed women with careers in S.T.E.M. fields, which is posted on YouTube.   The video documents stories of the women and provides advice to girls on careers in S.T.E.M. The link for the video was shared with the same local Title I school where she provided the S.T.E.M. Kits for their G.E.M.S. (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) Club.   Elizabeth has also shared the video with several other middle and high school clubs and programs. 

Elizabeth hopes to inspire girls to pursue their passions and stay strong in the face of adversity.  To watch her videos go to:  



Ellie Billett – Troop  1078

Ellie started Ellie's Elite: Warhawk Warriors, an outreach program where high school sports teams "adopt" a pediatric cancer patient/survivor as an honorary member of the team! A game is dedicated to the honorary member where they get to flaunt a jersey, stand alongside the team, and share their story. Ellie's Elite raises awareness for pediatric cancer, while welcoming the children into a warm environment and surrounding them with supportive teammates.

Amelia Schmidt – Troop 4156

Amelia educated pediatric cancer patients and their families on the benefits of equine therapy as a supplement to treatment and recovery. She held a "day at the farm" event for pediatric cancer fighters and survivors and their families to experience the benefits of equine therapy for themselves through different stations and activities.

Eliza Young – Troop 2058

Eliza raised awareness for Convergence Insufficiency, a visual processing disorder that affects 1/20 people but isn't tested for in a standard vision screening. It impacts students' ability to read and do other work for school, but many people aren't aware of it or familiar with the symptoms. She created a website that provides information and resources to people with Convergence Insufficiency (https://www.cihelp.org/) and established a facebook group for people with Convergence Insufficiency to connect and share their experiences. She also raised awareness at her high school by organizing a CI Awareness Day and leading a team of volunteers in distributing awareness information to students, teachers, and faculty.

Nicole Haley  - Troop 1323

Nicole created a program at her high school that makes dog toys from recycles and re-purposed t-shirts for more than six animal shelters in multiple states. She runs a booth at her school’s service learning events that help kids get an hour of service time for creating dog toys. Students find it therapeutic during stressful times in the school year.

Alexis Parks – Troop 2971

Alexis created a program that focuses on teaching teens how to effectively interview Senior Citizens to collect their oral histories and learn about historical events through their stories.  Alexis believes history comes alive when students experience it outside of just reading it in text books.  Alexis feels it is important for teens and seniors to interact and learn from one another.

Jennifer Cole – Troop 2684

“After seeing the dirt and sediment that filled her local creek every time it rained, Jennifer decided to plant trees along the bank of the stream in hopes of keeping it cleaner and the ecosystem healthier. She contacted the park authority and organized a day for her and other interested students at her high school to plant some native trees in the area. Jennifer then worked with a younger troop to teach them about the dangers of erosion and then helped them plant their own trees in the same park. To also inspire people beyond the community, she also created a website to document her experience.”

Kari Eskeland – Troop 2678

Kari led a team of volunteers to digitize and catalog over 2,000 books in the children’s library at McLean Presbyterian Church where she attends. This new catalog will help children find the books they want to borrow and assist the church in keeping an accurate inventory of their collection.

AnneMarie Caballero – Troop 4243

Over this past summer, AnneMarie ran a week-long camp, I.T. Girls, to teach middle-school girls to code at Bishop Ireton High School. The project took nearly 100 hours including planning the camp, creating lesson plans, and, of course, leading the camp day-to-day. The girls learned fundamental coding principles using Java. Some participants, who are now freshmen at my high school, have joined the Girls Who Code Club and attended HackBI, my school's hackathon.

Roxanne Lypka – Troop 5008

Roxanne built a playhouse for the preschool program at Fairfax United Methodist Church because she wanted to do something to give back to the church community she has belonged to most of her life. She worked with preschool administrators to design a structure that would be safe and fun for young kids. The final product was an open structure that allows for the teachers to see the students while they're playing, It was painted with bright colors so that it looks fun and appealing for the kids.

Claire Sawyer – Troop 1014

Claire developed a sustainable program with a team of Arlington County Public Health Department employees enabling them to better serve the community. Together they worked to create an improved organized system to store medical supplies.  Claire also created and led an annual employee training on assistive devices which be used to can aid the disabled during an emergency.

Krithi Chakrapani – Troop 1078

Krithi Chakrapani applied her interest in medicine directly to her community. She informed children in her community about the importance of having healthy vision. She conducted workshops in which she informed students from grades kindergarten to eighth grade throughout her community about the anatomy of the eye and the importance of maintaining healthy eye care habits in this technology dependent era. Her workshops were built to ensure that her participants learned how to continue to keep their healthy eyesight while continuing to use technology in their daily lives.

Rachel Stange- Troop 40021

Rachel’s  project addressed the Tween participation in voluntary and non-voluntary harmful activity in our technology driven society. She hosted a full-day event for Tween girls on Cyber Safety, have run two middle girls camps on computer science and cyber security principles, She created a cyber competency program for K-12 educators to reduce cyber distress and cyber bullying. Based on this Gold project work, Rachel has been published twice in the National Cyber Watch's Innovations in Cyber-security Education and her efforts presented at the international ACM Special Interest Group for Computer Science Education conference. Through the website, https://www.rachels.online/ Rachel has created a sustainable global cyber safety program for middle school students, known as Tweens.

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