Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts, the largest girl serving organization in Massachusetts and 10th largest Girl Scout council in the United States, is celebrating the 2022-2023 class of Gold Award Girl Scouts: over 50 teen world-changers in Eastern Massachusetts who invested over hundreds of hours creating lasting impact on issues important to them. As they take action to transform their world, Gold Award Girl Scouts gain tangible skills and prove they are the leaders our community and world need.
The Gold Award is the highest achievement a Girl Scout can earn, available to girls in high school who create sustainable change on a community or world issue, from teen nutrition to literacy development in youth. Gold Award Girl Scouts address the root cause of a problem, plan and implement innovative solutions to drive change, and lead a team of people to success.
This year, Gold Award Girl Scout Karen Altenhoff was awarded for her work on the community project titled ‘Sweet Smiles’. Karen felt the pressures of isolation during the pandemic and saw her phone as a lifeline to connect with family and friends. When she discovered that many elderly nursing home residents could not access the same technological lifeline due to lack of knowledge or ability, she took it upon herself to bring them a break from their loneliness. Karen collaborated with Hale House Boston, a local residential care facility for seniors, to create a social hour program with games and homemade treats. Karen led a team of all-ages volunteers who will sustain these special social hours beyond her involvement. Through Karen’s Gold Award project, the entire community was enriched by way of multigenerational interaction and enjoying the simple things in life.
“The issue of loneliness does not only impact the people in my community, but our entire world. With my project, I was able to bring a smile to a person’s face and let them talk about their lives—all while enjoying a treat,” said Karen Altenhoff.
Gold Award Girl Scout Mariella Mattaliano was awarded for her work on the community project titled ‘Reading is Fun’. Mariella loved to read, and was discouraged by research reports that showed an increase in children’s literacy issues in recent years. Therefore, Mariella dedicated her time to watching eight kindergarten and first aid students enhance their reading skills, increase their attention spans, and overall improve their literacy capabilities. Mariella would read to the students before creating a game out of question/answer sessions and completing the reading comprehension with a themed craft. Mariella often had friends help her with this project, and one particularly invested volunteer helper will sustain this project by continuing it for the next year.
“At the start of this process, it felt impossible. It seemed as if there was a roadblock down every path I attempted to follow. Failure and rejection became constant. I learned that I am able to accomplish things especially when I truly try,” said Mariella Mattaliano.
Gold Award Girl Scout Hannah Sullivan was awarded for her work on the community project titled ‘Body Positivity Amongst Adolescents’. Hannah noticed a rise in physical insecurities in preteens and teenagers, as a result of an increased use of social media around the age of 13. Hannah developed an experience-based curriculum in which she and a group of volunteers created presentations about representation in media, the importance of body-positivity, and coping strategies for those struggling with negative feelings towards their appearance. Hannah also created educational pamphlets to distribute within the Mental Health and Women Empowerment clubs at her school. The Women Empowerment Club was so impressed by Hannah’s work that they agreed to run the presentation yearly and continue the important conversation for the foreseeable future.
“The most successful part of my project [was] how diverse it was and how I really [felt] like we managed to touch upon a larger spectrum of groups that I [felt] are commonly left out of body positivity conversations,” said Hannah Sullivan.
Gold Award Girl Scout Gabriella Turco was awarded for her work on the community project titled ‘Period Insecurity Right Next Door’. Gabriella admired the work of an organization called “Hope and Comfort” and wanted to extend a helping hand. The organization is committed to providing period packages to in-need teenagers, an issue that Gabriella felt deserved more awareness in her community. Gabriella held information sessions at her church, alongside a Girl Scout cookie booth sale, put up flyers in her school’s bathroom stalls, contacted her congresswoman to promote tax free menstrual products, and posted on Facebook and Instagram pages to educate people beyond her local reach. By partnering with an established organization and getting younger Girl Scouts involved with her project, Gabriella’s efforts will continue to make an impact on her community beyond her involvement.
“I know that I was able to help the intended audience of my project. Although I never knew their names, I know there is a girl behind every anonymity number who felt more secure with their specific high-quality products fitting their own needs,” said Gabriella Turco.