Saratoga County

Girl Scouts receive Gold Awards

High school is typically a time spent working toward college, relaxing with friends, and enjoying th

High school is typically a time spent working toward college, relaxing with friends, and enjoying the last few years of young adulthood.

But for some young women participating in the Girl Scouts of America, those four years are spent working toward the esteemed Gold Award.

While the name has changed many times throughout the years, from the Golden Eagle insignia and the Curved Bar Award, to First Class and now the Gold Award, this highest achievement in scouting has always challenged girls to change the world by starting in their own communities.

On May 19, 18 local Girl Scouts completed the seven-step process required to earn this highest achievement.

Ella Sciocchetti researched the effect of tobacco and other targeted advertising on middle school-age students after becoming involved in Niskayuna High School’s chapter of Reality Check, a “teen-led, adult-supported” state organization created to educate parents and their children about the manipulative marketing techniques of the tobacco industry.

Her findings were presented to the Niskayuna Town Board in 2012 after a year-long investigation.

Following her presentation, Schenectady County began considering options for a retail location ordinance that would further reduce youth exposure to tobacco advertising through a ban of sale in locations that children frequent, like pharmacies and near schools, or by requiring tobacco displays to be cut completely in certain locations.

Unlike many of the girls she observed during the ceremony, Sciocchetti credits her Girl Scout leaders for their lack of guidance, saying that because of their laissez-faire approach to mentoring, she and her troop members were able to find their answers deep within themselves. “Whenever we asked a question, our leaders would respond: ‘What do you think?’ It forced us to make our own decisions and grow as leaders,” she said. Sciocchetti will be attending Ithaca College in the fall.

Fire safety educator

Kelly Phillips of Galway is a fourth-generation firefighter and has been a member of the Perth Volunteer Fire Department’s Explorer Post since the age of 14. During a training demonstration, Phillips was surprised to see how intimidated young children were by her colleagues’ fire gear. As a member of the Girl Scouts for 13 years, she used this observation as inspiration for her Gold Award project.

With the help of her department’s safety officer, Phillips created a program to educate preschoolers in fire safety. The program, which was attended by 60 preschoolers and their parents during her school’s kindergarten orientation, focused on what to do in a fire situation, how to prepare emergency evacuation, and stressed the importance of not hiding from a firefighter. Phillips tried to familiarize the children with firefighting gear to dispel any fears they might have.

Phillips is currently working toward her Fire Fighter 2 training, which would qualify her for interior firefighting. She will attend Siena College in the fall.

Other local honorees include:

Samantha Atchinson of Alplaus, who created a sustainable math tutoring program at a Schenectady Central School District Middle School.

Katelynn Brewster, a junior at Stillwater High School, who created a book-lending program after noticing that many participants of her local food pantry didn’t have reading materials for themselves or their children.

Carolyn Gibbons of Galway, who designed a community-wide program to increase bluebird populations.

Kristin Houghton of Galway, who, inspired by her own experiences with bullying, created an anti-bullying club to help other students deal with similar situations.

Meghan Luft of Niskayuna, who developed a program to educate youth about the importance of correct pet adoption habits, spaying and neutering, and animal shelters as a preferred option for adoption.

Samantha Pappalua of Ballston Spa, who joined with the Ronald McDonald House and her high school Key Club to create a program to take care of local families during the holiday season.

Jenn Scuderi of Clifton Park, who developed an inner-city reading and skills improvement program for elementary students in Schenectady.

Elyse Wohl of Schenectady, who refurbished an unsafe community program and provided materials to support healthy play activities.

Also receiving their Gold Awards through the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York were: Samantha Aierle, Dannemora; Samantha Brewer, Hoosick Falls; Rebecca Clauder, Granville; Christine Darrah, Ausable Forks; Mackenzie Kiefer, Durham; Nikki Kirby, Castleton; Mursal Naderi, Northampton, Mass.; and Pascale Stain, Delmar.

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