A record-setting 87 Girl Scouts throughout San Diego and Imperial counties were presented with their Girl Scout Gold Award during a councilwide private ceremony this summer at Liberty Station.
Due to the pandemic, which made many of the girls adapt their Gold Award projects for the virtual realm, it was also streamed on Facebook Live.
The group of 2021 recipients included two Poway, three Rancho Bernardo and six 4S Ranch residents. They earned the highest honor available in Girl Scouting, an achievement reached by only 5 percent of the organization’s members, according to council officials.
The RB and Poway Gold Award Girl Scouts are featured this week, with the 4S Ranch Gold Award Girl Scouts scheduled for recognition in the Sept. 30 issue.
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Ambassador Girl Scout Lauren Crane of Rancho Bernardo has been a Girl Scout for 12 years, starting as a Daisy. Prior to the Gold Award, the Troop 8907 member earned the Bronze and Silver Awards and was named a 2020 Emerging Leader Girl Scout.
Crane chose to increase voter awareness among 18- to 24-year-olds, the lowest participation based on age group in San Diego County, and emphasize the importance of voting and voter registration for her Gold Award project. To address this she used social media platforms to promote registration and pre-registration among those ages 16 and 17. Crane said she created a media toolkit with the San Diego Registrar of Voters so schools countywide have a resource to encourage voter registration. She also spoke at various community events.
“It (was) my goal to make the biggest impact I (could) on my target audience and to raise voter turnout,” Crane said, adding “voting is important and necessary (and) will help our society to be represented more realistically in our government and better our country while simultaneously preparing us for the future.”
Crane said she was “feeling frustrated and helpless about not having the ability to vote in the (2020 elections) … wanted her voice to be heard and wanted to do her part in encouraging others to exercise their voting rights.” This is why she initiated a multi-faceted civic engagement campaign to build voter awareness leading up to the 2020 presidential election.
Because the City Heights neighborhood of Rancho Bernardo is an area with historically low voter turnout, Crane also painted a mural in City Heights to boost engagement through bold public art.
Crane said through the project she learned how to overcome self-doubt and enhance confidence in herself. In addition, she learned that with hard work and dedication, she could make a lasting difference.
She is now an Academy of Our Lady of Peace senior with plans to study political science and international relations in college. At school she has been named to the honor roll, taken club leadership roles, was sound director and props designer in the theater program and Model UN member.
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Ambassador Girl Scout Abigail Gant of Poway has been a Girl Scout for 11 years, starting as a Daisy. The Troop 8390 member earned her Bronze and Silver Awards, a Leadership Torch and Community Service Bar. She is a third-generation Girl Scout.
Gant said she had her Gold Award project focus on stress because “people don’t know how to deal with stress in a healthy way. They let stress win and cannot overcome it. Through pressures of work, school, social life and social media, family and economic problems, stress is everywhere. There are so many competitive pressures around us and I see people around me stretching themselves so thin piling things up on their plate.
“We need to learn our personal stressors and limits and learn when to take a break for ourselves,” Gant said. “This is so important. Little stresses can often be used as
adrenaline boosts, but when it starts to pile up, we get overwhelmed and cannot channel it in a healthy way anymore. Reaching out to others under stress is our natural way of coping with it, but often people bottle up their stress.”
She said the “How to Make Stress Your Friend” TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal was a big inspiration for her project that included educational presentations via events and social media to nearly 300 participants whose age span was teenagers through senior citizens. She also started the Not Stressin’ Club at Poway High.
“In this club, we have a new focus each week around stress and we do different things like share our experiences with stress, bring in professional guests that teach different things that can help with stress, and we do activities to help reduce stress and bring more balance to our lives mainly through self care,” Gant said.
During her presentations, Gant said she taught about the different types of stress in life — some that keep people motivated and others that tear them down. She also taught ways to cope through self-care and maintaining a balanced lifestyle.
Gant said she also created an Instagram account where she posts daily affirmations, self-care tips, methods to deal with stress and more. Her online class via YouTube, Instagram and Skillshare showed how journaling can help with mental health and balancing stress. She said more than 600 people have accessed her online resources.
Gant said through the project she learned the importance of communication and delegation, discovered her love for helping others and became motivated knowing that she can make a positive impact in others’ lives.
The Poway High senior said she is interested in majoring in neuroscience in college and aspires to become a psychiatrist. During her school years she has been in band, received a Certificate of Merit Branch Honors and True Titan awards, was president of Poway High’s Peer Counseling program and the Not Stressin’ Club, and named “Most Valuable Player” on the tennis team.
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Ambassador Girl Scout Marion Gates of Rancho Bernardo was a Girl Scout for 13 years, starting as a Daisy. The Troop 8219 member earned the Bronze and Silver Awards prior to the Gold Award and is now an adult member.
“Many young girls lack confidence when growing up and during middle school and the transition to high school,” Gates said. “I created a website to be an outlet for these young girls to get involved and be a part of a community to help build their confidence.”
Gates said she used lacrosse as a way to reach girls and grow the sport in her community. By creating the website that served as an outlet for pre-teen and teenage girls to find and build their confidence through sports, Gates said, “I am able to impact not only my own community but others across the nation.”
She added, “I was able to … impact some younger girls and inspire them to not only join lacrosse, but to join other sports in general. (They gained) the knowledge that sports isn’t just a way to get exercise, but it’s also a way to build a family and have a support system with many friends to help you.”
Gates also partnered with middle and high school lacrosse teams to hold lacrosse clinics. “(I) saw a lack of girls interested in sports as well as the decline in confidence throughout these young adult years,” she said.
Gates said she learned many valuable leadership skills while working on her Gold Award project. She learned how to teach young players the fundamentals of lacrosse.
The Class of 2020 Rancho Bernardo High graduate is now studying mechanical engineering at San Diego State University.
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Ambassador Girl Scout Katie O’Connell of Rancho Bernardo has been a Girl Scout for 12 years, starting as a Daisy. Prior to the Gold Award, the Troop 8157 member earned the Bronze and Silver Awards, Leadership Torches, Community Service Bars plus “Service to Girl Scouts” awards as a Cadette, Senior and Ambassador Girl Scout. She was also a member of Girl Scouts San Diego’s String Quartet.
Her Gold Award project was called “The Art of Happiness Project.” O’Connell said it was needed because during difficult times, such as the COVID pandemic, people become unhappy, lonely and even depressed. To counteract this, she hosted workshops that educated participants about the science behind the positive effects of art on mental health.
In each, she explained different research papers proving art’s numerous benefits on mental health. She also proposed art as a coping mechanism and solution for improving mental health with guest speakers knowledgeable about mental health or art contributing to the discussion.
Because 10 of the workshops were virtual, in addition to local middle and high school students she had teens as far as the East Coast participating. She also held two in-person events, created a website with additional information and got the Poway High Peer Counseling program to agree to continue the workshops this school year.
O’Connell said she learned through the project that she is capable of speaking in front of large audiences, so public speaking is less intimidating for her and she gained confidence in her skills. She also learned that she can have a positive effect on others.
Now a senior at Poway High, O’Connell said she would like to major in biology at a small private university so she can pursue a career in medicine. At school she has been in National Honor Society, a peer counselor and Academic Team president. She also had an internship at UC San Diego’s molecular biology lab and played first violin for the San Diego Youth Symphony.
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Ambassador Girl Scout Sarah Palluconi of Poway was a Girl Scout for 13 years, starting as a Daisy. The Troop 8702 member earned the Bronze and Silver Awards prior to the Gold Award and is now an adult member.
Wanting to educate her fellow Powegians about their hometown’s history, Palluconi wrote and illustrated the children’s book “Poway History: Story of a Child’s Life in Poway” that was geared toward third graders. Palluconi said her book provides third-grade teachers in the Poway Unified School District with updated information to support their outdated social studies curriculum. The book is also for general audiences who want to learn about the history of Poway, Palluconi said.
For her research, Palluconi consulted with those at the Poway Historical Society, Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center and third-grade teachers in PUSD. It is available to teachers for free online.
“The root cause for people not knowing the history of Poway is that they don’t have any modern information on the topic,” Palluconi said. “Teachers also don’t have easy access to more modern information on the history of Poway.” She said the book has more up-to-date information than other sources, especially the chapter on life in Poway during the 1950s.
“I also created a slide show and presented it to adults and teens in the community to share more modern information with a wider audience,” Palluconi said. She also posted a YouTube video of herself reading the book so more individuals can access its information.
Palluconi said she gained research, collaboration and communication skills when working with historical interpreters and resource centers. She also learned how to overcome challenges by working around COVID-19 social distancing restrictions plus the importance of leadership and teamwork skills.
The Class of 2020 Poway High graduate is now a history major at The College of William and Mary. Palluconi said she aspires to become a historian or archivist. During her years at Poway High her activities included National Honor Society.
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