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Amarillo area Girl Scouts honors 4 individuals, 1 group at Women of Distinction Awards –

The Girl Scouts of the Texas and Oklahoma Plains awarded its 2021 Women of Distinction recipients Thursday evening at the Amarillo Botanical Gardens. 
According to Stephanie Peña, the fund development coordinator for GSTOP, this event is the the organization’s annual fundraiser where they present the awards for the year. This year, two new awards were added, including the Rising Star Award and the Outstanding Community Partner Award. 
“This is a time to honor some amazing people in this community that provide leadership to the area from people that are role models for our girls,” said Becky Burton, chief executive officer for Girl Scouts of the Texas and Oklahoma Plains. 
More: Amarillo area Girl Scouts honors 4 individuals, 1 group at Women of Distinction Awards
According to Burton, the community, friends, and family nominated the awarded recipients, with the Girl Scouts Selections Committee deciding on recipients.  
The night began as attendees enjoyed their dinner, with introductions from the hosts and local Girl Scouts reciting the Girl Scout Promise, before the awards were presented to the five recipients. 
Jackie Kingston, anchor for KAMR Local News 4, led the event as Mistress of Ceremonies during the dinner. The awards were presented by Burton. 
Although Alyssa Harris could not attend the award ceremony, her mother, Lisa Harris, accepted the 2021 Woman of Distinction Rising Star Award on her behalf. 
Harris graduated from Canyon High School in 2020 with a 4.0 grade point average. She was a four-year elected student body president, as well as a multi lettered varsity track athlete. During her senior year, she earned her Girl Scout Gold Award, and she is currently attending Kansas State University, where she is majoring in Animal Biology with a minor in Leadership Studies. Harris also earned the Edgerly-Franklin scholarship, which is the second most prestigious scholarship offered at Kansas State. 
More: Amarillo Girl Scout wins Gold Award
The 2021 Outstanding Community Partner Award was given to Amarillo Downtown Kiwanis. 
In 1929, the Amarillo Downtown Kiwanis purchased 50 acres of land for the Girl Scout Camp, which later in 1932 was named after the organization. Since then, buildings, swimming pools and tennis courts have been added to make it what it is today. 
“They are a longtime partner and friend of ours. I mean like, over 60 years, we’ve been involved with them; we have a camp on the west side of town camp Kiwanis. They have been a longtime supporter of that land. It just helps with our girls, and just a good role model,” Burton said. 
Although it is a Women of Distinction Awards ceremony, one unexpected recipient was given his award for recognition in the community: Amarillo Police Cpl. Jeb Hilton. 
Hilton was awarded the title for his 14 years of service with the Amarillo Police Department and his service to the community, advocacy for safety, and overall willingness toward helping children throughout the community. 
“He’s our ‘Man Enough to be a Girl Scout,’ so he supports girls and women in the community, and they, the community, just felt like he was a great man that needed to be honored, that supports all girls including girls in the community,” Burton said.    
The ceremony went on to present the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award to Virginia Hill. 
Hill started as a Girl Scout in the second grade, as a Brownie, which was the earliest a girl could join. With the organization, in her youth, Hill went on three sponsored trips and earned the First Class and Emergency Preparedness Awards, which were the highest awards a girl could earn at the time. 
Hill then went on to begin a troop for her oldest daughter in 1984. She continued to be a troop leader for 32 years. Hill was also involved in the Cookie Program for many years, served within the program as a GSTOP Service Unit Product Lead for 10 years and has been a chaperone for several GSTOP Diva trips. 
The 2021 Woman of Distinction Award was presented to Melodie Graves; although she was not a Girl Scout, her actions and advocacy in the community led to this distinction. 
“It’s a very humbling experience. It shows me that the work that I am doing in the community is being noticed, and not only is it being noticed, but other people are wanting to do the work and support it as well,” Graves said.
Graves has worked in the higher education industry for more than 13 years. She began at Amarillo College in 2010 and today is associate director in academic advising at the college. She also serves at the college as the chair for the Diversity Team and is a member of the Anti-Racism Task Force. Graves was selected to be a part of the Presidential Leadership Institute for the 2017 through 2018. She is a Foster Care Liaison and Justice Involved Advocate for AC. Graves also serves on many boards in the community, including the Amarillo branch for the NAACP, North Heights Advisory Association, Opportunity School, Leaders Readers Network, Friends of the Library and many more. 
“I was not a Girl Scout, but I feel like anytime that we can educate our girls and we can let them know that they can be empowered to be anything that they want to be, I think we need to run with that. A lot of our girls don’t know their value, and they’ll kind of settle for anything, so these types of organizations give them a space and let them know what they are capable of doing,” Graves said.  
After all recipients were honored, the organization ended off its awards night by kicking off its yearly fundraiser in support of Girl Scouts. 
According to Peña, the funds raised go toward the leadership experience program, which serves more than 2,500 girls a year within the 26 counties in the Amarillo area, as well as its Girl Scout at School program and training for volunteer and troop adult leaders. 


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