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Girl Scouts from around the Finger Lakes recognized for their efforts in the community

Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways announced this week that 18 girls from across its council territory earned the prestigious Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting. Since 1916, the Girl Scout Gold Award has stood for excellence and leadership. Over the course of the last century, millions of Girl Scouts have positively impacted their communities and the world with creative, impactful and sustainable Take Action projects.

The Gold Award recognizes Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors (grades 9-12) who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through sustainable and measurable projects. The Gold Award is the culmination of a girl’s demonstration of self-discipline, leadership ability, time management, creativity, initiative and a significant mastery of skills. Gold Award Girl Scouts are the dreamers and doers who take “make the world a better place” to the next level.

Each girl must dedicate a minimum of 80 hours to planning and implementing her project, which must benefit the community and have lasting impact. The Gold Award acknowledges the power behind each Girl Scout’s dedication to not only empowering and bettering herself, but also to making the world a better place for others. Seniors and Ambassadors who earn the award tackle issues that are dear to them and drive lasting change in their communities and beyond. The Gold Award is a key that can open doors to scholarships, preferred admission tracks for college and amazing career opportunities.

“The Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable and proof that girls can not only make a difference, but already have. These young women are bright, courageous leaders and change makers. We congratulate them on earning Girl Scouting’s highest award and look forward to the mark they’ll each continue to make in their communities and on the wider world in the future,” said GSNYPENN CEO Julie Dale.

The council honored its Gold Award Girl Scouts at a recognition event at Drumlins in Syracuse with keynote speaker and entrepreneur Donna Curtin. Curtin is a Girl Scout alum and owner of Grace Auto Body & Paint in North Syracuse. In addition, three Gold Award Girl Scouts were selected for special council scholarships to be used toward advancing their education at an institution of higher ed. The girls were chosen by the award committee because their projects demonstrated highest levels of leadership, sustainability, measurability and national/global links. Thanks to generous donors, the council presented a total of $12,000 in memory of three special Girl Scout sisters lost in 2019 who helped build girls of courage, confidence and character and who each made the world a better place.

  • The Marie Hepworth Scholarship ($5,000) was presented to Veronica Ricketson of Nichols for her project, Nichols Hometown Heroes. Ms. Hepworth dedicated her life to supporting girl development through her 20-plus years serving as executive director of GSNYPENN legacy council Indian Hills and various volunteer activities in her community of Johnson City.
  • The Kelly Perkins Scholarship ($4,000) was presented to Emily Dowd of Syracuse for her project, We Rise Above The Streets Remodel. Ms. Perkins, a lifelong Girl Scout and GSNYPENN summer camp staff member, impacted the lives of campers and younger Girl Scouts in her community of Newark Valley.
  • The Kerrie Black Scholarship ($3,000) was presented to Amethyst Gardner of Oneonta for her project, United Methodist Clergy Marker Program. Ms. Black, a lifelong Girl Scout, was a GSNYPENN Regional Support Manager for Broome and Delaware counties who served her volunteers with excellence and was always willing to lend a hand to her fellow colleagues.

GSNYPENN Gold Award Girl Scouts

Kaylei Gleason of Auburn (Cayuga County)

Take Action Project: Teacher Relief

Kaylei wanted to provide necessary classroom supplies to an underfunded elementary school in her community, so the staff wouldn’t have to spend their own money. She implemented her project by reaching out to local businesses for help and educated the community through a newspaper article and social media. Her efforts allowed teachers and students to focus on learning, rather than worry where or if they could get necessary resources. Her hope for the future is that the project will expand to cover more schools. Kaylei is a graduate of Auburn High School.

Carolyn Jessop of Fayette (Seneca County)

Take Action Project: Camp Whitman Trail Sign

Carolyn wanted to ensure campers at Camp Whitman would be able to identify wildlife who make their home at the property. She decided to start by making signs to help identify birds that are native to New York State. Signs will be rotated every three years by Camp Whitman staff. Carolyn’s team also built a large kiosk to keep the signs covered and protected from the weather. From her experience, Carolyn says she learned the importance of communication, making a schedule and the skills needed to lead a team.

Gianna Leone of Victor (Ontario County)

Take Action Project: Summer Book Share

Gianna helped address the issue of the lack of summer reading by collaborating with her local library to hold a weekly family story hour with a different theme each week. She also collected new and gently used books so that local students in 4th-6th grades could “shop” for books to take home to read over the summer. Gianna is currently a junior at Victor Senior High School.

Rachel McFadden of Clifton Springs (Ontario County)

Take Action Project: Midlakes Gay Straight Alliance

Rachel supported LGBTQ peers at her school by creating a Gay Straight Alliance club. The club also promoted training for students and staff to become advocates. Rachel is a graduate of Midlakes High School and currently attends SUNY Oswego where she is studying communications.

Jillian Wright of Phelps (Ontario County)

Take Action Project: Paw Print Therapy

Jillian designed her project to bring the human-animal bond to individuals who may not have the means to experience it on a day-to-day basis. Through her project, individuals can bring their furry friends to a local assisted living facility in Phelps to interact with residents, bringing them joy and creating special connections each visit. Jillian is a graduate of Midlakes High School and is currently studying animal science at Cornell University.

Girl Scouts serves girls in grade K-12. Annual membership is $25. Financial assistance is available. To register a girl online, visit To become an adult volunteer, learn more at