Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians have announced the 2022 Gold Award recipients, and 14 of the 20 recipients are from Knoxville and East Tennessee.
Since 1916, thousands of Girl Scouts across the country have earned the organization’s highest honor, now called the Girl Scout Gold Award, for demonstrating extraordinary leadership and making sustainable change in their communities. Nationally, only 6 percent of all eligible Girl Scouts achieve the Gold Award.
“The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive,” said Lynne Fugate, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians (GSCSA). “These young women have worked hard to develop the leadership skills required to earn this prestigious recognition, and their dedication has made a positive difference in our community. We are proud of their achievements and grateful for their commitment to making our world a better place.”
These Gold Award recipients are from Blount, Jefferson, Knox, Monroe and Sevier counties:
- Paraskevi “Vivi” Christopoulos of Knoxville wanted to help families through the difficult time of having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after her family experienced the same challenges. Christopoulos created handmade bags to give to families being supported through the Beads of Courage Program. The bags were a supplement to the program and distributed at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, along with small cards and social media pages to educate people about the NICU and Beads of Courage.
- Molly Daniels of Sevierville worked with Wearwood Elementary School to provide students with a fun, new playground activity that encouraged kids to be more active and help improve their communication skills. Daniels built an octagonal gaga ball pit on the playground and taught teachers and students how to play the fast-paced game.
- Cynthia “CC” Hazelton of Knoxville created a closet at GSCSA’s Camp Tanasi stocked with supplies, so all campers have an equal opportunity to participate in camp activities. Hazelton also worked to educate camp staff about the importance of recognizing resource differences.
- Rachel Huffer of Maryville designed and a presented a curriculum about food allergies tailored to her high school’s culinary arts program. The project was inspired by her own experiences with severe food allergies and influenced by the learning gap between food allergies within culinary arts programs and the food industry.
- Lauren Huffstetler of Maryville restored pollinator habitats and food resources in her community and educated people about lesser-known pollinators. Huffstetler also created the Pollinator Garden Challenge to actively engage people in cultivating pollinator gardens in their own communities.
- Randi Kroner of Knoxville used her experience with Celiac disease to write a children’s book to inform the public about the autoimmune disease and how it effects people. Kroner’s book was distributed to people across the United States and other countries, including the Philippines and Australia.
- Elyssa Looney of Maryville partnered with Springbrook Park in Alcoa to create an audio tour of the park’s native tree species. Looney installed an interpretive sign in the park with a QR code that visitors can scan to access the audio tour. She also created a website to further educate people about the importance of tree biodiversity.
- Carolyne McCord of Knoxville created a website with online resources to destigmatize dyslexia. Through McCord’s website, people can easily access resources to support dyslexic students and alternative learning styles.
- Peyton Pettyjohn of Knoxville recognized that many students were unaware of available college and career options, so she created a comprehensive list of resources for students and young adults to explore opportunities after high school. She then designed and painted a large-scale mural showcasing different career options to inspire and empower students. The mural has a QR code so viewers can scan and access her list of resources.
- Celestina Pint of Knoxville helped to revitalize the West Knox FISH Pantry by updating its facilities and online presence. Pint renovated the pantry to create a more efficient system for volunteers to use and developed a social media strategy to engage young people as a new generation of volunteers. She also created a new volunteer manual to further help the pantry recruit and retain new volunteers.
- Rachel “Maryn” Pope of Maryville partnered with Blount County Animal Welfare Society to educate her community about the importance of providing doghouses to outdoor dogs through her PetPalooza event. Pope developed and hosted the event, which raised awareness and funds for doghouses and kennels. She also built several doghouses and donated them to members of her community.
- Elaina Thibeault of Knoxville worked with Farragut High School’s athletic director to renovate an unfinished closet space to provide the wrestling team a safe and welcoming place to practice. When Covid-19 hit, the school’s wrestling team was relegated to an unfinished closet so the previous space could be repurposed as a Covid testing site. With no space to practice, the wrestling team struggled to attract students and promote the importance of an active lifestyle. Through Thibeault’s renovation, the wrestling team can now practice in a supportive environment and promote healthy living among students.
- Arabella Sarver of Vonore noticed a large disparity in the quality of education in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) that underserved children in her community received. Sarver created an interactive center that would connect students with STEAM learning resources.
- Samantha “Sammi” Vuono of Dandridge created and published a book for teens and young adults aimed at helping them develop healthy coping skills around issues of mental health, bullying, and self-image. After publishing her book, Vuono donated several copies to schools in her area.
The Girl Scout Gold Award represents exceptional achievement in leadership development, positive values and service. Only Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors are eligible for the Gold Award, and before they can pursue it, they must meet prerequisites, including completing a Take Action project or earning the Girl Scout Silver Award, which requires a project to improve the neighborhood or community.
At a minimum requirement of 80 hours, most girls spend between one and two years on Gold Award projects. A Gold Award recipient is driven to be a leader, using her passions and problem-solving skills to make a difference in her community. She has strong professional skills that set her apart in the college admissions process and make her an outstanding candidate for academic scholarships and other financial awards. In addition, Gold Award Girl Scouts who join the U.S. Armed Forces often enter at a rank above other military recruits.
Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. To join us, volunteer, reconnect or donate, visit girlscoutcsa.org or call 800-474-1912.
Gretchen Crawley is VP of communications for Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians.