CRANFORD, NJ — Three accomplished young women were recently awarded the most prestigious award in Girl Scouts. Julia Love, Amanda Newport and Desiree Santos each earned the Gold Award and were honored for their achievements by Girl Scouts of Cranford, Service Unit 48.
“We are extremely proud to honor these young ladies for their hard work and years of dedication to our community,” said Elayna Torsone, service unit manager for the Girl Scouts of Cranford. “Each of their projects makes a positive, lasting impact in our community, and they had the extra challenge of volunteering during the pandemic. They each showed a tremendous level of commitment.”
The Girl Scout Gold Award stands for excellence and leadership. Projects require a minimum of 80 hours of work, including identifying an issue, investigating it thoroughly, building a team, creating a plan, gathering feedback, taking action, and educating and inspiring others.
Love, of Girl Scout Troop 40843, saw a need created by the dynamics of the stay-at-home orders and took action. She noticed that religious education programs were affected, just as public and private schools were. She developed a Summer Sundays religious education program at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church for students in kindergarten through grade 5. She created lesson plans and trained peers to lead sessions that provided spiritual enrichment. The program can also be used at other churches, creating a sustainable initiative. Love is also the recipient of the George N. Boulukos National Scholarship from the Eastern Orthodox Committee on Scouting. She will be attending the University of Pittsburgh in the fall to study special education and developmental psychology.
Newport, of Girl Scout Troop 40480, focused her project on raising awareness of the contributions of local veterans. She created a slide show celebrating 100 years of the Cranford VFW Post 335. She organized information on the post’s history and past leaders, and chronicled the contributions the organization has made to the Cranford community. She also held workshops to educate younger Girl Scouts about the role of the VFW and taught them how to care for the American flag. The project will serve as an important part of the post’s historical records. Newport will attend the University of New Hampshire in the fall to study zoology.
Santos, of Girl Scout Troop 40113, used her artistic talents to create a webcomic that addresses the challenges often faced by parents of LBGTQ youth, something she felt is overlooked in mainstream discussion. Santos earned her award last year, but due to the pandemic could not be recognized for her achievements in person until recently. In September, she will be a sophomore at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she studies animation, storytelling and illustration. The comic is available virtually here.
All three young women were honored for their achievements at an awards ceremony on June 10 at the Cranford United Methodist Church. Mary Grace McNamara of Cranford, lifetime Girl Scout, served as master of ceremonies. Guest speakers were Cranford Mayor Kathleen Miller Prunty and Natasha Hemmings, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey.
The Girl Scouts of Cranford boasts more than 1,139 Girl Scout members in 71 Troops and Juliettes, making it one of the largest nonprofit organizations in town. For more information on the Girls Scouts of Cranford, visit www.cranfordgirlscouts.com.
Photos Courtesy of Kerry Rokicki