CRANFORD, NJ — On the evening of Wednesday, May 23, the Girl Scouts of Cranford, Service Unit 48, presented the national organization’s most prestigious honor — the Gold Award — to three young women of Cranford. The Gold Award recipients — Julia Lachenauer, Ellen Rokicki and Isabella Stoto — were honored at a recognition dinner at The Westwood in Garwood. Guest speakers included Natasha Hemmings, chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey; Freeholder Bette Jane Kowalski; Cranford Township Mayor Thomas Hannen Jr.; Robin Johnstone, co-founder of Missions Possible; and Dr. Karyn Keating of Keating Physical Therapy.
“Cranford’s Girl Scout Service Unit 48 is extremely proud tonight as we honor these young ladies for their hard work and years of dedication to our community;” said Kristin Santos, Service Unit co-manager for the Girl Scouts of Cranford.
The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest and most prestigious award that Girl Scout Ambassadors and Seniors can earn. The Gold Award has stood for excellence and leadership for girls everywhere. Each Gold Award recipient joins the ranks of generations of young women who have made a difference in their communities and beyond. Projects require a minimum of 80 hours of work, including identifying an issue, investigating the issue thoroughly, getting help and building a team, creating a plan, presenting the plan, gathering feedback, taking action, and educating and inspiring others.
“The projects presented this evening demonstrate how the Girl Scout organization has helped foster leadership, passion and desire within our young ladies to be the positive change to make a difference in the world around them,” said Santos.
Julia Lachenauer, from Girl Scout Ambassador Troop 40046, focused her Gold Award project on helping young students improve academically by establishing a drop-in tutoring program through the Cranford Public Library. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade receive free tutoring from high school students at the library on any subject they need assistance in, while the teen tutors earn community service hours for donating their time as well as gaining invaluable life skills.
Ellen Rokicki, of Girl Scout Ambassador Troop 40752, created “Buddy Bins” — designed to keep siblings connected while one is undergoing treatment for an illness. Each bin contains dozens of fun games and activities, and Rokicki also created a website with links to online games and other resources. With the support of the Cranford community, Rokicki was able to create Buddy Bins for three New Jersey children’s hospitals.
Isabella Stoto, one of Cranford’s Girl Scout Ambassador Juliettes, aimed to educate local students on water conservation and plastic prevention with her Gold Award project. Stoto worked with local Girl Scout Troops and Bloomingdale Avenue School, in order to install a water fountain with a lead filtration system and dispenser for reusable water bottles at the elementary school. Through assemblies and presentations, she educated students at BAS and younger Girl Scouts about water conservation and plastic pollution. Stoto also gave Girl Scouts insight on being a Senior Ambassador Girl Scout and encouraged them to pursue their Gold Award.
Also during the evening, the 2018 VFW Scout of the Year — recognized by VFW Post 335 — was presented by James Silkensen in absentia to Mary Grace McNamara from Girl Scout Ambassador Troop 40046. The VFW Post 335 Scout of the Year program provides members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who display standout citizenship, patriotism and love of country with the opportunity to be rewarded with college scholarships.
The Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn, was presented to the following girls — Emily Bornstad, Margaret Mary Garcia, Erin Miklencic, Amanda Marie Newport, Rachael Durant, Kaitlin Frees-Kroboth, Tiffany Phan, Lila Schau and Madison Zarzecki. The Silver Award project requires at least 50 hours of dedication by each Girl Scout and is the precursor to earning the Gold Award.
Girl Scouts is the world’s preeminent organization dedicated solely to girls — all girls — where, in an accepting and nurturing environment, girls build character and skills for success in the real world. In partnership with committed adult volunteers, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives. For more than 106 years, its membership has been unified towards the achievement of the Girl Scout mission: “To build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”
The Girl Scouts of Cranford, Service Unit 48, boasts more than 1,115 Girl Scout members in 69 troops and Juliette’s making it one of the largest non-profit organizations in town. The Cranford Service Unit is a part of the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey Council, which is part of the Girl Scouts of the USA.