Camden Tillinghast Earns Girl Scout Gold Award

After learning that her state’s Fish and Game Department was no longer able to sustain an outreach program encouraging schoolchildren to help protect the endangered New Hampshire state butterfly, one local Girl Scout is working to ensure the dainty blue insects are protected for future generations.

Camden Tillinghast, an Ambassador Girl Scout and senior at Somersworth High School, recently earned her Girl Scout Gold Award.

Camden Tillinghast, an Ambassador Girl Scout and senior at Somersworth High School, recently earned her Girl Scout Gold Award for her project addressing the plight of the rare Karner Blue butterfly.

Tillinghast, who joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie, wrote, illustrated, and self-published “Saving KB: The Story of Karner Blue,” an informative children’s book that appeals to readers of all ages. “I knew I wanted to write a book about endangered species,” she explained. “So when I learned that the state’s butterfly was endangered and in need of more [educational and public outreach] resources, I started researching right away.”

It was an eye-opening experience for the teen. “As it turns out, a lot of people don’t even know we have a state butterfly,” she said. “And a lot of the information that’s out there is incorrect.”

Declared a federal endangered species in 1992, New Hampshire state and federal Fish and Game biologists began working to re-establish colonies of the Karner Blue butterfly within the pine barren area of Concord. In 2000, the state program “Kids for Karners” was introduced to encourage schoolchildren to grow lupine plants to maintain healthy habitats for the colorful critters. The program was hugely successful, with over 2,000 lupine plants planted in the span of a decade. However, due to funding shortages, Kids for Karners was canceled.

Tillinghast said she’s spent an estimated 130 hours researching butterfly facts – like the insects feed exclusively on lupine leaves – for her book, but she didn’t stop there. Teaming up with the members of Wingate Grange 308 in Dover, the innovative Girl Scout hosted a community sewing bee. The event yielded dozens of bags, which she filled with copies of her book, along with “Karner Kits” containing games, crafts, and word search puzzles.

Since then, the kits and books have been distributed to area libraries and elementary schools. The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department is also incorporating Tillinghast’s program into its outreach efforts. Wanting to expand her reach not just to young readers in New Hampshire, but also to those around the world, Tillinghast donated books to organizations that work with children in India, the Philippines, Australia, and Africa.

While her Gold Award Project is now completed, she continues to share her book with schoolchildren around the region, regularly reading at local schools. “It’s important for the children to learn to love nature at a young age,” she explains.

Tillinghast credits Girl Scouts for giving her the confidence to follow her dreams. She’s a longtime program aide for the Girl Scouts Coastal Rompers program, which encourages younger girls to take care of the ocean and its natural resources. For her next adventure, she looks forward to visiting England this summer where she and the rest of Troop 12046 of Community 216 have earned their way to be bridged to adults at the WAGGGS World Centre, Pax Lodge.

“The thing about Girl Scouts is you have to stick with it,” she said. “As you get older, you learn more and more about leadership, about advocacy. It’s just made me better.”

After she graduates from high school later this spring, Tillinghast, a high honors student and community ambassador for the National Honor Society, plans to study occupational therapy at the University of New England. She said she’s considering a minor in environmental law and hopes to spend a semester studying in Morocco.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout may achieve. Earning the Gold Award requires many hours of planning and implementing a challenging, large-scale project. Successful projects not only engage others, but are sustainable enough to create lasting community impact.

 

 

 

Maria Wiles Earns Girl Scout Gold Award

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A Middlebury Union High School senior has earned her Girl Scout Gold Award.

Maria Wiles, a Girl Scout since first grade, said she’s long been inspired by “those that keep a smile on their face even in times of struggle.” Following the death of Gary Griffin, a dear family friend and longtime deacon at Our Lady of Good Help Church, Wiles decided to create a religious education center in his honor.

The Gary Griffin Memorial Learning Center is a space for catechism teachers and students to gather. Noticing her church’s basement was unused and uninviting, Wiles said she was also concerned that many of the congregation’s younger members hadn’t been to church lately. Tapping in to her love of reading and knack for painting, the determined Girl Scout teamed up with members of the close-knit faith community to create an enduring and inviting learning center.

maria2As part of her project, Wiles sought out donations of books, paint, and building supplies; gathered CCD students to complete a colorful mural; and oversaw teams of volunteers eager to lend helping hands.  “For a long time, it has been difficult for the youth in my church to show older parishioners what they do,” she said. “With my project, I was able to bring to light not only my work, but how much each religious education student does in keeping the church going.”

With the Learning Center now fully operational, Wiles continues to raise community awareness of the center’s many resources via its website.

Meanwhile, a new youth group has already made the center its permanent home and is maintained by the members as part of their learning experience. “With my help, the religious education director was able to form this group and is bringing them to serve in places like Burlington and Brandon,” Wiles added.

As she looks to the future, Wiles said the lesson’s she’s gained in the Gold Award approval process has made college applications “a breeze.” She hopes to ultimately earn a nursing degree and assist at a hospital in Costa Rica, where she traveled last year as part of the Girl Scout Destinations Program. “Girl Scouts gave me that opportunity and my life will never be the same,” Wiles said. “Girl Scouts has empowered me as a woman and as a human being. Without it, I would never have had the hunger for service and learning that I do today.”

Katherine Mathon Earns Girl Scout Gold Award

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High School Senior Leads Veterans Memorial Restoration Project

Concern over the lack of visitors to Williston’s Veterans Memorial inspired longtime Girl Scout Katherine Mathon to take action. The Champlain Valley Union High School senior has dedicated over 80 hours to improving and repairing the memorial site, earning her Girl Scout Gold Award.

A Girl Scout since kindergarten, Mathon says she became extremely concerned after learning the memorial had fallen into disrepair.  “It’s very important to honor our troops and show them proper respect,” she says. “By having our memorial the way it was, in some ways, we were disrespecting them. I made sure the area was beautiful again. Our troops deserve to be remembered.” Having already earned her Bronze and Silver Awards, Mathon says she grew up admiring the passion of girls who’d gone on to obtain their Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting. “This award opened a lot of doors for them, and it was always my goal,” she added. “I wanted to push myself to help people in the community more and I knew I was capable of doing something great.”

Prior to Mathon’s efforts, the memorial, a large granite star located near Williston Town Hall, rarely attracted visitors and its surrounding site was overgrown with weeds. Working closely with Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett, Mathon managed various phases of site improvements, including a memorial brick-lined pathway and two new benches. American Legion Williston Post 45 sponsored her project and several area businesses and community members donated $4,000 worth of materials and services. Mathon completed her project this past summer.

As Mathon looks towards the future, she remains confident that the Veterans Memorial will stay beautiful in the years to come. Working closely with her local Rotary Club, she updated the site’s maintenance plan, which outlined ongoing sales of memorial bricks. Additionally, the local cemetery commission agreed to tend to the memorial’s surrounding landscaping.

Following her successful journey to earning her Girl Scout Gold Award, Mathon now reflects on what she’s learned in the process. “I learned that I’m very good at working with all types of people,” she says, noting she often served as a moderator between business owners, town officials, landscapers, and brick installers. “This really improved my management skills,” Mathon adds. “I learned that I can accomplish anything if I push myself hard enough.  I can set a goal and will go full steam ahead until it is accomplished.”

The experience will serve Mathon well in her next phase of life:  college. While she hasn’t made a decision on which school she’ll attend next year, one thing is for certain: it will include opportunities to travel! Mathon, who is considering a major in international business, speaks both Spanish and Chinese, and has travelled to the Dominican Republic, France, and China. She says it was her time spent in Girl Scouts that inspired her wanderlust. “My troop leader organized so many amazing activities for us, and we’ve always loved traveling to cities around New England and Canada,” Mathon points out. Over the years, Mathon has participated in Girl Scout troop trips to Boston, Newport, Rhode Island, New York City, Ottawa, and Montreal. Most recently, Mathon and her troop members planned and attended an exciting trip to Paris.

Coastal Rompers Enjoy Adventure on Appledore Island by Cassie Levesque

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On August 7, members of the Girl Scouts Coastal Rompers group, their families, and friends traveled to Appledore Island: a beautiful island in the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of Portsmouth, NH.

Many of the people I met that day had planned on this trip for months in advance, though others didn’t know they were going until the day before. Some were invited by friends. All of them were excited to explore and discover the island – and the ocean that surrounds it.

Camden, an Ambassador Girl Scout from Barrington, NH, said she looks forward to the annual Isle of Shoals trip each summer, and enjoys visiting the island.  “We live near the Seacoast and it’s important to take care of the native creatures,” she added. Camden especially enjoys discovering some of the island’s most unique spots: this year she had her heart set on finding the “Sneaker Tree.”

Tide pooling - PLJohn, a Boy Scout from Dover, NH, attended the tour with some friends and enjoyed discovering the “Devil’s Dance Floor,” while Girl Scout Lola enjoyed learning about sea tables and crabs.

Arriving on the island, we learned the important role seagulls serve there: they’re currently being studied on Appledore. Adult gulls are white and black, and chicks are brown.

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Throughout the day, the tour group experienced the island in many ways: going tide-pooling, viewing ocean organisms under a microscope, and visiting Celia Thaxter’s partially-restored garden.

View-CLBoarding the boat to return to the mainland, we were filled with excitement. The sun was shining, the skies blue, and the views of Appledore Island were great. As we pulled into Portsmouth, we passed tug boats, the Portsmouth Station lighthouse, and Whaleback lighthouse.

It was a fun, educational, and adventure-filled day!

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Guest blogger Cassie Levesque is a lifetime Girl Scout having been a girl member for 12 years. Cassie is from Barrington, NH.  The Coastal Rompers is a marine education and conservation series for Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts.

Photo credits: Cassie Levesque and Patty Levesque.

Girl Scout Danielle St. Peter named Distinguished Finalist for the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards

IMG_3290 (2) crop     A Chester, NH Girl Scout’s efforts to help out her hungry neighbors have earned her the Distinguished Finalist designation in the national Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

Danielle St. Peter, 14, a member of Troop 22245 and eighth grader at Chester Academy, was recognized for the leadership role she played in her troop’s Take Action project last year.

According to Danielle’s mother and troop co-leader Angela St. Peter, the troop’s project idea initially surfaced during a trip to New York City. While the girls considered the possibility of visiting a soup kitchen while touring the Big Apple, they ultimately shifted their focus on the needs of two food pantries in their own community: Chester Community Food Pantry and the Chester Clothes Closet.

Soon after, the girls visited the Chester Community Food Pantry, where Danielle was struck by the state of the rickety, hand-me-down shelves tucked inside a former janitors’ closet. Danielle, a Girl Scout since first grade, took on a leadership role in the project: overseeing the replacement of shelves, helping to stock food in advance of the holiday months, and attending community organization meetings to stress the importance of year-round donations.

Danielle and her fellow troop members Avasha Khapre and Madison Bowen earned Girl Scout Silver Awards for their collective efforts to help their local food pantries reorganize, improve their food storage, and raised awareness to help increase food donations.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents the US’s largest youth recognition program based entirely on volunteer service. Community volunteers in grades 5 to 12 are nominated by school or organization officials and vie for the chance to earn college scholarships and charitable grants for their organization. As a runner-up in the statewide awards contest, Danielle received a certificate of honor. Two awardees from each state are invited to the national ceremony in Washington, DC each spring. For more information visit http://spirit.prudential.com.

Council Take Action Project: Green Up!

Announcing our first ever council-wide Take Action Project!

Join Girl Scouts throughout New Hampshire and Vermont to take action to make the environment a better place. Plan your Take Action Project: Green Up! project for April 1 – June 30, 2015 now!

Projects will focus on meeting the Take Action criteria of solving a root cause of a problem, planning for sustainability, educating and inspiring others.

The Stewardship Network: New England will help girls partner with environmental organizations to find opportunities to help nature. Adults can sign up their girls for an event with an environmental organization on The Stewardship Network: New England’s website.

Choose from 3 options below for a Green Up! Project:

  • Garlic Mustard Removal
    • Learn to identify and remove this invasive species
  • Community Partner Event
    • Join a project in New Hampshire or Vermont planned by The Stewardship Network: New England partners
  • Choose-Your-Own-Project
    • Plan your own environmental take action project using the Age Level Requirements

Find out more on our website or sign up here!