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.

 

 

 

Granite State Girl Scout among BBC News’ “Top 100 Women of 2016”

erin-mckenney-high-resolutionA Londonderry Girl Scout is among the BBC News’ Top 100 Women of 2016, joining the ranks of Olympic medalist Simone Biles, NASA space scientist Katherine Johnson, performer Alicia Keys, and body-positive model Iskra Lawrence.

Erin McKenney, a 2016 graduate of Londonderry High School who earned her Girl Scout Gold Award earlier this year, said she was contacted by a network representative last month. The 100 Women series profiles inspirational women from around the world who’s academic, cultural, or social contributions have made differences in the lives of others- ranging from world leaders to local heroines. At 18, McKenney is one of the youngest women on the list.

Currently a freshman at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, McKenney said she plans to travel to London in early December, where she’ll share her story on camera and also assist the British television network in its quest to profile lesser-known female scientists and engineers. “It’s a great opportunity to represent women in underrepresented fields,” she said.

Encouraging girls to explore their strengths, however non-traditional, is a topic that’s near and dear to McKenney’s heart. Working closely with Girls at Work, Inc. in Manchester, NH, the ambitious Girl Scout designed a series of fun and interactive science workshops for girls ages 8 through 12. The program, which continues to grow and has since been incorporated into a summer camp series hosted by The Circle Program, earned McKenney the highly coveted Girl Scout Gold Award, which is the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve.

One important component of McKenney’s award-winning program required her to network and join forces with successful female scientists, innovators, and engineers. During her stay in the UK, McKenney will have the opportunity to work in the media café at BBC’s international headquarters, where she’ll help build Wikipedia pages for some of the world’s lesser-known women in STEM fields: many of whom she got to know in the process of earning her Gold Award.

“Girls can be what they can see, so my goal is to make those examples more visible,” she explains. McKenney said she plans to document her travels via her project’s Facebook page, Curiosity Science Program (https://www.facebook.com/curiositygirlsscience/).

The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Completion of a seven-step project earns girls the satisfaction of addressing a community concern, with eyes sharply focused on the future. Gold Award recipients are highly regarded during the college application process and are also eligible for increased military ranking.

As part of her award-winning teaching program, designed for school-aged children, McKenney designed lessons on scientific formulas and theories, while profiling a female professional working in an applicable field. “We’d build our own rockets, while learning about a woman working for NASA,” she explained.

“Erin’s project and her continued commitment to empowering girls truly exemplifies the Girl Scout way,” said Patricia Mellor, CEO for Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. “We are proud to support Erin as she works to change the world for the better, one girl at a time.”

McKenney will further discuss her project during an interview set to appear on the BBC 100 Women Facebook page sometime in the coming month. She said her many years spent in Girl Scouts have given her the confidence to continue moving forward. “I’ve learned so much about leadership and about being a mentor,” she said. For more information on BBC’s 100 Women of 2016, visit http://www.bbc.com/news/world-38012048.

Michelle Dominguez Earns Girl Scout Gold Award

michelledDuring a trip to Poland four years ago, Girl Scout Michelle Dominguez found deep inspiration as she traced St. John Paul II’s historic footsteps.

Created in homage to similar gardens she traipsed during her tour of Poland, the home-schooled high school junior constructed “Mary’s Garden,” a quiet area of contemplation for the St. Kathryn’s Parish community in Hudson. Her efforts have earned her the highly coveted Girl Scout Gold Award, which is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn.

A Girl Scout for nearly a decade, Michelle said she was struck by the positive effects witnessed by visitors to spiritual gardens in Wadowice- former home of St. John Paul II.  “I wanted that same positive feeling in my own community,” she added.

Donations from her parish’s Knights of Columbus chapter allowed Michelle to purchase mulch, a granite bench, and dozens of colorful shrubs, bulbs, and perennial plants. Once her materials were assembled, Michelle rolled up her sleeves and got down to task, enlisting her church youth group and fellow Scouts to help her out.

She said her church groundskeeper will be able to maintain the garden for future generations to enjoy. “Even when I’m in college, people can still come by and see the gorgeous flowers with Mary: flowers that will keep on blooming year after year,” Michelle said.

Overall, Michelle’s path to Gold has instilled some lifelong lessons: lessons that will serve her well as she looks towards the future. “I learned that I can accomplish anything, no matter how big or small,” she said. “I can achieve any goal, as long as I set my mind to it.”

Though undecided on her adult career path, Michelle said she’d like to one day become “either an engineer, a speech pathologist, or a psychologist.”

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.”

Erin McKenney Earns Girl Scout Gold Award

bubbleGrowing up in Londonderry, Erin McKenney always knew she wanted to instill lasting changes in her community. Now a freshman at Lafayette College in Easton, PA, the lifelong Girl Scout said the path to her Gold Award project gave her the opportunity to set those plans in motion.

McKenney, a 2016 graduate of Londonderry High School and longtime community volunteer, says her project, “Curiosity,” addresses the gap in the workforce when it comes to STEM careers.  “Often, girls are afraid to explore the STEM fields, and aren’t always given a fair opportunity to explore their strengths,” McKenney said. Working closely with Girls At Work, Inc. in Manchester, NH, the ambitious Girl Scout designed a series of fun and interactive science workshops for girls ages 8 through 12.

McKenney says she was immediately impressed with the nonprofit organization, which helps girls meet their fullest potential by exposing them to traditionally male-dominated professions, including carpentry. “You’d go in and there’s all these 9-year-olds…and they’re building tables for their families,” she says.  Inspired, McKenney began developing a science curriculum for the organization.

A few months ago, she introduced her two-week program at the organization’s summer camp.  Around 30 girls participated in the pilot program. McKenney worked closely with each student, presenting them with binders containing lesson plans and personalized letters from successful female scientists. “The idea was that the girls would be able to contact these scientists and ask them questions,” she said. The girls were also given the chance to meet with some special guests in their classroom. One of the guests, a successful engineer specializing in the mining industry, piqued the girls’ interests after they learned that English was her third language. “We had so many different languages being spoken in the class room, so the girls could really relate to her,” McKenney says.bubble-in-action-copy

During each class, the girls learned a new formula or theory and tied it to a professional working in the field. “One day we made giant bubbles and learned about a chemist. Another day we built our own rockets and learned about a woman who works for NASA,” McKenney notes. To date, McKenney has spent over 225 hours on her project and received over $3000 in donated supplies—including tote bags, binders, safety goggles, aprons, disposable gloves, and more.

“I learned that the most important quality I could offer these girls was to simply listen to them and be there for them. I also learned a lot about teaching,” she says. “Through the years, Girl Scouts has taught me a lot about leadership and about being a mentor,” she adds.

Before leaving for college, McKenney shared her “Curiosity” curriculum and materials with Girls at Work and The Circle Program, a non-profit organization serving New Hampshire girls through year-round mentoring and a residential summer camp and. Both organizations will incorporate the curriculum into their respective program offerings.

Serving and leading others is not new to McKenney. While attending Londonderry High School, she served as president of the Blue Star Lancers (a student organization offering support to peers and staff with deployed loved ones), and as community service coordinator for her school’s National Honor Society. She also participated in Girls Rock the Capitol, a legislative internship program run by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.

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.

Nashua’s Jillian MacGregor Earns Girl Scout Gold Award

gold-award-facebook-jillian-macgregorJillian MacGregor’s passion for STEM education goes far beyond her Nashua South High School classroom. The community-minded senior—a Girl Scout since second grade—developed an after school  computing and technology program for girls, and has made it her personal mission to ensure it will keep going long after she’s moved on to college. Her project has earned her a Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.

MacGregor began inspiring others with her computer and technology skills shortly after starting high school. In addition to volunteering at the UNH Manchester STEM Discovery Lab, MacGregor mentored a FIRST Lego League team for middle school girls at the Boys and Girls Club of Nashua, where she also ran a week-long summer computer camp.

After earning the National Center for Women and Information Technology’s Aspirations in Computing Award, MacGregor obtained the grant funding she needed to continue offering her program throughout the school year. The program, held in collaboration with the Nashua School District, trains girls in computer programming, coding, and robotics. Girls also have opportunities to meet some of the region’s leading female industry professionals, allowing them to witness firsthand the perks of pursuing careers in traditionally male-dominated professions.

In addition to mentoring younger girls, MacGregor trained older girls who will lead the program in the future. “They were very instrumental in helping ensure this program will go on after I head off to college,” she says
MacGregor said she’s looking forward to leading her after school program during her final year of high school. She teamed up with the national organization, Girls Who Code, giving her program an added curriculum advantage. “We have everything we need now,” MacGregor said with a grin. “I’m pretty immersed in all those program languages right now.”

She credits her years in Girl Scouts for giving her the confidence and support needed to make her dreams a reality. “With Girl Scouts, I could always be part of something bigger and there was always this core group of girls I could turn to,” MacGregor said. “We tried so many new things—like learning CPR. I’m so glad I had these opportunities.”

A longtime computer aficionado, MacGregor was selected to serve as a student STEM ambassador by the NH High Tech Council TechWomen/TechGirls STEM Ambassadors committee several years ago. A drum major and three-season athlete, MacGregor hopes to eventually earn degrees in computer science and engineering.  She encourages other Girl Scouts to go for the Gold. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s really something that helps a lot of people, while helping yourself,” she said. “So if you have an idea for a Gold Award project, why not do it?”