Arianna McKnight earns 2021 Girl Scout Gold Award

Girl Scouts of Western New York is proud to announce Arianna McKnight of Rochester, NY, as a 2021 Gold Award Girl Scout. Arianna is from Troop 60671 and has been a member of Girl Scouts for 9 years.

What Arianna said about Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts has helped to distinguish me from those who are not in Girl Scouts. I have grown my skill set through Girl Scout opportunities, such as my leadership, public speaking, and collaboration skills have increased. I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time with other girls through camping and mentoring opportunities, and have loved being a part of Girl Scouts. I have also enjoyed taking greater leadership roles through Girl Scouts and growing as a person. I am glad that I have been a part of Girl Scouts since I was a Brownie in 2nd grade, and look forward to more exciting opportunities as I continue Girl Scouts.

Project: Promoting Positive Mental Health Within My Community

I decided to initiate my Girl Scout Gold Award project after I became aware of the staggering mental illness statistics in the United States. According to, 1 in 6 kids have experienced a mental health illness each year. This is a very large problem, especially in the United States.

After years of volunteering with the Henrietta Youth Asset Team and learning about various organizations such as the National Association of Mental Illness and Stop the Stigma ROC, I learned about how mental health illnesses have increased in severity and frequency in youth. I became determined to make a change and provide resources for youth regarding this issue.

My Gold Award project was aimed at providing resources for youth dealing with mental illnesses, and it took place within my community in Henrietta, NY. When my project was approved in December of 2019, my goal was to host an in-person mental health forum with different organizations and professionals available for students to access. I also was planning to create a pamphlet providing resources for students to utilize. When the COVID-19 pandemic came and I was no longer in school, I realized that I had to think outside of the box and be innovative if I wanted to continue my project. I started thinking about how I could still make an impact virtually and contacted my project advisor, Betsy Liano, regarding ideas on how to continue.

After collaborating, I decided to continue the plan of hosting a forum, but instead of in-person, I decided to do it online. This is the same as with the pamphlet, as I created it online. Not only did I create one pamphlet, but I formed three different pamphlets that I shared with my school. They provided resources such as mental health organizations with their contact information, mental health helplines, and a list of the different mental health professionals in the Rush-Henrietta High School. It was created virtually, so recipients could print many copies and distribute them to the public.

Not only did I host one forum, but I hosted a variety of forums/activities virtually, such as having a yoga session led by Jennifer Gaul and inviting a school nurse teacher, Jeanne Schwasman, and a school social worker, Mike Elphick, on a panel discussion centered around coping strategies during the pandemic. I collaborated with the Henrietta Youth Asset Team and Marybeth Recore, coordinator of the Henrietta Youth Asset Team, in order to help organize these online sessions. My school principal Dr. Timothy Shafer, as well as my school community, helped me to expand the reach of my project.

I also filmed and edited two Girl Scout activity videos to encourage Girl Scouts during the pandemic. They were posted on the Girl Scouts of Western New York Facebook Page (and YouTube, available here: video 1, video 2) and helped to spread positivity. There were over 1,000 views on my videos, and I was able to reach a wide variety of people in the online community. I hosted a prayer group both in-person and virtually after being sent home, as well as being a part of a group called HowToLife.

Through all of the activities that I took part in and helped plan, hundreds of lives were impacted. In being able to reach my community virtually, I was able to provide a wide variety of resources to many people. In this way, through resilience and perseverance, I was able to positively impact the town of Henrietta and Rush-Henrietta School District, as well as the vast virtual community.

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Margaret Pardee earns 2021 Girl Scout Gold Award

Girl Scouts of Western New York is proud to announce Margaret Pardee of Pittsford, NY, as a 2021 Gold Award Girl Scout. Margaret is from Troop 60982 and has been a member of Girl Scouts for 12 years.

What Margaret said about Girl Scouts

I have learned a lot about leadership and how to work with others through Girl Scout service projects, and I’ve been able to make a plan and stick to it because of the Girl Scout Gold Award. Most of all, however, I’ve made lifelong friends that I will always treasure.

Project: The Beauty of Butterflies

The monarch butterfly population has been rapidly decreasing over the past thirty years, and it is up to us to change that. I have always been invested in environmental awareness, so I decided to work within the Pittsford and Fairport communities to educate children on the issue and install butterfly gardens filled with native plants.

I built three butterfly houses and planted two gardens: one at Mendon Center Elementary (MCE) School and the other at Fairport United Methodist Church. I also spoke with the 4th graders at MCE and gave them instructions on how to plant their own gardens.

The goal of my project was to bring awareness to these environmental problems, and also to provide monarchs and other butterflies with habitats that support every part of their lifecycles. I’ve gotten feedback from teachers that the children are enthusiastic about starting their own gardens. By this spring, I hope to see an increasing number of monarchs in both locations.

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Julia Wasley earns 2021 Girl Scout Gold Award

Girl Scouts of Western New York is proud to announce Julia Wasley of Sanborn, NY, as a 2021 Gold Award Girl Scout. Julia is from Troop 70059 and has been a member of Girl Scouts for 14 years.

What Julia said about Girl Scouts

Being in Girl Scouts has taught me how to be a leader, how to go outside of my comfort zone and learn new things, and has led me to choose my career path of being a teacher by working with young kids.

Project: Craft Cupboard at Intandem

For my Gold Award Project, I made directions for crafts and gathered all of the supplies and organized them in bins. I did this project for Intandem, an organization located in Niagara Falls for adults with disabilities that has workshops and a day program. I chose this project because my aunt is an attendee at Intandem. She would come home with crafts that she made so I wanted to give them some fun and easy crafts to do.

The purpose of this project was to give the attendees some fun crafts to do and to take some pressure off of the care providers and staff. The project has given Intandem crafts to do, especially during the pandemic where they are closed and are trying to reach out to their participants to help them stay stimulated and active. I made directions for 50+ crafts, gathered all of the supplies, and packaged the supplies into bins.

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Hannah Kenefick earns 2021 Girl Scout Gold Award

Girl Scouts of Western New York is proud to announce Hannah Kenefick of East Aurora, NY, as a 2021 Gold Award Girl Scout. Hannah is from Troop 31130 and has been a member of Girl Scouts for 13 years.

What Hannah said about Girl Scouts

Girl Scouting has allowed me to have experiences that are one-of-a-kind and given me a set of skills that are very unique. I can now say I am first aid certified, know how to build a stretcher in the woods out of t-shirts, and can lead others around me to making the best decisions in an emergency situation. Girl Scouts has led me to loving the outdoors and a yearning to always learn more. Being in Girl Scouts has not only given me skills that I will always keep with me, but hundreds of memories and relationships I built throughout the years.

Project: ACL/Sports Injury Prevention

For my Gold Award Project I created a program that educated people on what an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is, how it gets injured, and how to prevent such injury. This project was located in East Aurora, and I collaborated with my Orthopedic Surgeon at UBMD Orthopedic’s and the East Aurora High School Athletic Director. This project had a place close to my heart because I suffered two ACL tears throughout my 4 years of high school and I was never given information, such as: women have a higher chance of tearing their ACL because of their body shape.

The purpose of the project was to show people there are ways to prevent injuries, such as avoiding specific cleat patterns, doing an in-depth warmup, strengthening your core, and stretching. My project affected my community by giving parents, students, athletes, and coaches information on how to keep everyone injury-free. Compared to 2 ACL injuries in my school in 2019, and one in summer 2020, our school currently has no people who have torn their ACL this year.

For my project I reached out to local sports teams to present to them my information including the summer soccer league in East Aurora, and due to COVID I was restricted to making my presentation over Zoom with many groups, including a Girl Scout troop from my Service Unit. To reach the maximum amount of people I contacted my school’s athletic director to find a safe way to reach more people. We came up with the idea of making a video presentation on our athletic page!

Finally as I became more and more immersed in the project I decided to create an injury prevention Instagram to share with others the key exercises to preventing any injury, in addition to the original cleat patterns to avoid in my informational packet. This Gold Award has led me to be able to adapt to changing situations and opened my eyes to the love of medicine.

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Sarah Cumming earns 2021 Girl Scout Gold Award

Girl Scouts of Western New York is proud to announce Sarah Cumming of Tonawanda, NY, as a 2021 Gold Award Girl Scout. Sarah is from Troop 30981 and has been a member of Girl Scouts for 13 years.

What Sarah said about Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts has taught me that girls of all ages do have power in this tough world. We can work together and build each other up, as well as work together to make the world a better place (like the Girl Scout Law says). I’ve made some of my best friends through Girl Scouts and I’ve been on so many adventures.

The most important thing that I’ve learned is that even the smallest bit of kindness can make all the difference in the community and the world. Girl Scout troops might change members a lot but what’s evident is that every member takes something good with them from the troop after their Girl Scout journey ends. I take a lot with me and even wish I was able to still be a Girl Scout because it was so fun being able to help others and the community and to make everlasting connections with other people.

Project: Hand in Hand for Literacy

My Gold Award project features one of the things I love most: books. Books have always been a huge part of my life. Since a very young age I’ve had the privilege of owning as many as my little heart desired. I had never realized how fortunate I was to have these resources at my fingertips, not knowing that some kids don’t have the privilege of owning books. That’s how I decided to do “Hand in Hand for Literacy.”

The idea is that bi-annually a book drive will be run through my old highschool, Sweet Home Senior High, and books will be collected and given to a school that needs them. Each year a new school will be picked. The first school I had the opportunity to collect 1,500 books for was Native American Magnet School PS 19, a school whose students generally didn’t have books at home and needed more in school. I worked with my mom’s college friend Miss Kate Kinney who is a teacher at the school. I had donated before and knew that the kids there would benefit from the books greatly. The reason I knew this was due to the fact that Miss Kinney had told me upon receiving a book from my previous donation a little girl had said to her, “I can keep this book?” She was shocked as she hadn’t owned any books of her own beforehand.

The book drive took place in Amherst, as well as Buffalo where the Native American Magnet School was located. I worked with the whole English department at Sweet Home High, as well as Mrs. Hannah Schultz and Mrs. Krista Stephan who are English Teachers as well as book club advisors (the book club being where I got my team and where I ran the book drive through). I also worked with Mr. Day, the superintendent of schools. I also worked alongside my friends Nat Tombak, Crystal Plourde, and Heather Plourde. Finally, I also worked with my family: my stepdad, mom, dad, sister, aunt, and grandma.

The impact made on the community is that I was able to give a vital piece of education to kids who were missing it. I was also able to bring the whole district together to try and bring in books basically uniting everyone to work together to help kids who don’t have the same opportunities as them. I ran a book drive, counted every book by hand, and sorted them by grade level, and then took them to the school for distribution.

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