The Gold Award is the highest award a girl can earn
in Girl Scouting. It’s a national standard that acknowledges a girl’s accomplishments, leadership, commitment, creativity, and personal effort to make the world a better place. Each Gold Award is a significant achievement in a girl’s life and an extension and compilation of all she has learned through her Girl Scout experience.

Gold Award recipient Anneliese Wong

For our fourth Gold Award project feature, Anneliese Wong’s project ” Little Library in the Wellness Center,” is a construction of a little library for Rancho Campana’s new Wellness Center. Anneliese decided that she wanted her Gold Award project to benefit her high school because RCHS has a huge role in shaping the person she has become today. The Wellness Center, also known as the “Den” was introduced to students after returning back from distance learning in 2021. It was as a place where students could go to get away from the stresses of school whenever the need arose. While in the “Den,” a technology free zone, Anneliese noticed that there were no books that one could read if they desired. As a way to give back to the community that has done so much for her, Anneliese decided to build a little library filled with books for her peers. She hand built the design of the library using tools and supplies in the school’s engineering academies’ scene shop. The books inside the library were generously donated by friends, family, peers, and the Wellness Center themselves. After one hundred plus hours of designing, constructing, and painting, the little library was finally placed inside the “Den” and opened to the students attending Rancho Campana High School.

Anneliese says, “By doing my Gold Award project, I learned that hard work and determination pays off. I used a lot of the skills that I learned in my eleven years of Girl Scouts such as my leadership, communication, and decision making skills when completing my Gold Award. This project taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to even when it seems impossible. I faced many road bumps during this project, but there were always people around to support and push me through the toughest times.”

Anneliese plans are to finish her Girl Scouts my senior year and be a lifetime Girl Scout. She plans to continue to help others and support her community. She also plans to attend a local college where she will work hard every day and continue to make a difference in the world by using my skills and knowledge learned through Girl Scouts, and spreading this knowledge to others.

Gold Award recipient Annika Wagner

Our fifth Gold Award recipient, Annika Wagner, with her project “Koegel Autism Center Teen Social Room & Activities,” is a welcoming room at the Koegel Autism Center at UCSB to be used for social groups for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum. Annika raised money to purchase all the furniture, art and materials to decorate the room. The design incorporated soft textured furniture and adjustable lighting that are appropriate and appealing for non neurotypical teens who may have sensory integration challenges. The furniture included an adjustable table that could be configured in different ways and included a wide variety of seating options so that everyone will be comfortable. She also created a binder with activities to help teens connect with one another during their social group meetings. Annika gathered crafts and games which teens can manipulate while waiting for group activities to begin, which seek to improve fine motor skills as well as relaxing. Most importantly, she designed this room and activities specifically for teens and young adults, because too many therapeutic and social group environments for non neurotypical people are geared towards much younger kids and would not appeal to teens and young adults. She designed and created a space where they would want to be at teen and young adult level.

Annika says, “As I developed my social skills room and activity binder, I learned ways to incorporate the unique needs of teens and young adults on the autism spectrum in a space that would make those who participate in the social groups feel welcome, understood, appreciated and most importantly excited to participate! I also figured out some activities that would help those who use this space to connect with one another.”

Gold Award recipient Araceli Cervantes

Our sixth featured Gold Award recipient, features Araceli Cervantes with her project “Taking Off the Mask: Girls with Autism.” Araceli’s Gold Award project aims to spread Autism awareness among girls. Much of the information that is currently available is based on findings that are found among boys and not girls. Autism within girls differs from boys, often resulting in a missed or late diagnosis. This can lead to stereotyping, lack of much-needed support, and struggles in establishing meaningful and impactful relationships with family and peers. Girls with Autism do not show the typical Autism symptoms that are found in boys. Girls are usually overlooked and disregarded as not on the autism spectrum. Some of their symptoms can be interpreted as something else as they can easily hide or ‘mask’ them. This often leads to a missed or late diagnosis. If not identified, autism can lead to additional mental health struggles throughout their lives, such as; low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Araceli chose this project because she has personal connections to this issue of autism. Araceli is a girl with autism and faces daily struggles in her environment, friendships/family dynamics, and often mislabeled/judged; when in fact she is experiencing sensory overload and having difficulty processing her environment. She developed a children’s book to showcase some of the symptoms that girls may have with an autism diagnosis. Some of the symptoms captured her book are sensory overload, not fitting in with peers, bullying, eye contact, and social cues. She wanted to help readers identify the things that are symptons that are misunderstood. Araceli hopes to help bring awareness, acceptance, and inclusion among our society for autism.

Araceli believes, “With Kindness, support, and understanding it will help Girls with Autism to embrace their uniqueness. It is ok to be different!”

For more information about the Gold Award and how Girl Scouts are creating positive change within their communities, visit here.