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 Elisha Tong

For our tenth Gold Award project features, Elisha Tong’s project “Rebuilding Community: Marking the Trails.” Elisha worked with the local parks and recreation department (RSRPD) to address the issue of improving trail access, following the devastation of the Woolsey Fire. Elisha worked to assemble a team of volunteers to help her address this issue. She instructed her team on how to use a mobile GPS app to measure trail length and document locations where maintenance was required. As the project manager, she was responsible for handling the data collected. Elisha designed trail markers using the data to clarify intersections and trail paths. Additionally, she coordinated dates for the volunteers to install the trail markers. Elisha instructed her team members on how to properly use a drill to affix sign plates onto wooden 4×4 posts. Her Gold Award project installed sixteen trail markers to direct hikers to the official trail paths. In addition, thirty-one locations were identified as being overgrown or unsafe, which helped RSRPD to prioritize which trails needed maintenance in order of priority. As a result of her project, trail users reported that they encountered less overgrown trails. Her project helps guide users stay on official trails, reducing erosion and making it less likely users will get lost.

Elisha says, “Through my Gold Award project, I learned that I am capable of being a leader. I learned that, becoming a leader, giving clear instructions and setting specific goals motivates teams to work hard. During my project, I gave clarification to my volunteers about which specific trails to hike, giving them an objective to complete. I also learned that I do not have to do everything myself. I found that when I recruited others to help with the process of collecting trail data and installing the sign plates on the trail marker posts, the whole process went a lot faster. As a leader, I held the important role of making sure that the process goes smoothly. I honed my supervising skills to ensure that volunteers used the equipment properly and safely. Overall, I learned that I enjoy helping my community, as it makes me happy to see people using the trails again.”

Elisha plans to study biochemistry in college.

Gold Award recipient Erin Sullivan

Our next Gold Award recipient is Erin Sullivan, with her project “Installing Cross Country Signage at Sapwi Bike Park.” The idea for her Gold Award stemmed from being an avid member of her high school cross country and track teams. Erin wanted to use her Gold Award to give back to the running community because it played a huge role in shaping who she is today. The Sapwi cross-country course is a valuable part of the high school running community. Every year, the course is used to bring together Thousand Oaks, Westlake, Newbury Park, and other local high school teams. Erin completed her Gold Award by installing mile markers along the Sapwi course. These markers make it easier for athletes to navigate and compete on the course. She emphasized sustainability throughout her project and made sure to design and budget the mile markers by utilizing repurposed materials. To meet time constraints, she organized a team of volunteers and mentors.

Erin states, “To others, installing a couple of mile markers may seem insignificant, however, the most important takeaway of this project wasn’t the posts I dug into the ground, but what I accomplished throughout the process. I have always known myself to be driven, and earning my Gold Award reinforced the work ethic I have as the strong and independent woman I am today.”

Erin plans to attend college to major in Biology or Ecology and someday hope to pursue a career in STEM.

Gold Award recipient Evelyn Tuso

Our twelfth featured Gold Award recipient, features Evelyn Tuso with her project “Bringing Holocaust Survivors’ Testimonies to Ventura County and the Central Coast Through Zoom.” Evelyn felt that there was a significant issue in my community that needed addressing. Evelyn unfortunately noticed antisemitism in my community. She recognized that the Holocaust was a historic period of antisemitism and believed education about this period would the catalyst her community needed to start the conversation of the effects of antisemitism. She aimed to spread the testimonies of Holocaust survivors to students in my community. By doing so, Evelyn hoped to help to educate kids in her area on the topic, as well as prevent further antisemitism. Evelyn concluded the best way to reach others was through Zoom, given the state of the pandemic at the time. Her Zoom conversations focused on bringing Holocaust survivors’ testimonies to students, in hopes that they would learn about tolerance and most importantly become educated on the topic so that they can spread this information to others.

Evelyn believes, “Even all of these years after an event like the Holocaust, antisemitism, racism, xenophobia, sexism, and homophobia still prevail. These biases are ingrained in people when they are kids. This is why education on topics such as the Holocaust are crucial.”

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