Arts & Entertainment

SPF Girl Scouts Receive Highest Honors for Community Service

Fanwood-Scotch Plains 2014 recipients of the Girl Scout Gold Award (left to right): Jessica Fugett, Shannon Burns, Megan Voorhees, Meghan Costello, Jessica Banasiak, Charlotte Peach
Six of the Fanwood-Scotch Plains 2014 recipients of the Girl Scout Silver Award with their troop leaders

SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ - Fanwood-Scotch Plains Girl Scouts gathered on May 27 to honor girls who have achieved the organization’s highest awards, the Gold and Silver Awards. The Gold Award recipients were also recognized by the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey council on June 1 in a ceremony recognizing all 2014 Gold Award recipients across the council.

Six girls from Fanwood-Scotch Plains earned the Gold Award this year. To earn the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting, a girl must complete a series of prerequisites then design and carry out a Gold Award project to address a need in the community in a way that can be sustained into the future. The projects carried out by this year’s recipients reflect their varied interests.

Jessica Banasiak developed lesson plans and activities about composting for McGinn Elementary School. The school has a compost bin within their community garden, and the lessons provide an active and relevant way for students in kindergarten and second grade to incorporate this into their science curriculum. McGinn teachers used the lesson plans this spring, and Jessica successfully got the lessons approved by the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education so these activities can be used in future years. Jessica also designed and distributed brochures to encourage students and families to start a compost pile at home. Jessica is a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and in the fall will be attending Vanderbilt University to study chemical engineering.

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Shannon Burns transformed the existing therapeutic garden at First Children School in Fanwood into an interactive learning environment for students with special needs. She created an Education Fence with multi-sensory, educational activities, planted a butterfly garden so students can observe real butterflies, and orchestrated a spring cleanup of the garden. The First Children School horticultural therapist will sustain the new therapeutic garden in the future. Shannon also created a binder of lesson plans for the teachers at First Children and the other five local elementary schools detailing activities that can be used in other school gardens. Shannon is a junior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and works with students with special needs at the district’s summer program.

Meghan Costello partnered with the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Education Enrichment Foundation (EEF) to create a Music Festival. The EEF raises money to give grants to teachers to implement creative and engaging learning opportunities. The EEF Music Fest allowed students and adults from the Scotch Plains-Fanwood area to show off their musical talents, helped boost awareness of the EEF, and raised money to help support the education system. Future Music Fests will be organized by the EEF. Meghan is a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and will be attending University of Maryland - College Park in the fall.                 

Jessica Fugett organized and held a successful no-cost health fair in October of 2013 for the residents of Fanwood and Scotch Plains. She recruited more than 30 exhibitors including Walgreens, Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA, Watchung Pediatrics, CKO Kickboxing, Costco, Overlook Hospital, The Hearing Center, radio station 92.3 NOW, Fanwood and Scotch Plains Rescue Squads, Fanwood Fire Department, and numerous support and counseling organizations. The fair was attended by more than 250 participants and included fitness demonstrations, health screenings, massages, and distribution of valuable health and wellness information. Jessica is a junior at the Academy for Allied Health Sciences in Scotch Plains and plans to continue her education to pursue a career as a neonatologist.

Charlotte Peach developed and implemented an art therapy program at the Chelsea senior living facility in Fanwood. The 7 week program had as many as 12 attendees each week, who were surveyed to tailor the following week’s project to their wants and needs. Charlotte’s preparation for this program included years of art lessons and classes, reading articles on art therapy and speaking with art therapists. The existing lesson plans and future lesson plans were presented to the Chelsea and two other senior living facilities' activities directors for use in the future. Charlotte is a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and will be attending Stockton College, majoring in Interdisciplinary Art and planning to earn a master’s degree in art therapy.

Megan Voorhees established a Career Exploration Day where local professionals met with students of Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School to discuss their careers. Megan recruited more than 40 volunteers to discuss their professions and education with interested students. Students attending the event gained a greater understanding of various careers and professional pathways and also learned the importance of obtaining business connections. The Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School student council will be taking over the event in future years. Megan is a senior at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School and will be attending the University of Delaware studying Speech Language Pathology.

The ceremony also recognized 7 girls who completed the Silver Award, the highest award in Cadette Girl Scouts (grades 6 – 8): Zoe Choi, Kathryn Kalaigian, Isha Kamdar, Isabella Mancene, Danielle Miccio, Lauren Tropper and Ashley Veglia. These girls worked with Homefirst, an organization in Plainfield that works to improve the quality of life for the homeless and other needy families, to create a tutoring/ educational games program and an arts and crafts enrichment program for children in the Homefirst after school program.

In the final event of the evening, many of the 13 twelfth-grade Girl Scouts in Fanwood-Scotch Plains were present to symbolically cross a bridge to adult Girl Scouting as they graduate from high school.

Fanwood-Scotch Plains is one of 138 communities in Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, which serves over 25,000 girls and 11,000 adult members in the counties of Hudson, Essex, Union, Somerset, Hunterdon, southern Warren and parts of Middlesex. For more information, call (908) 518-4400 or go to


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