CRANFORD –On the evening of May 22nd, the Girl Scouts of Cranford, Service Unit 48, presented the national organization’s most prestigious honor – the Gold Award – to three young women of Cranford.

The Gold Award recipients – Lauren Manning, Lindsay Aschmies, and Sarah Hoffman - were honored at a recognition dinner at Garwood’s The Westwood. Sixteen Girl Scout Seniors were also honored for earning their Silver Award, the precursor to the Gold Award. Both achievements involve extensive community service and are designed to foster both collaboration and independence. Girl Scout Ambassador Mary Grace McNamara also received the 2019 Distinguished Girl Scout Service Award.

Guest speakers at the ceremony included Tracy Castle-Newman (Managing Director, Morgan Stanley), Diana Polack (President and Founder of ArtWare for Good), Mary Brawley (Special Education Teacher, Cranford Public Schools), and former Cranford Girl Scout AnnaLee Gallo (RN, NYU Orthopedic Hospital). The evening event was also attended by Natasha Hemmings, CEO of the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey.

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“Cranford’s Girl Scout Service Unit 48 is extremely proud to honor these young ladies for their hard work and years of dedication to our community,” said Kristin Santos, Service Unit Manager for the Girl Scouts of Cranford.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest and most prestigious award that Girl Scout Ambassadors and Seniors can earn. The Gold Award has stood for excellence and leadership for girls everywhere. Each Gold Award recipient joins the ranks of generations of young women who have made a difference in their communities and beyond. Projects require a minimum of 80 hours of work, including identifying an issue, investigating the issue thoroughly, building a team, creating a plan, presenting the plan, gathering feedback, taking action, educating and inspiring others, and ensuing the project is sustainable.

Lauren Manning, of Girl Scout Ambassador Troop 40842, focused her Gold Award project on the current gender imbalance in the field of computer science. Through a four-week, eighty hour introduction to coding class, she shared her passion for computing with twenty rising fifth grade students from Colin Powell Elementary School in Union City, New Jersey. Her goal was to provide the girls with a new experience and inspire them to explore the field of coding. Manning focused on the Java coding language and used a beginners program to simplify the subject matter. In addition to the coursework, she created a web site which includes a full tutorial of the class which extends the reach and scope of her service.

Lindsay Aschmies, of Girl Scout Ambassador Troop 40842, created wildlife gardens to support local populations of butterflies, bees and birds. Her Gold Award also included educating others, including school children, about sustainable, Earth-friendly gardening practices that would encourage the growth and health of local wildlife. Her project included collaborating with the Christopher Academy to create and/or refurbish two school gardens, creating lesson plans on responsible gardening and implementing composting practices including the donation of two barrel composters.

Sarah Hoffman, of Girl Scout Ambassador Troop 40046, focused her project on bridging past, present and future. She partnered with the Cranford Historical Society to research 24 important people, places and things from the Township of Cranford. Next she collaborated with ArtWare for Good to create an installation of ceramic tiles with an image of each historical topic, a paragraph of context and a QR code. Those with a QR reader on their smartphone can use the technology to access additional information which was recorded by a popular local radio host. The tiles were used to create two living-history mosaics in the Cranford Community Center allowing visitors to learn more about the history of Cranford.

Mary Grace McNamara, of Girl Scout Ambassador Troop 40046, was bestowed the 2019 Distinguished Girl Scout Service Award. This award was established in 2014 to honor Girl Scout Ambassadors for their extreme dedication during their high school years and over 40 service hours to the younger Girl Scout troops in the Cranford community.

The Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn, was presented to the following girls – Sofia Bongiovanni, Alyssa Colombrita, Bailey Croft, Bridget Kachoogian, Amelia Hunt, Julia Ramsay, Molly Love, Ariadne Mahadeo, Elaina Michetti, Tess Hagstrom, Emma Donnelly, Audrey Esteves, Ava Janish, Natalia Onisko, Sofia Pollack, and Caroline Willis. The Silver Award project requires at least 50 hours of dedication by each Girl Scout and is the precursor to earning the Gold Award. 

“The projects presented this evening demonstrate how the Girl Scout organization has helped foster leadership, passion, and desire within our young ladies to be the positive change they want to see in the world around them. They developed their passions and created projects that make a difference,” said Santos, who is concluding her fourth year as manager of Girl Scouts of Cranford, Service Unit 48.

Girl Scouts is the world's preeminent organization dedicated to girls and is designed to build character and skills for success in the real world. In partnership with committed adult volunteers, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives.  For over 107 years, its membership has been unified towards the achievement of the Girl Scout mission: “To build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”

The Girl Scouts of Cranford, Service Unit 48, boasts over 1,135 Girl Scout members in 73 troops and Juliette’s making it one of the largest non-profit organizations in town. The Cranford Service Unit is a part of the Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ) Council which is part of the Girl Scouts of the USA.  If your family is interested in learning more about local Girl Scouts or to find out more information on the Girl Scouts of Cranford, please visit CranfordGirlScouts.com.