HILLSBOROUGH, NJ -  Each year in June, the Hillsborough Girl Scout Service Unit 72 hosts a celebration of the many incredible achievements of Girl Scouts and Troop Leaders as they continue the mission of Girl Scouts by building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. 

 “This is my favorite event of the year.  It’s a close tie to singing camp songs at camporee, but if I had to pick one, this would be it,” said awards co-chair and Service Unit co-Manager Tara O’Brien.

  This year, over 250 proud parents, siblings, grandparents, scouts, troop leaders and community leaders came together to recognize the 190 girls and 25 adult volunteers who were presented with a variety of awards including recognition for their work completing the prestigious Bronze, Silver and Gold awards.

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Other presentations focused on community service, volunteer recognitions and tenure awards.  The event was co-chaired by Dr. Michele Tuck and supported by many girls and leaders who participated in the opening ceremony, handed out the awards, organized the dessert social, and kept the evening running smoothly.  Photographer Stacey Skala was busy all night documenting the momentous occasion and the incredible dessert buffet was coordinated by Joan Shuttner.

The evening kicked off with a keynote speech by Mayor Gloria McCauley who was herself a Girl Scout.  She reflected on the time she enjoys spending with troops that visit her office, teaching the girls about local government and talking to them about being a female community leader.  Mayor McCauley let the girls in attendance know how important Girl Scouting is to Hillsborough, and commended them for the hard work they have put into all of their efforts and how deserving they are of these awards.  Service Unit co-Manager Heather Bruchey sent a message to the girls, “Congratulations to all of the Award recipients for everything they have accomplished.  I also wanted to say ‘Thank You’ to all of our wonderful volunteers.  We could not do this without all of you.”

Thirty-seven girls from sixth to twelfth grade were presented with a variety of National Girl Scout Awards including the National Community Service Award, the Girl Scout Torch Award, and the Service to Scouting Award.    Adults were recognized as Volunteers of Excellence, Dedicated Leaders, and Rookies of the Year.  Five and Ten Year tenure awards were also presented to adult volunteers, as was the “Outstanding Volunteer” recognition that troops present to the supportive parents who go above and beyond to help a troop achieve its goals.

Hillsborough isone of only three towns awarded the coveted President’s Award out of the 62 Service Units represented within the council of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey.  The President’s Award recognizes a local Service Unit Team for exemplary service in supporting delivery of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.  Hillsborough’s team surpassed their goals which resulted in a significant, measurable impact toward reaching the Council’s overall goals.  This is the second time Hillsborough has been honored with this award.

A record 70 scouts from kindergarteners to high schoolers earned Hillsborough’s own “SU72 Community Service Award”.  Hillsborough Girl Scouts is committed to providing girls with opportunities to learn the value of being a contributor to their community and so to earn the award, girls must have volunteered at a minimum of five community events like the Halloween Howl, Memorial Day Picnic, Red Ribbon Week, Tree Lighting Event, baking for Safe & Sound or Girl Scout Sunday and others. The cumulative participation of the girls who took home this award equates to nearly a thousand hours dedicated to supporting our community and making sure Hillsborough continues to be one of the best places to live!

The most prestigious awards recognized at this year’s special evening were earned by girls who had completed their Bronze, Silver, or Gold awards.  These are the highest awards offered at various levels of scouting and they require the completion of a significant 'Take Action' project where the girls identify an issue they are passionate about, create a plan, build a budget, and construct a team to help them address that issue. 

These projects require girls to conduct research, collaborate with community leaders to support their efforts, secure donations or raise funds, and execute so their impact is both immediate and sustainable.  This year three Junior Bronze Awards, 7 Cadette Silver Awards, and 1 Ambassador Gold Award were recognized.  Junior Girl Scout troops (4th & 5th graders) worked on problems ranging from concern about wild birds and other animals being displaced due to the construction at Mountain View Park (Troop 60640), to Mindful Living for Stress Relief (troop 60750) and helping younger girls and their families learn about Girl Scouting through ‘Camp Pretend’ (troop 60056) for their Bronze Awards.

  Silver Awards conducted by three to four Cadette Girl Scouts (6th-8th graders) and requiring an investment of at least 50 hours were conducted by girls from troop 60320 who improved a walking trail for dog-walkers to use off South Woods Road with color-coded distance markers and benches for resting, girls from troop 61041 who created the military recognition wall that was on display in the municipal building for Memorial Day to document the history of Hillsborough’s veterans with stories and both historical and present day photos, and scouts from troops 60320 and 60203 who built a reading lab at GiGi’s Playhouse. Girls from two troops, 60718 and 60821, focused on creating meditation spaces at local churches with improved landscaping, flowers, and garden accessories, and Girl Scout Jenna Galayda from troop 60643 turned her attention to the Franklin Township Animal Shelter, collecting donations, helping bring awareness to the shelter with a pamphlet, and making home-made treats for the sheltered pets.

The Gold Award is the pinnacle of Girl Scouting and requires a High School Girl Scout to work independently and dedicate at least 80 hours to a significant issue in the world and how to address it.  This year Brynne Briegs was recognized for her help bringing attention to the decline in our local pollinator population, so important to a community like ours where farming is an active industry.  Brynne’s installation of a pollinator garden and her public presentations on the topic are part of the township’s overall goal of expanding environmental education in the community, and served to demonstrate how residents can make an impact with just a small area, careful plant selection, and a minimum of gardening skill.

The ceremony also celebrated 29 Ambassador Girl Scouts who are graduating Seniors.  These scouts have made the values and the work of Girl Scouting a significant part of their lives, and the world will certainly benefit from the skills and qualities they learned in scouting.  The Girl Scout Service Unit 72 Scholarship Committee awarded $500 scholarships to seniors who are active Girl Scouts and who wrote essays about how Girl Scouting will impact their lives ahead.  This year’s winners were Brynne Briegs, Alexis Feder, Hana Bahlawan and Shreeshruthi Raghavan.  All of the winners from past years are posted on the Girl Scout website www.borogirlscouts.org with their winning and inspirational essays. 

Dozens of adult volunteers were also recognized with five and ten year tenure pins, Outstanding Leader Awards, Volunteer of Excellence Awards, and the troop-nominated Outstanding Volunteer Award. 

TThe evening concluded with heartwarming and motivational presentations by Girl Scout Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ) CFO Tom Trageser, GSHNJ Head of Membership & Retail, Tara Faquir, and Hillsborough Service Unit Manager Tara O’Brien. Trageser spoke of what he sees Girl Scouting doing for his own three daughters, and how their confidence and courage are being nurtured through the work they are doing as Girl Scouts.  Faquir spoke about how each and every girl present adds to the amazing legacy of Girl Scouts and how we are making history every day.  O’Brien closed out the night with a reminder that every girl present is a G.I.R.L. - a Go Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, and Leader.  Her call to action was to remind the girls to use what they’ve learned whether they are graduating and going out into the world for new adventures, or are moving on in Girl Scouts and pursing their next goal.