WESTFIELD, NJ — A dozen young women from Westfield were awarded the Girl Scout Gold award last week, the organization’s highest achievement. They are Nicole Devitt, Julia Diamantopoulos, Michelle Kostyack, Mackenzie Kuhl, Claire Lynch, Kathleen McCutcheon, Emily Tate McLane, Caroline Bonacci McNamara, Alyson Palia, Megan Pinna, Clara Smith and Caitlyn Tierney.

Only about six percent of all Girl Scouts achieve the Gold Award.  To earn it, a girl must provide a minimum of 80 hours of leadership on an original, sustainable project that solves a community problem for the long term.  In addition, Gold Award candidates complete multiple prerequisites to learn project planning, marketing, fundraising and management.  The process can take years and must be complete before graduation from high school.

Sixteen Westfield teens were awarded the Girl Scout Silver Award: Chloe Brown, Pamela Burke, Lizzy Evans, Jessica Fritz, Samantha Fritz, Fiona Gillespie, Claire Hunter, Marissa Lehmberg, Anna Masciandaro, Margaret Schantz, Erica Schoenfeld, Adriana Vergara, Keelyn Weber, Caroline Willson, Karolina Zboralska and Amanda Zhang.  The Silver Award may be completed by a team or individually, and includes a significant project that benefits the local community.

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While earning Gold Awards, Westfield scouts addressed concerns as disparate as obesity, biodiversity, music therapy, and emergency preparedness. Their projects included:

Nicole Devitt’s Project: Sister, designed to spread positivity throughout her community and provide incoming freshman girls with a support network for entering high school.

Julia Diamantopoulos’ sports equipment donation program that gives the donated items to children in need. Her program shares space with Furniture Assist, Inc.

Michelle Kostyack’s curriculum kit on Awareness of Hunger in Local Communities, which she distributed to local youth organizations, schools and religious programs.

Mackenzie Kuhl’s published children’s book about how to handle the stress of losing a parent, and shared it with eight groups of campers at a bereavement camp for kids.

Claire Lynch’s personalized memory books and “memory night” to help memory-impaired seniors that told the story of their lives.

Kathleen McCutcheon’s bilingual cookbook, which she wrote and translated, and her teaching elementary school students in Elizabeth how to make healthy food choices.

Emily Tate McLane’s anti-bullying club for middle school students. She helped them create a lesson plan to teach younger students about bullying.

Caroline McNamara’s extensive research on Alzheimer’s disease, which led her to create a music therapy club that supported patient treatment at multiple centers.

Alyson Palia’s presentation of children’s programs at zoos and schools to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity, specifically as it relates to the endangerment of rhinos.

Megan Pinna’s creation of an acting class for high school students with disabilities that culminated in a full class production.

Clara Smith’s program to teach safe hiking skills in conjunction with the Watchung Reservation. She taught workshops and developed brochures that the reservation will use going forward.

Caitlyn Tierney’s work to empower teenagers to make a difference in case of an emergency by teaching first aid and basic CPR to middle school students. Her hands-on lesson program will be part of the health class going forward.

For their silver awards:

Cadette Troop 40056

Caroline Willson, Claire Hunter and Lizzy Evans researched and catalogued a library of fiction books at Tamaques school library to enable the success of the school’s new Guided Reading Levels program.

Fiona Gillespie designed and planted a sensory garden at a local nursery school to help preschoolers learn to explore all five senses.

Marissa Lehmberg, Anna Masciandaro, Adriana Vergara and Karolina Zboralska designed and installed a memorial and garden for soldiers stationed at the Westfield Armory.

Cadette Troop 40219

Margaret Schantz created and planted a garden that supported the educational efforts of the Miller Cory House Museum. She used plants authentic to the time period.

Pamela Burke and Keelyn Weber arranged donations and solicited help from seniors to create fleece blankets for donation to children in the New Jersey Foster Care system.

Cadette Troop 40068

Chloe Brown, Jessica Fritz, Samantha Fritz, Erica Schoenfeld and Amanda Zhang organized a Girl Power Conference where they taught confidence, teamwork and high self-esteem. Their project benefited the Bridges Outreach program for the homeless.