Six Local Teens Earn Gold: Highest Honor in Girl Scouting
by Ann Rakoff & Maris Vidler
(May 17, 2005) Over 100 Girls Scouts, their families, friends and New York State and Westchester County officials filled the Murray Avenue School auditorium on Sunday afternoon, May 15, 2005. They gathered to honor six Larchmont teens receiving their Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting. These young women are: Rebecca Baron, Emma Kravet, Claire Morgenstern, Keira Rakoff, Margaret Vidler and Andrea Vignola.
The six honorees, high school seniors completing their 11th consecutive year in scouting, are the first from the Larchmont/Mamaroneck community in over ten years to achieve the Gold Award. To earn the award, a Senior Girl Scout must first complete over 200 hours of prerequisites that focus on leadership, career exploration and community service activities. The next step is to identify a need in the community, then design and execute a project of at least 75 hours to meet that need. In addition, each girl must do her own fundraising.
The girls’ projects included producing a television segment showcasing pets in need of adoptive families; reclaiming Westchester county land for the Marshlands Conservancy that had unknowingly been encroached upon by neighbors; directing a Midnight Run with supplies and food for the homeless; establishing a Youth Running Program for low-income and immigrant children to help fight the growing national obesity problem; and assisting young single mothers with mental health and substance abuse problems, in setting up independent households for themselves and their children. (See below for more on the girls' projects.)
The girls received their Gold Award pins from Executive Director of Girl Scouts of Westchester*Putnam Mary Stroock, and Field Executive Aurora Orozco, as the audience gave them a standing ovation. Nationwide, only 5% of Senior Girl Scouts receive the Gold Award, but the Westchester*Putnam Council is fortunate to have a figure of 15%, explained Ms. Stroock. “It’s an outstanding achievement and demonstrates that ‘Girl Scouts is a Place Where Girls Grow Strong.’ You make us very proud,” she said.
New York State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer recognized the uniqueness of the girls’ achievements. “I can’t remember when I’ve seen six Gold Awards at one time and I’ve been a senator for 21 years!” she told them as she gave each of the girls a proclamation from New York State. NY Assemblyman George Latimer praised the honorees, “… for their ability and determination in making a commitment, to do something substantial. This was done in the context of a society where it’s probably not so cool to be in high school and say you’re active in scouting.” He drew a big laugh from the audience when he presented the girls with a citation and remarked, “This is one of those rare moments when the Assembly agrees with the Senate as we honor these six young women.”
Additional praise for the girls’ dedication, leadership and commitment to community came from Westchester County Legislator, Judith A. Myers, along with a proclamation. “You see here that these six young women have gone out, joined an organization (which many people do) but they stuck with the organization. They developed programs and stayed with the programs. They identified needs in their community and in different communities and then, they met these needs,” she stressed.
Public officials who were unable to attend the ceremony sent congratulatory letters or citations to each of the award recipients, including Vice President Richard Cheney, Governor George E. Pataki, U. S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. Congresswoman Nita Lowey, State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Westchester County DA Jeanine Pirro, Westchester County Executive Andrew J. Spano and Superintendent of Mamaroneck Schools, Sherry King.
The final public official to address the honorees was Town of Mamaroneck. Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe who praised each girl and the local scouting community. “There’s a great feeling in this room with all the Girl Scouts here to help celebrate,” she concluded.
Local scouts and their leaders joined in the praise. Jackie Burrell and Pat Allen, the community directors for the Larchmont/Mamaroneck community, presented the troop with an honorary plaque to be permanently displayed in the Girl Scout House on Harmon Drive, and gave each girl a cash award for college, along with an inscribed silver picture frame for the scouts and their leaders. “When you come back home, remember that this community needs girls like you,” Ms. Burrell told them.
Troops of all ages joined in the ceremony. Some sang favorite Girl Scout songs, others baked treats for the reception, handed out programs, led the Pledge of Allegiance, Girl Scout Law and Promise, conducted a flag ceremony and collected food donations for the C.A.P. Center in Mamaroneck. Extra desserts were donated to the Open Arms Men’s Shelter in White Plains.
Editors Note: Girls rarely attain the Gold Award level without the active participation (prodding?) of their leaders. Also honored at the award ceremony were Ann Rakoff and Maris Vidler, troop leaders since 1994, who have shepherded the girls through all the stages from Brownie through Senior Scouts.