America's Top Girl Scouts Named 2007 National Young Women of Distinction

Highest National Honor in Girl Scouting Recognizes Extraordinary Leadership and Community Service


April 30, 2007

Lisa Harris
(212) 229-0500

Ashlene Nand
Girl Scouts of the USA
(212) 852-8581

New York, N.Y. – Girl Scouts of the USA has named America's top 13 Girl Scout Gold Award recipients as its 2007 National Young Women of Distinction for extraordinary leadership demonstrated through their remarkable community service projects. The Gold Award, Girl Scouting's highest achievement, is earned by 5-6 percent of Girl Scouts ages 14-18.

Among the 2007 honorees are two Connecticut sisters who helped rehabilitate a school in rural India, a Florida teen who built artificial reefs to protect coastal ecosystems, and an Ohio student who researched, selected and installed a computerized composite sketch system to help her town's small police department apprehend criminals. The 2007 National Young Women of Distinction will be honored at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on June 12 during a celebration of the 95th anniversary year of Girl Scouting.

"The 2007 National Young Women of Distinction epitomize Girl Scouting as the world's best leadership experience for girls," says Kathy Cloninger, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. "By discovering, connecting and taking action, these inspiring teenagers are defining what it means to be a female leader in today's global society."

Girl Scouts of the USA and an external committee comprised of high-profile professional women selected the 2007 National Young Women of Distinction from a pool of 250 applicants who had already earned the Girl Scout Gold Award. Each honoree has spent one to two years on a community service project that has far-reaching effects in her community and beyond.

Following are the 2007 National Young Women of Distinction:

Photo of Megan.Megan, Age 17
Pines of Carolina Girl Scout Council
Raleigh, N. C.
Concerned about the educational achievement gap for at-risk students from underrepresented communities in North Carolina, Megan went into action with a series of educational programs, including a conference titled "Starting Equal and Falling Behind." The conference focused on the growing educational gap in the public school systems and addressed possible solutions to minimize this disparity among students. Megan involved community leaders, students, parents, and ministers in her effort to increase awareness for the cause.

Photo of Laura.Laura, Age 17
Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida
Miami, Fla.
For many young, impoverished children, Laura is a miracle maker. This 17-year-old high school student facilitated life-changing operations for more than 40 impoverished and disfigured children. In addition to these efforts, Laura traveled on a medical mission to Morocco as a volunteer for Operation Smile, where she assisted over 400 families with serious medical situations. Her continued advocacy work has produced a number of educational materials, including a DVD presentation and a multilingual children's book for patients.

Photo of Rachel.Rachel, Age 16
Girl Scout Council of Cumberland Valley
Cookeville, Tenn.
Disturbed by a television documentary about the spread of methamphetamine labs, 16-year-old Rachel took action by creating a learning lab for children at her local Advocacy Center. "Crystal meth is a huge problem in our county and state," says Rachel. "Over 1,000 children have been to the center in the last two years. The learning lab gives them a safe, secure environment where counselors and mentors are able to help the children with homework. This lab will be in use for many years to come."

Photo of Linsey.Linsey, Age 18
Land of Lakes Girl Scout Council
Tenstrike, Minn.
Linsey, the first Girl Scout Gold Award recipient in her hometown of Tenstrike, Minnesota, planned, coordinated, and led a series of classes on Native American culture and history. Linsey was concerned about the growing division among native and non-native members of her community, and wanted her project to build connections rather than distrust and fear. "If you don't know where you're from, you can't know where you're going," says Linsey.

Photo of Madeline.Madeline, Age 18
Girl Scouts of Milwaukee Area
Milwaukee, Wis.
Madeline chose to focus on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community for her project. "I have many close friends who are part of the LGBT community. They have noticed intolerance toward their growing group. Also, I've heard seemingly intelligent people who believe the age-old stereotypes," Madeline shared. With the help of her local church community, Madeline created a book aimed at overcoming stereotypes and, at the same time, sharing the similarities of communication among family units.

Photo of Jessica.Jessica, Age 18
Morris Area Girl Scout Council
Chester, N. J.
Tackling tax issues is no easy task, but that didn't deter Girl Scout Gold Award recipient Jessica. Her project dealt specifically with the New Jersey veterans' property tax deduction law. "The law currently allows certain veterans a deduction on their property taxes," says Jessica. "I chose to support two bills so that peacetime veterans and veterans who rent will also receive the tax deduction.' Jessica campaigned for change by distributing 1,800 petitions, collecting 1,194 signatures and petitioning for a resolution from the Chester Township. A copy of the resolution was also sent to all 566 municipalities in New Jersey.

Photo of Elizabeth.Elizabeth, Age 18
Girl Scouts of Buckeye Trails Council
Tipp City, Ohio
Knowing that the hometown's police department was too small to employ a sketch artist, Elizabeth saw a need to produce composite computerized drawings with minimum effort. After presenting her initial findings to the chief of police, the Girl Scout Gold Award recipient implemented a software solution, along with a training and reference guide. The Tipp City Police Department was able to put her tools to work in order to apprehend criminals.

Photo of Amy.Amy, Age 18
Girl Scouts of Pine Valley Council
Newnan, Ga.
For her Girl Scout Gold Award project, Amy used her travel experience to break down language barriers in her local community. "I went to Mexico this summer and saw how hard it was for an American to live in Mexico if you don't speak Spanish," Amy explained. She created a Hispanic directory to provide a way for Coweta County Hispanics to access vital information such as health services, job opportunities, and places to shop.

Photo of Amrita and Shrutika.Amrita, Age 16
Shrutika, Age 17
Girl Scout Council of Southwestern Conn.
Ridgefield, Conn.
For their Girl Scout Gold Award projects, these sisters set out to promote education in an effort to end the cycle of poverty in the rural village of Kuthambakkam, in Tamil Nadu, India. Amrita and Shrutika envisioned a thriving and well-attended village school backed by an engaged and supportive community. To make that vision a reality, Shrutika identified sponsors, gained support from village elders, and improved the school's infrastructure. Amrita focused on improving the quality of education for the students by providing educational materials, building the school spirit and implementing an organized House system.

Photo of Rebecca.Rebecca, Age 17
Girl Scouts of Broward County
Sunrise, Fla.
Rebecca environmental crusade is moving full speed ahead. This high school student is seriously concerned with the deterioration of natural reefs along the coastal waterways. Under the direction of the Department of Environmental Resource Management, Rebecca took action by constructing and deploying artificial reefs along the coast of Florida. Her awareness campaign includes an educational program for middle school and high school students.

Photo of Bianca.Bianca, Age 17
Girl Scout Council of Tropical Florida
Miami, Fla.
Seventeen-year-old Bianca traveled to the island of Jamaica for her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Bianca created a long-lasting media center for a local school that would enable underprivileged kids to have access to learning tools such as computers, educational CDs, and more. Today, her media center serves not only the school but also the entire community.

Photo of Minna.Minna, Age 16
Girl Scout Council of St. Croix Valley
Woodbury, Minn.
At the age of 16, Minna is already thinking about the long-term effect lack of exposure to their cultural roots has on children. With this in mind, Minna created "Reuniting China with Her Children," a program that helps to familiarize local adopted kids born in China with the Chinese language and culture. For over five months, Minna held classes for different age levels at the community church. "Since the project ended, I have become a true leader in the community," says the Girl Scout Gold Award recipient.

Girl Scouts and Leadership
Girl Scouts of the USA has a 95-year tradition of building leadership skills in girls. Research shows that Girl Scout alumnae represent 70 percent of women serving in Congress and 66 percent of women of professional achievement. Illustrious alumnae include Eileen Collins, the first woman space shuttle commander; Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard University; and Katie Couric, the first woman to anchor a network evening newscast.

About the Gold Award and National Young Women of Distinction Honor
The Gold Award has evolved from a long line of Girl Scout leadership awards going back as far as 1919. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout between 14 and 18 can earn. Currently between 5-6 percent of eligible Girls Scouts earn the Gold Award annually. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 65 hours or more, dedicated towards a service project that has lasting effects in their community. In 2007, Girl Scouts of the USA will recognize the extraordinary achievements of Girl Scout Gold Award projects by honoring a select group as the 2007 National Young Women of Distinction. Find out more information on the Girl Scout Gold Award.

About Girl Scouts
Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts of the USA is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls with 3.6 million girl and adult members worldwide. Girl Scouting is the leading authority on girls' healthy development, and builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. The organization strives to serve girls from every corner of the United States and its territories. Girls Scouts of the USA also serves American girls and their classmates attending American or international schools overseas in 90 countries. For more information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect or donate to Girl Scouts, call (800) GSUSA 4 U (800-478-7248) or visit www.girlscouts.org.