MONTROSE, N.Y. -- Hendrick Hudson High School seniors Katie MacNeil and Danielle Guida were presented with the prestigious Gold Award at the the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson Gold Award ceremony on Saturday, March 11, at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel.
They also received Certificates of Achievement/Merit from Sen. Terrence Murphy, Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and the Westchester County Legislators at the ceremony.
Katie and Danielle joined the Girl Scouts while kindergarten students at Frank G. Lindsey Elementary School in the Hendrick Hudson School District and have been with the girl-scouting program their entire 13 years of school.
"It has been nothing but a pleasure to be with these two girls for the last 13 years, to watch them grow up and see all of their successes," said Gennelle MacNeil, Troop Leader for Girl Scout Troop 2961. "Danielle and Katie have held true to upholding the Girl Scout Law in their everyday lives. They embolden the traits in the Mission of Scouting, which is to 'build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place'."
Danielle said as a Girl Scout she has been surrounded by driven girls and women since kindergarten, which significantly built her self-confidence at a young age.
"Girl Scouts gave me so many connections to charities and organizations and girls in other towns who shared the same goals," she said. "My troop was very large when we were all young Daisies doing arts and crafts and selling cookies. Unfortunately, as we grew up and Scouts became more serious, many of my troop mates quit. I think they were intimidated by the work ahead of them, but Katie and I are proof that, with the help of troop leaders and mentors, sticking with Girl Scouts is entirely manageable."
Danielle added that she made sure she worked with younger Scouts during her Gold Award project so she could teach them this and "encourage them to stick with it."
The Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting and challenges scouts to change a part of their community, said Troop Leader MacNeil.
Girls are expected, “on their honor,” to uphold the Standards of Excellence. To qualify to earn a Gold Award, each girl must first complete one Senior Journey (Katie and Danielle published a cookbook) and have earned a Girl Scout Silver Award, MacNeil said. Then once they have qualified to earn the Gold Award, they have to submit a proposal to the Girl Scout council of their project.
Each project must entail more than 80 hours dedicated toward:
- Makes a lasting difference in the local community, region, or beyond.
- Puts the Girl Scout Promise and Law into action.
- Includes provisions to ensure sustainability.
- Identifies national and/global links to the girl’s selected issue.
- Inspires others.
Upon completion of the project, the girls had to put together presentations, and present them to their Girl Scout council advisor for final approval, said MacNeil.
"When I chose the focus of my Gold Award, I thought composting would be a fun idea since as a kid, I enjoyed composting with my dad in our own backyard," said Katie. "My project started out as what seemed like a fun idea but grew to become something I'm really passionate about. Working with the kids at the elementary school and being able to see them take the same interest was the most rewarding aspect of my project."
Katie added that the project came with "a sense of empowerment" after seeing that her initiative could spark change within the community.
"The greatest benefit of my project came from working with the faculty," said Katie. "I developed leadership and communication skills that will help me in the future both at college as well as in my career."
Danielle said the inspiration behind her project was her mother, who is a cancer survivor.
"I always knew I wanted to work with cancer patients, so I asked my mother what she wished she could have changed during her experience," said Danielle. "She told me that little things like getting uncomfortable cold during chemotherapy sessions would have made the process more bearable. That inspired me to create 'Stitches of Hope' and have local knitting clubs donate their hand-knitted blankets and shawls to local hospitals."
MacNeil said, "I can’t believe [Danielle and Katie] will be leaving for college soon. I will truly miss being their leader, but I am so excited to see what their future holds."
Katie said she will be attending SUNY Albany as a pre-med biology major in the fall. Danielle hasn't chosen a college yet but said she plans to study business.