Girl Scouts to celebrate Gold Award contributions

GS-gold-awardMEMPHIS, Tenn. — Girl Scouts Heart of the South will award the Girl Scout Gold Award  the highest award a girl can earn within the organization  to 34 girls during a ceremony this Saturday.

The ceremony will be at 1 p.m. April 25 at Germantown United Methodist Church, 2331 S. Germantown Road.

“The Girl Scout Gold Award stands for excellence and leadership for girls everywhere,” said Melanie Schild, CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of the South.

She continued, “Girls who pursue their Gold Award aspire to transform an idea and vision for change into an actionable plan with measurable, sustainable and far-reaching results. For many, the leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment that come from earning this award set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship. We are very proud of these young ladies and know they will continue to do great things.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award requires each girl to discover an issue in the community, connect with experts and community members, and take action to effect positive change.

The girls being honored on Saturday have put in over 3,000 hours on leadership projects that provided a free basketball clinic to a low-income neighborhood, advocated for anti-tobacco use for high schoolers, built a mini library, organized community beautification projects, encouraged elderly to get immunizations, supported passage of Bill No. 432 requiring all Mississippi high school students to learn CPR, created a butterfly gardens, initiated a smoke-free policy for an entire city, established a dog therapy team, started tutoring sessions, and provided workshops on motor-skills for special needs children, healthy eating, safety and wellness.

Gold Award recipients

Honorees include:

  • Catherine Buffington
  • Janai Patterson
  • Ariel Lawrence
  • Alissa Ann Williams
  • Emily Marshall
  • Kayla Moore
  • Laura Horn
  • Katherine Tackitt
  • Avery Shappley
  • Kimberly Michael
  • Nathalie Prior
  • Alexandra Cornell
  • Ashley Flowers
  • Shelby Adair
  • Anna Bennett
  • Ansley Burns
  • NaKia Strickland
  • Rachel Dees
  • Adreanna M. Michael
  • Mikayla Correll
  • Natalie Runyon
  • Zoe Thornton
  • Alice Gleadhill
  • Amethyst Adams
  • Adrianna Jackson
  • Meg Lambert
  • Brooke Ann Benson
  • Briana Phillips
  • Mallory Chapman
  • Elisa Russell
  • Amber Baldwin
  • Starla Roger
  • Raven Harmon
  • Breuna Phillips

2015 Gold Award projects 

  1. Catherine Buffington — UNITY

In 2014, Starkville County and City schools were merged; as a result, the newly grouped students hardly knew each other. It was Catherine’s goal to form new friendships between the students and create lasting relationships during this uncomfortable time. What better way than to connect students through service? Catherine Buffington created the student program UNITY. UNITY is a program where all students within the Starkville community can participate in community service projects together while bridging the gap in the newly unified Starkville School District. Since its inception, UNITY has completed over 30 service projects in the Starkville area and students who have participated in the program reported feeling more unified with their classmates.

  1. Janai Patterson — Hoop Dreams

After noticing a lack of affordable/low cost athletic programs in her community and a rise in childhood obesity, Janai Patterson decided to take her love for basketball and start a youth basketball camp for her Gold Award project. Janai’s goal was to offer a free basketball skills camp to kids in her community that could not otherwise afford to attend a sports camp. As a result, she was able to serve over 30 kids in need. Janai hopes to inspire others in her community to start offering free or low-cost programs to the youth in an effort to get people active and having fun!

  1. Ariel Lawrence — Painting to Change the Future

Ariel’s Gold Award project targeted the children of Tupelo’s Life Church. She felt that when her church relocated to the Children’s Mansion campus, the Sunday school classrooms were no longer inviting; leaving children hesitant and unwilling to attend Sunday school or church youth programs. To offer a solution to this issue Ariel researched items, colors, and activities that would create a more inviting atmosphere conducive to learning and comfort with the plan to remodel the classrooms. Ariel revamped and redesigned classrooms in her Sunday school facility and as a result 75% of Sunday school students reported that they were happy with the change. Now attendance and approval of the Sunday school program as risen thanks to Ariel’s classroom remodel.

  1. Alissa Ann Williams — Live Long & Live Strong- REJECT Tobacco

Alissa partnered with the Lighthouse Foundation, Alcorn County Schools, and the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition to bring an after-school tobacco prevention program to her community. Her project targeted school-aged students with little to no access to anti-tobacco educational resources in hopes that students would make the educated decision to say “No” to smoking and encourage their peers to do the same. After the completion of her project, Alissa became an advocate for the anti-tobacco movement, sharing her project at the iFly Conference, MTFC Education, and the LEAD Conference.

  1. Emily Marshall — Free Mini Library Box

Emily’s Gold Award project, Free Mini Library Box, is located on the Tangle Foot trail in Pontotoc, Miss. The objective of her mini library is to offer different types of books for all ages to increase awareness of the importance of reading, improve literacy rates the Pontotoc community, and provide a free alternative for the reading community.  Emily built this mini library box by hand and collected all of the donated books for the inside. The library allows anyone to exchange books from this box for free without a library card. The mini library is now a permanent fixture on the Tangle Foot Trail and will serve the Pontotoc community for years to come.

  1. Kayla Moore — Brain Injury Awareness Walk

Kayla’s Gold Award project addressed the need for the awareness of brain trauma caused by sports injuries, violence, vehicle-related collisions, and falls. After a close friend was affected by a traumatic brain injury, Kayla felt that educating the community could help prevent accidents like this from happening again. Kayla hosted a Brain Injury Awareness Walk to spread the news about these injuries and created an awareness campaign in her community by passing out pamphlets and hanging up posters. Kayla was able to survey 35 community members who attended her event. Before the event only 19 of the 35 people could give at least three signs of a concussion. After attending Kayla’s workshop, all participants surveyed reported they are not only more confident in their abilities to recognize brain injuries but they could now identify all three signs on a concussion.

  1. Laura Horn — Immunization Importance

Laura Horn’s Gold Award project targeted senior citizens and educating them on the importance of immunizations. Her goal was to increase knowledge of the importance of specific immunizations such as flu, pneumonia, and shingles especially as they pertain to senior citizens. Laura’s goal was to shorten the senior’s sick time and improve their quality of life. To help her accomplish her goal, she created a pamphlet and used that to inform her target audience of the importance of immunizations. Because of Laura’s project, over 40 of the 60 senior citizens made the decision to get a new immunization.

  1. Katherine Tackitt — Clean It Up Kids Day

Katherine’s Gold Award project, Clean it up Kids Day, was designed to increase awareness in children of the importance of taking care of the environment. Katherine noticed that not only did local children not respect the environment; they didn’t know how to take advantage of its resources. Katherine partnered with a Master Gardeners of Mississippi, 4H, and the Exypnos Christian Learning Center to teach students about agriculture and gardening all while cleaning up the school grounds. After the program was finished not only were the campus grounds revitalized but the students also had a newfound respect for the environment and the skills they needed to grow their very own gardens.

  1. Avery Shappley — Heart Start

According to the American Red Cross, 70 percent of Americans may feel helpless to act during a cardiac emergency because they either do not know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed. This alarming statistic could hit close to home, because home is exactly where 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur. Avery wanted to tackle this issue in her very own community after CPR saved her own life in a sudden cardiac arrest emergency. Avery became a community CPR advocate in hopes that her target audience would walk away with a since of urgency to become CPR certified. Avery spoke at various civic organizations, updated her social media about the issue, and even had her story published on the American Heart Association website and in their newsletters. Avery also organized Red Out Awareness Week at her school as a way to get her classmates involved. Through her community involvement, Avery became the poster child for Bill No. 432, a law requiring all future high school students to learn CPR.  This bill became a law July 1, 2014.

  1. Kimberly Michael — American Pride

Kimberly’s Gold Award project, American Pride, was created with the goal to restore respect of the American Flag and Patriotism in America particularly within youth culture. Kimberly held a workshop for the community to teach them about proper flag retirement and American history. At the beginning of her workshop a majority of the participants didn’t have a flag at their homes, did not know the meaning of the stripes or the meaning of the 13 folds. When Kimberly finished her workshop 98% of the participants not only could the participants recall the history but they also knew how to properly retire a flag. Kimberly concluded her day with a celebration of her community’s veterans.

  1. Nathalie Prior — The Monarch Butterfly Project

Nathalie’s project, The Monarch Butterfly Project, was designed to increase awareness of the importance of monarch habitats and to encourage local gardeners to plant native plants, including milkweed, for a healthier ecosystem. She partnered with the Wolf River Conservatory, Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, Shelby Farms Park, and Riverdale Elementary. Nathalie created a new butterfly habitat at the Wolf River Restoration site and classroom resources for teachers. Nathalie even coordinated the replacement of Strawberry Audubon Center’s plants with more native perennials. As a result of her Gold Award project, a physical garden is now available to all nature lovers; the number of field trips held to observe the gardens has increased. As an added bonus, teachers at Riverdale have been able to use the supplemental materials Nathalie created in their day-to-day lesson plans.

  1. Alexandra Cornell — Don’t Text your Life Away

Alexandra’s Gold Award, Don’t Text Your Life Away, was designed to target drivers age 15 through 18 as well as other community members about the importance of not texting and driving. After facing a near-death experience while a friend was texting and driving, Alexandra felt the call to educate her peers about its dangers. To do this, Alexandra created a blog and presentation to get the word out. In her presentation Alexandra offered real scenarios, jaw-dropping facts, and interactive videos. After her presentation many participants admitted to texting in the past. Alexandra had all participants partake in a promise not to continue texting while driving. Alexandra hopes her blog has a global reach and inspires other young people to start a movement against texting and driving.

  1. Ashley Flowers — Clear Air for Iuka

Ashley’s Gold Award project, Clear Air for Iuka, was created to make Mineral Springs Park in Iuka, Miss., smoke-free. Ashley wanted to educate the local city officials about the importance of clean air as well as kids at the local Boys and Girls Club about the dangers of smoking. To complete her project, Ashley setup a booth at the Heritage Day Festival and handed out awareness brochures she had created around the community. Ashley also personally spoke with the Board of Alderman about her cause. As a result of Ashley’s hard work not only did Mineral Springs Park become smoke-free, the entire town of Iukai is now smoke-free.

  1. Shelby Adair — The Children’s Place

Shelby’s Gold Award project, The Children’s Place, was designed to create more safe spaces for the children in her church and community to play. She set out to beautify/childproof the nursery at her church with new rubber flooring, beautiful artwork on the walls, and less rigid corners on countertops. Before the instillation of the new floor, the church nursery saw two to five floor-related injuries per week. Since the installation, zero floo- related injuries have been reported.  Shelby hopes the nursery’s improvements will attract more participants to the nursery program and inspires others to take action in their communities.

  1. Anna Bennett — “A.G.E” Anna’s Garden for the Elderly

Anna’s Gold Award project, AGE (Anna’s Garden for the Elderly) was created to help the elderly feel independent while encouraging them to accomplish a new project. Anna partnered with Camellia Hospice and Future Farmers of America to assist the senior citizens with building their own personal windowbox flower gardens. Anna also created a how-to garden care book for each resident to keep in his/her room. This promoted A sense of independence and accomplishment within the community. Anna hopes her project will inspire others to volunteer at Camellia Hospice and encourage more involvement from residents.

  1. Ansley Burns — PAWS (Pet Awareness We Serve)

Ansley took her passion for animals and turned it into a pet adoption awareness day. What better way to help the animals then getting them all a new home? Ansley felt that with some community rallying and shelter support, more animals could be adopted and the local animal shelter could get the supplies they needed. For her Gold Award project, PAWS (Pet Awareness We Serve), Ansley organized a community awareness day complete with pet show, donation drive, and guest speaker. Ansley used social media, newspapers, radio stations, project boards and national boards as well as linking the ASPCA to her project to get the word out about the importance of pet adoption. As a result of her project the Corinth Animal Shelter reported an increase in adoptions for the month of March, and Mayor Tommy Irwin proclaimed Saturday, March 7, as Pet Awareness Day in Corinth.

  1. NaKia Strickland — Girls to Women Health Fair

NaKia’s Gold Award project, Girls to Women Health Fair, targeted girls ages 6 and up with information about health and beauty. NaKia felt that a majority of women were unaware of their food intake and didn’t really pay attention to their overall health. She partnered with the Essence Ladies Club, Alzheimer’s Association, Health Department, Mary Kay, Breast Cancer Awareness, and many other organizations to provide a free health fair for the women and girls in her community. NaKia promoted her event through websites, Facebook, newsletters, and word of mouth. As a result of NaKia’s fair, participants said they were planning not only planning to get health screenings but that they also learned a lot of new information about the importance of health. NaKia hopes to inspire girls and women around the region to get healthy this year.

  1. Rachel Dees — The Helping Paw

Rachel’s Gold Award project, The Helping Paw, targeted therapy dogs and their handlers by creating a dog therapy team for her local community. She researched the need for therapy dogs and realized this was a high demand and one her community did not offer before her project. To promote this team and her project, Rachel visited many clubs, nursing homes, and teachers to talk about the need for service dogs in the community. She advocated on websites and in the local community paper. Rachel had her family dog, Willy, become certified as a member of the therapy team. During her project, Rachel and Willy spent time with an autistic child who had been attacked by his personal service dog. After many visits with Rachel and Willy the little boy is no longer afraid of dogs.

  1. Adreanna M. Michael — Anna’s Vision

Adreanna noticed that, within her community, there was a high unemployment rate, which resulted in chronic hunger problems. Rather than conducting a simple food drive, Adreanna made the connection between economic struggle and unhealthy eating habits and decided to do something about it. Adreanna partnered with Biggerville First Baptist Church and Baptist Hospital to address nutritional issues in her community. She created a workshop for community members that would address budgeting, nutritional education, and meal planning. Data from Adreanna’s project showed that after completing the workshop 96% of participants said they would now use a budget, and 99% of participants said they would share the knowledge they had gained from the with others. Adreanna received a lot of positive feedback from her community, and her troop and church have agreed to continue to hosting the workshop four times a year.

  1. Mikayla Correll — Eating Right to be Healthy for Life

Mikayla’s project focused on the issue of healthy eating and obesity. She felt that there was not enough emphasis put on healthy and appropriate ways to maintain a well-rounded nutritional diet. She saw in her community that individuals did not have the knowledge or understanding for what constitutes a healthy diet. Mikayla created a webpage and pamphlet to advocate for ways to have a healthy diet and address issues of dangers of preservatives, artificial ingredients, and additives that can lessen the benefits of a seemingly healthy diet. The pamphlet was distributed to several places in her community. She launched this webpage with a presentation at her school in front of about 30 peers. Her webpage is still active, and she hopes to continue to reach people and educate them about healthy eating.  Mikayla has seen impact from her project through her church, Saint Ann Catholic Church, and her school, Arlington High School. She has spoken with students who attended her presentation and have learned that they have been sharing her webpage with others to spread awareness about eating healthy.

  1. Natalie Runyon — Walk Across Columbus

Natalie has enjoyed learning about the history of her community, Columbus, Miss., and especially the historic homes. Natalie wanted her fellow community members to be able to see these historic aging homes and learn about Columbus’ history and their community’s relevance to the Civil War so that they could gain an appreciation for their community. Working with Columbus Public Library, local historian Rufus Ward, and the Columbus Arts Council, Natalie developed a historical tour to share the communities’ rich history in an enjoyable way. After only three days of being open to the public for tours, the Arts Center reported to Natalie that seven tour pamphlets had been given out. The Columbus Arts Council and Rosenweig Arts Center committed to sustaining Natalie’s project and now offers the tour, along with the walking tour pamphlet she created, year-round.

  1. Zoe Thornton — Moving Motor Skills

Zoe Thornton partnered with Anchor Club and Booneville (Miss.) High School Special Education Program to create a motor skills workshop for special needs students at Booneville High School. Zoe chose different holiday-themed crafts specifically designed to finetune motor skills, and she worked with the special needs students over the course of a month. At the end of the program, not only did the students have holiday crafts to bring home to their parents, but the special education teachers also reported an improvement in their students projects the following month. Zoe created a motor skills workshop guide so that any student at Boonville High wishing to host their own program could.

  1. Alice Gleadhill — St. Michael’s Miracle

After visiting a rundown local park, Alice saw the potential in the St. Michaels community for a safe and inviting school play area. Alice cleaned up the park, added a sitting area, and revitalized the old, broken playground equipment at the St. Michael’s Elementary and Middle school. Since Alice’s project, the number of park’s visitors has vastly increased. Alice hopes her project inspires the St. Michaels community to get outdoors and play.

  1. Amethyst Adams — Monarch Butterflies: Milkweed and Migration

Amethyst wanted to tackle the large environmental issue facing monarch butterflies around the world: Threatened migration due to failing ecosystems and loss of habitat. Amethyst partnered with Lindenwood Christian Church, Wolf River Conservancy, Butterflies of Memphis, Lichterman Nature Center, and Rose Franklin’s Perennials to develop a recovery plan to help restore milkweed habitats for monarch butterflies migrating through Memphis. Not only did Amethyst plant over 160 seeds in two separate locations, she also conducted two educational workshops for the community to touch on the importance of sustaining monarch habitats. As of March 11, Amethyst had reached over 430 people alone just through her project’s Facebook page and was able to create a program kit for local troops to use.

  1. Adrianna Jackson — Playing it Safe

Adrianna noticed that the Booneville City Park church league teams were not prepared to address injury prevention and proper first aid. Before another accident happened, Adrianna developed “Playing it Safe,” an accident preparedness and injury prevention day for coaches and athletes using the city park. Adrianna partnered with Booneville City Park, American Red Cross, and Rural Metro Ambulance Service to organize a sports safety awareness day. During the awareness day, participants learned about automated external defibrillator (AED) locations, first aid techniques, the importance of sun block and pre-game stretching, and the importance of proper hydration. As a result of her project, more than 90% of surveyed participants reported an overall increased awareness of sports safety.

  1. Meg Lambert — Ready in a Heart Beat

Meg Lambert was well aware of the importance of being CPR/AED certified but realized that most of her peers weren’t even given the opportunity to learn the skills. Meg set out to start Ready in a Heart Beat, a CPR/AED class specifically for 14- to 18-year-olds in Tippah. Meg partnered with EMS director and paramedic Shelly Garrett to host a CPR/AED training class at Tippah County Hospital. Through her efforts, Meg’s workshop was able to serve 17 people. Meg hopes the publicity of the workshop will help inspire others in her community to get CPR/AED certified and potentially save a life one day.

  1. Brooke Ann Benson — A Place in the Sun

Small traditional downtowns all across the country are becoming increasingly abandoned due to big box stores moving in and taking over. Brooke Ann hoped to increase the visitation and activity in the downtown Ripley area by renovating the then-empty First United Methodist Church grass lot, thus increasing commerce in her small town. Brooke Ann partnered with Benson Home Supply, Stokes Construction, Ripley United Methodist Church, and various master gardeners to revamp the empty grass lot into a garden complete with a gazebo. Now the gazebo garden is enjoyed by all members of the Ripley community and has been incorporated into the preexisting downtown events.

  1. Briana Phillips — Homework Helper

After seeing some of her classmates fail to seek extra homework help, Briana was inspired created her own homework help program for students in her community. Homework Helper provides free afterschool tutoring, study and work habit training for children in the first through eighth grades. Briana partnered with the Education Ministry at Brown Church and recruited volunteers with subject-specific knowledge areas for specialized tutoring. Brown Baptist Church plans on continuing the program Wednesday nights as a part of the Education Ministry.

  1. Mallory Chapman — Because They Are Worth It!

Mallory noticed that there were many students who did not have the proper skills to be ready for kindergarten, so she partnered with a local Head Start program where kids go before going to their local elementary school.  One issue was that the head start teachers did not have any training on phonemic awareness, which were the skills the children needed to succeed. Using a book she learned about, Mallory built phonemic awareness kits for each teacher to use in his or her classroom. The director then trained the teachers on how to use the kits. She also prepared information to be given to parents, so they could do some simple things at home to improve their children’s skills. Each kit will remain in the teacher’s classrooms, so that they will be used for years to come.

  1. Elisa Russell — The Beauty of Flight

When elderly people go to live in assisted living facilities or somewhere similar, they can become lonely, and possibly depressed through not having as much social interaction or things to do during the day. Elisa realized this and created a project to benefit these men and women. For her project, Elisa built 30 birdhouses and hung them in trees around the facility. In addition, she created bird identification cards to be distributed to the residents, so they could bird watch and know some facts about the birds. This project will be lasting due to the identification cards. Each resident has one, and they can be redistributed if needed. Elisa received positive feedback from some of the employees, and even residents were happy to see this project and the people who made it possible.

  1. Amber Baldwin — New Life to New Prospect

Amber noticed that a local cemetery was in bad shape; having been overgrown, it did not have a place where families could sit and visit with loved ones. Because people were still visiting and using the cemetery, Amber decided to clean it up and put in a sitting area. With help, she cleaned up the trash and installed the sitting area with a stone bench, flowers and gravel so the rain would not affect the area. She also worked with the New Prospect Church to develop a plan to take care of the cemetery in the future. She hopes through working with others and presenting to her troop that other girls will be inspired to help make their community beautiful and comfort those who have lost a love one.

  1. Starla Rogers — Helping Hand

Having been stranded on the side of the road herself due to a flat tire, Starla thought it would be good to teach teenagers and others how to change a tire so they would not have to depend on strangers which is not ideal in any situation. Starla created a video and brochures on how to change a tire. Then, through a partnership with the driver’s education class and the schools, she presented the video and handed out the brochures. In addition, she put the video on YouTube and the community website in hopes that others might be more prepared for the road.

  1. Raven Harmon — Be F.A.B. (Fighting Against Bulling)

Bullying is becoming a big issue for many kids in school and can lead to harmful actions by those who are being bullied. Raven wanted to combat this issue by holding a seminar about bullying at Willow Oaks Elementary School in hopes that telling the dangers of bullying at a young age will change a pattern of kids growing up to be bullies. She began by asking all the students to define “bully,” and then she had Memphis Police Department speak to the students about the risks that bullying causes. To reach people after she has graduated, Raven created a blog that she will keep updated with inspirational things to help people. She also had the students to take a pledge to be “F.A.B.,” and the school is displaying the pledge so others will see it.

  1. Breuna Phillips — Buckle Up, Every Trip, Every Time

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), non-fatal crash injuries resulted in more than $50 billion in lifetime medical and work loss costs in 2012. Not to mention that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens in the U.S. Partnering with Brown Baptist Church and the Desoto County Police Department, Breuna Phillips hosted a seat belt safety and awareness workshop for her community. Community members who attended the workshop learned about the importance of wearing a seat belt and took a safety pledge. Breuna hopes, through the annual continuation of her project by Brown Baptist Health Ministry, that the community will be a safer place for everyone.


Girl Scouts Heart of the South serves 59 counties in east Arkansas, north Mississippi and west Tennessee. The headquarters are in Memphis. For details go online to