Amherst and Holyoke teens win Gold Awards for community leadership projects

Posted: 7/17/2022 9:06:20 PM

Modified: 07/17/2022 21:03:25

Along the Sodom Brook Trail in the Greenberg Family Conservation Area in Westhampton, signs installed last year inform visitors about what can be done to restore and stabilize the stream’s banks and habitat.

In three municipal parks in Holyoke, small free libraries offer books to read for children and adults.

Both projects benefiting these public spaces were carried out by local Girl Scouts, who recently won gold medals in recognition of their work.

Ava Mendelsohn of Amherst, managed the project in Westhampton, while Pearl Burns of Holyoke carried out the project in her home town.

Gold medals are the highest honor that can be earned, and Burns and Mendelsohn were the only Pioneer Valley Girl Scouts, among 24 recently recognized by Girl Scouts in central and western Massachusetts. Together, the winners have dedicated more than 2,000 hours to concepts that seek to create lasting change in a community or tackle a global issue. The ceremony took place on June 16 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

According to the organization, from creating access to menstrual hygiene products to fighting racism, Gold Award Girl Scouts tackle the root cause of a problem, plan and implement innovative solutions to driving change and leading a team of people to success.

“A Gold Award Girl Scout, no matter her background or ability, learns to tap into the world-changing power within,” Pattie Hallberg, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts, said in a statement. “She takes the lead in designing and implementing a plan for change and making a positive impact in her community and beyond. »

For Mendelsohn, the concept she pursued was to educate the public about nature. Working with Kestrel Land Trust, which received the 70 acres of woodland as a donation in 2017, and Pioneer Valley Trout Unlimited, Mendelsohn has installed several signs along the trail that educate visitors about erosion control, the basin slope of the Connecticut River and Native Creek. trout life cycle.

Mendelsohn wrote that her time with Girl Scouts offered her both a safe place and a way to emancipate herself as a woman.

“Through the Girl Scouts, I learned to work hard and stand up for things that are important to me,” Mendelsohn said. “And I learned the importance of the environment.”

Mendelsohn will be heading to Temple University in the fall to attend Klein College and major in communications.

Burns’ small free libraries include one located at Carlos Vega Park, and since it became available she has seen children in the parks with the books, or parents and guardians reading books to their children. The best part of the project was restocking the books, Burns said.

“Girl Scouting is an expanding horizon,” Burns wrote. “For me, it’s something that paves the way for so many meaningful experiences that otherwise would have been impossible.”

Burns goes to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the fall, pursuing a degree in computer science while taking a pre-med track.

Scott Merzbach can be contacted at [email protected]