Girl Scouts of the USA Announces the 2017 National Young Women of Distinction

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Ten extraordinary young women from across the United States are honored for their sustainable and far-reaching impact

Girl Scouts of the USA Press Room

212-852-8525

NEW YORK, NY (October 3, 2017)—Today, leading up to the International Day of the Girl and start of G.I.R.L. 2017, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) recognized 10 Gold Award Girl ScoutsTM from across the country as the 2017 National Young Women of Distinction. From the thousands of exceptional Gold Award Girl Scouts each year, GSUSA recognizes ten girls as inspiring leaders who have transformed an idea and vision for change into an actionable plan with measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching impact at the local, national, and global levels.

From supporting menstrual hygiene for girls in rural India to creating water conservation technology to help farmers in California, this year’s National Young Women of Distinction are creating positive change to address society’s most pressing issues. They exemplify how Girl Scouts confidently stand up for what they believe in, advocate for causes, and take action to solve community problems, showcasing Girl Scouts’ commitment to civic engagement, which will be the focus of an upcoming national initiative launching later this week.

Girls have the power to effect real change, and each year, we see Girl Scouts across the country do that by taking measurable actions that improve our world,” said GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. “Whether it’s creating a bee-pollination program in Upstate New York or spearheading STEM programs for children in underserved communities in Orange County, California, these young women have worked tirelessly to create sustainable and lasting change. I am immensely proud of what these ten incredible Girl Scouts have accomplished. They embody the extraordinary leadership, grit, and collaborative efforts that are the cornerstone of Girl Scouts.”

A new report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, The Girl Scout Impact Study (2017) (PDF), confirms that participating in Girl Scouts helps girls develop key leadership skills they need to be successful in life. Compared to their non–Girl Scout peers, Girl Scouts are more likely to be leaders who have confidence in themselves and their abilities (80 percent vs. 68 percent), identify and solve problems in their communities (57 percent vs. 28 percent), seek challenges and learn from setbacks (62 percent vs. 42 percent), and take an active role in decision making (80 percent vs. 51 percent).

The 2017 National Young Women of Distinction will be celebrated at G.I.R.L. 2017, a gathering of girls and women from around the world, taking place October 6–8 in Columbus, Ohio. The event will provide every participating girl and girl supporter with unique opportunities to celebrate achievements, get inspired, and gain the tools they need to empower themselves and create change in their communities―both locally and globally.

Applications for National Young Women of Distinction are judged by previous honorees, leaders from a range of fields, GSUSA executives, and a representative from the Kappa Delta Foundation. To honor Girl Scouts’ National Young Women of Distinction, the Kappa Delta Foundation grants the selected girls a combined $50,000 in college scholarships, reflecting its commitment to girls’ leadership and pursuit of education. Susan Bulkeley Butler, founder of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders, provides an additional $100,000 in college scholarships.

Being named a National Young Woman of Distinction, becoming a Gold Award Girl Scout, and receiving generous scholarships are just a few of the countless experiences girls have through Girl Scouts. To join or learn about volunteering, visit www.girlscouts.org/join.

Meet GSUSA’s 2017 National Young Women of Distinction

Maureen B.| Girl Scouts of Kansas Heartland
To continue the female mentorship that helped her invent Illumi-cize (a line of fashion accessories that promote physical activity to combat childhood obesity), Maureen designed Catwalk Coding, an instructional camp for girls that encourages them to consider a career in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Maureen taught girls to design, wire, and code their own unique wearable light-up creations. Each camp culminates in a celebratory runway extravaganza, with girls flaunting their designs and valuable engineering skills. Currently Maureen is working to expand Catwalk Coding through an upcoming camp in Mexico City. She also presented Illumi-cize to former U.S. President Barack Obama at the 2015 White House Science Fair.

Rajvi R. Girl Scouts of Northern California
California is one of the country’s greatest agricultural resources, yet it frequently experiences crop-threatening droughts. Rajvi developed cost-effective soil moisture sensors and readers that help farmers, particularly those in rural and underserved communities, conserve water. Based on Rajvi's technology, farmers on average saved 25 percent of their water use. She has since received a provisional patent on her product and is now working to make it accessible for all via social media. Rajvi has spoken at a leading technology conference to bring more exposure to her project.

Devika K. Girl Scouts of Central Texas
While visiting Rajasthan, India, Devika discovered that 23 percent of girls in rural areas stop attending school because of limited information and resources to support menstruation. Devika took action by providing a sanitary-pad machine to a remote village in Rajasthan and teaching local women how to operate the self-sustaining machine, which grinds cotton, presses the cotton into pads, and disinfects the pads. She also visited surrounding villages to conduct mini workshops and share educational videos on menstrual hygiene.

Elizabeth K. Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson
Bees are critical to our livelihood and food chain, and more and more are becoming endangered. Through her own grassroots advocacy and education efforts, Elizabeth taught the public how to take action to help bees, successfully persuading lawmakers in New York State to pass legislation to protect bee populations. This legislation included establishing Pollinator Awareness Week and providing funding for bee research in the state budget. Elizabeth is working to grow her nonprofit, which works to educate the public on the importance of bees. Currently she is conducting research as an undergraduate about the factors that harm bees and possible solutions.

Sharleen L. Girl Scouts of Orange County
Sharleen initiated a STEM program that to date has mobilized more than 140 volunteers from 15 different schools and brought weekly STEM education to over 5,000 children in underserved communities. Her goal was to ignite kids' natural desires to learn and discover through STEM curricula with fun, hands-on activities. Sharleen partnered with more than 40 different organizations, including after-school programs for children in underserved communities, over 20 county and city libraries and bookmobiles, three Title I elementary schools, California State University, children's festivals, and a children's learning center.

Lea B. Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast
Oysters play a critical role in the ecosystem by filtering and cleaning polluted waters. Lea developed a recycling program, which included newly constructed oyster cages and reefs, to increase oyster populations in the Chesapeake Bay. To return shells to the bay, she collected approximately 41,000 oyster shells, which filter more than 20 million gallons of water per day. Lea established partnerships with local businesses and restaurants and developed a public awareness campaign that led to establishing a collection center supported by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Yue Y. Girl Scouts Greater Los Angeles
After moving to the United States in 2014 as an exchange student from China, Yue realized that doctors at clinics in her community did not wash or sanitize their hands in between seeing patients, because sanitizer was not commonly available in China. Yue took action by securing donations of hand sanitizer and creating bilingual posters and brochures to distribute. She also hosted four lectures in community schools. Because of Yue’s efforts, the local government is now sponsoring her project by providing hand sanitizer to the community’s hospitals every month.

Vilmarie O. Girl Scouts of Caribe
After Vilmarie’s mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), Vilmarie became an educator and advocate for people with MS and cancer. She advocated for the approval of the Senate Bill 1180, which sought to create a required centralized registry of people diagnosed with MS. Both legislative assemblies of Puerto Rico approved the measure, and the bill was converted into Law 85—the first law in the world requiring a registry of people with MS. Because of this registry, Miami University is carrying out genetic studies in Puerto Rico about the incidence of MS among the Hispanic population. The registry will also help with receiving allocations of federal funds for prevention, treatment, education, and research.

Caroline C. Girl Scouts of Citrus
To create a more impactful relationship between travelers and her local community, Caroline established a charitable foundation for the Orlando International Airport, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Charitable Donation Initiative. Caroline worked with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and state government agencies to place collection bins before TSA checkpoints and throughout the airport terminals. The bins collect passengers’ extra change for the benefit of local charities, which are selected on a quarterly basis by the donation initiative’s board. The charities then invest the funds back into the Orlando community.

Angela S. Girl Scouts of San Jacinto    

Angela's project addressed how society has been conditioned to find certain physical attributes beautiful, causing insecurity, self-loathing, and rising suicide and depression rates in people of every age, race, height, and weight.  For her project, Rewire Society, Angela used her love of storytelling through photography and film to create a compelling exhibition featuring people of all backgrounds along with empowering and relatable messages. Her video received more than 3,000 views and 200 followers in the first month and has been used as an inspirational tool for many. She plans to continue hosting additional exhibitions in the future, challenging society's norms on her website, and addressing self-image issues that arise as society evolves.

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We're Girl Scouts of the USA
We're 2.6 million strong—1.8 million girls and 800,000 adults who believe in the power of every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ to change the world. Our extraordinary journey began more than 100 years ago with the original G.I.R.L., Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low. On March 12, 1912, in Savannah, Georgia, she organized the very first Girl Scout troop, and every year since, we’ve honored her vision and legacy, building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. We’re the preeminent leadership development organization for girls. And with programs from coast to coast and across the globe, Girl Scouts offers every girl a chance to practice a lifetime of leadership, adventure, and success. To volunteer, reconnect, donate, or join, visit www.girlscouts.org.

About Kappa Delta
Established in 1981, the Kappa Delta Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to secure funds for the educational, leadership and charitable purposes of Kappa Delta Sorority, a national organization for women with more than 250,000 members, 166 active collegiate chapters, and more than 500 chartered alumnae chapters nationwide. The foundation is supported by member donations and bequests that fund programs and initiatives including scholarships, internships and grants. Kappa Delta is active in many philanthropic endeavors, including the prevention of child abuse in partnership with Prevent Child Abuse America and confidence-building programming with Girl Scouts of the USA. In 2009, the sorority created the Confidence Coalition to promote confidence in girls and women. In 2010, Kappa Delta established International Girls Day to empower girls to reach their potential. It also created International Women’s Friendship Month for women everywhere. Kappa Delta’s national headquarters is in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information, visit www.kappadelta.org.

About Susan Bulkeley Butler
Susan Bulkeley Butler is the CEO of The Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders, as well as an author, consultant, speaker, and visionary delegate for Vision 2020, a national project focused on advancing gender equality by August 26, 2020. She was also a member of the worldwide board of Junior Achievement and LeaderShape LLC; a member of the Dean's Advisory Council at Purdue's Krannert School of Management; and a member of the National Board of Advisors of Eller College of Management and the School of Science at the University of Arizona. Susan was also the Managing Partner for Accenture’s Office of the CEO. Susan served on Accenture’s Executive Committee, the company’s principal advisory and strategy-setting committee, and as President of the Accenture Foundation. Susan is a former member of Purdue's Board of Trustees and the GSUSA Board of Directors, and she is a proud Girl Scout alumna. For more information, visit www.sbbinstitute.org

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