FARMINGDALE, NJ - The Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore presented 35 Girl Scouts from Monmouth and Ocean counties with the Girl Scout Gold Award during a special ceremony on May 30th at Woodlake Country Club in Lakewood. Nationwide, only five percent of all eligible Girl Scouts earn this prestigious award, the highest achievement a teen Girl Scout can earn.

“I created ‘The Good Neighbor Project’ as a way to collect emergency supplies for our local evacuation center after Hurricane Sandy and the blizzard that followed, “said Girl Scout Dana Harriman, Brielle. “My Gold Award project taught me how to adapt quickly to change, and also helped me gain life skills and positive values. The most inspiring part of the project was seeing my community put it to use.”

In addition to the Gold Award, each recipient received special commendations from President Barack Obama, their senate and congressional representatives, Governor Chris Christie, and in many cases, from their county and state elected officials.

“My inspiration for my Gold Award project was my art teacher,” said Girl Scout Ellen Mae Rice, Keyport, who worked with her Girl Scout troop to prepare art classes for the children of Long Branch Hospital. “I learned perseverance, independence and the value of receiving help from others.”

 In order to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, girls must utilize the leadership skills learned through Girl Scouting to address and raise awareness of a specific issue or issues within her community. Each recipient is required to complete at least 80 hours on a project that combines organizational leadership and networking skills with community service. Highlights of this year’s projects include a ‘Locks of Love Cut-a-Thon,’ ‘Teaching Chinese Through Multimedia,’ a blood drive, a writing group for children, the creation of a ‘serenity room’ at Central State Hospital, and more.

 For more information about the Girl Scout Gold Award or this year’s recipients, contact Danielle  Bagdzinski, public relations manager, at (732) 349-4499, ext. 240 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore is proud to share the unique projects of each 2013 Gold Award recipient:

Emily Butler, Wayside

Emily introduced third and fourth grade students to the Italian language. Classes were held from November until March. Each week, students attended classes. After meeting with her advisor, Emily would coordinate with teachers weekly and plan for the next classes. Emily enjoyed teaching and introducing children to a new language, and it was a great experience for her as well. The teachers and the children both agreed that they had a lot of fun during these classes and enjoyed the opportunity.


Brianna Buzzanco, Red Bank

Brianna created an educational program for children in first, second, third and fourth grade. This program was presented in a classroom setting, with the main focus being to educate these children about nature and nutrition. Brianna accomplished this by presenting an original PowerPoint, lecturing and bringing food samples to the program. She also created an interactive “surprise box” in which she placed different foods and questioned the participants about the nutritional value and sustainability of the product. This was presented to the classes after regular school hours. Brianna was able to enhance her leadership skills and her creativity skills through her lesson and presentation, while helping children learn.


Kaitlyn Calogero, Morganville

Kaitlyn decided to donate First Holy Communion dresses and suits to churches in underprivileged areas. People donated their dresses and suits at a clothing drive, then volunteers helped sew and clean the dresses. Kaitlyn provided a sewing workshop for volunteers to learn how to sew. When the suits and dresses were clean and fixed, they were donated to churches that needed them. Through this project, Kaitlyn learned how to plan a large event, organize and become an effective leader. She also developed better speaking skills and learned how to give back to others.


Renee Cavezza, Howell

Renee renovated an educational and daycare room at Immanuel Bible Church. She collected books and toys to restock the room. In addition to that, she painted the room and added shelves. She wanted to make a happier and educationally-rich place for the children to learn and play. She also involved her troop and explained to them why this was such an important undertaking, and why giving back is essential. Renee learned valuable leadership skills such as: adaptability, and social and planning skills.


Isabella Cerri, Millstone Twp.

Isabella wanted to help senior citizens avoid social isolation and depression by holding a Senior Citizen Prom at the Millstone Township Fire Hall. She provided an enjoyable afternoon of music, dancing, dining and socializing that the seniors could look forward to year after year. She also held “craft days” where younger Girl Scouts could create decorations and favors. It is her hope that more opportunities for socializing, like the prom, will be offered to senior citizens to help combat depression and social isolation. Isabella learned how to be a better leader and how to plan large community events. She was happy by the excitement and the joy she brought to the individuals who attended.


Alison Clodfelter, Brielle

Alison created a project that was titled, “Young Musician’s Revue”. She brought music to the residents of Brandywine Assisted Living. Alison provided entertainment for the residents, who often feel lonely or bored from lack of activity. The revue showcased the guitar, saxophone, flute, oboe, clarinet and voice. By organizing this performance, Alison learned that her friends in her troop are extra helpful and willing to step forward when asked to help with a task. Overall, she was glad to bring smiles to the faces of her residents and fellow scouts for making a difference in the lives of people who really needed it.


Caroline Cronin, Ocean Twp.

Caroline provided holiday presents to children in the hospital via her project, “Operation: Holiday Cheer”. The main goal of her event was to make an impact on the children by bringing them holiday spirit. In order to complete her project, she contacted the children’s hospital of Monmouth Medical Center and connected with the project advisors. She then reached out to Saint Jerome Elementary School and Mater Dei Prep to request gift donations for the children. Caroline was overwhelmed by the generosity displayed by these two communities; she collected over 100 toys!


Anna Donio, Farmingdale

Anna’s project was designed to  provide information about Autism Awareness. One key component of the project was the 5k that was held at her high school. She collected over 100 items for the program that they still use today. Anna continues to work with the Autism Program, and continues to educate people about the effects of Autism on a person. Her advisor was John Hein, who she would like to thank, as well as her troop and her leaders, Donna Tornich and Karen Adams. She would also like to thank the entire staff and student body at Howell High School.


Julia Dreifus, Perrineville

Julia addressed the issue of library literacy. She felt very few people knew how to use the library to their advantage or what the library has to offer. She created videos and posted them on YouTube so viewers could relate to the characters and remain interested. These videos were shared with the school and library. This project taught her about time management. Julia learned she has the discipline to organize a project and the ability to lead others successfully.


Aurora Ephraim, Hazlet

Aurora worked with a local community club to help senior citizens make greeting cards for their loved ones. It was a fun activity that brought joy to the elderly and gave them fun crafts to create. She enjoyed seeing the happiness of the seniors and the excitement they had when sharing their works. The children she worked with also had a great time helping out and learning how to give back to their community. Through this project Aurora has learned how much fun it is to help others and to give back.


Emily Falco, Holmdel

Emily planted and tended a vegetable garden for six months at Kateri Environmental Center. Using the garden, she educated underprivileged children about the benefits of eating healthy, as well as simple steps they may take to achieve a healthy, well-balanced diet while living on a budget. She shared information about obesity and healthy eating habits by teaching people how to produce their own food to ensure its non-processed quality. Through this project, Emily gained a sense of independence by tending the garden and overcoming problems on her own. She also learned responsibility, dedication, leadership skills and social skills by leading and presenting to the children.


Amanda Fee, Howell

Amanda focused on the value of reading, and organized a book swap where participants of all ages were able to take home new books as well as donate some to charity. Over 1,500 books were collected and distributed to 13 locations. Amanda hopes to have instilled a love of reading in the children who received the books and reminded adults that they too, should continue to exercise their minds with a good book. She believes that the most important aspects of this project were the team management and the book collection. Through this project Amanda learned how to work effectively with her team by communicating and networking.


Paige Hammeke, Barnegat

Paige created the project, “Art for Everyone” that provided the opportunity for disabled people to be exposed to art and its benefits. She felt that art has been a way to express herself, and she believes that it could be therapeutic and rewarding for others. Paige inspired the people she shared her experiences with to become more involved in art. The individuals she worked with expressed how they enjoyed the program, and were able to express themselves in their projects. Paige developed a stronger sense of self, life skills and critical thinking skills. She also developed healthy relationships and became a resourceful problem solver.


Dana Harriman, Brielle

Dana created “The Good Neighbor Project” as a way to collect emergency supplies at the EMS Squad building, the local evacuation center. Critical information was spread during town meetings. When Hurricane Sandy devastated the town of Brielle, they were well prepared. Dana worked with many town residents at the EMS Squad building to get in contact with services or simply to get their mind off of things. “The Good Neighbor Project” has changed the town of Brielle. Through this project and the events, Dana learned to adapt to changes, gained life skills and developed positive values.


Caitlyn Hoeflin, Middletown

Caitlyn provided information about older cat adoption to residents in active living communities. She wanted to find homes for some older cats. She distributed binders filled with information and listings of cats that were up for adoption. Caitlyn also distributed pamphlets and posters about older cats, benefits of pets and care of pets. The Monmouth County SPCA is using her “Older Cat Care” pamphlet and has her template for the “Older Cat Adoption Book”. Through working on this project, Caitlyn learned how to better focus and delegate tasks. She also gained some practice in taking initiatives and reaching out to others.


Grace Huang, Marlboro

Grace created, “Teaching Chinese Through Multimedia” as her project. She thought of this idea after she found the need for Chinese teachers in her community. She created videos, because it would be more interactive with the audience. She then gathered volunteers to help come up with a curriculum, act out skits, film, draw and voice-record. Grace produced a total of five episodes that are currently available on YouTube. Grace learned a lot about herself as a leader through this project.


Elizabeth Hughes, Atlantic Highlands

Elizabeth addressed the importance of donating blood and bone marrow by hosting a blood drive, “Blood for the Bank”. The blood drive was followed with a presentation to educate future health care providers. Elizabeth feels that there are not enough blood or bone marrow donors. During her project she learned that she should never give up, and will continue on a path to reach her goals. She feels her most successful component of the project was her presentation, which emphasized the issues at hand. Elizabeth also learned how to make others listen to a message.


Amanda Kacperowski, Toms River

Amanda created a “Prayer Garden” on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Before her garden, the serene area was uninviting and had an unpleasant look. Amanda approached her former pastor and proposed building a prayer garden in the center of the unwelcoming space. Plants and statues soon replaced an uninviting environment with a peaceful, tranquil, and welcoming prayer garden for the entire community to enjoy. Today, many people continue to bring flowers, statues and even leave money for the poor. Amanda developed her leadership and organizational skills through this project by designating jobs to others and contacting others for materials or donations.


Megan Kelly, Middletown

Megan created a writing group for children called, “Write Away!”  Once a month during the school year, she met with them to play writing games, discuss certain topics related to writing and allowed them to share their works. Over the summer, she held weekly meetings and helped the children write and illustrate their own short books. At the end of the summer, she held a wrap-up ceremony for the children and parents. This provided the opportunity to read the stories to an audience. While working on this project, Megan learned how to effectively plan activities for large groups of people and speak in front of large audiences.


Samantha Kossey, Manasquan

Samantha showed the importance of mathematics and science careers to girls. She informed the girls that women have made many significant contributions in these fields and that they can be successful in these careers.  She created math and science activities for young girls and then related each activity to a career that might interest them. She felt that the most successful aspect of her project was the enthusiasm generated among the girls involved in the project. Samantha learned leadership skills, time management skills and how to inspire others through effective communication. 

Karina Mary Kurta, Atlantic Highlands

Karina worked to improve Huddy Park, because she felt it suffered from a lack of maintenance and lighting. She provided long-lasting materials, improved lighting and increased awareness to the public through the use of Facebook, community center presentations and newspaper articles. Karina reached out and received donations to help fix and rebuild the park. This project forced Karina to step out of her comfort zone to speak up. She believes that this project helped her become a supportive leader. Karina also feels that the skills she learned through this project can be used in the future and she will continue to grow.


Kelly Lozo, Red Bank

Kelly taught middle school students how to become involved, well-rounded citizens in their community through improv guidelines and games.  The principles used in these guidelines and games helped develop assertiveness, teamwork, spontaneity, public speaking and strengthening bonds between the performers. The lessons taught in “Improv in Everyday Life” will be passed on through the involved students when they share both the games they played and the link to a filmed version of their end-of-the-workshop exhibition show to others. Kelly enjoyed working with these students and hopes that it has made a difference in their lives.


Maria Magg, Manalapan

Maria completed her project at Central State Hospital where she helped the Maternity Ward nurses and doctors by creating a serenity room where they could relax and de-stress. The new room is baby blue and has decorations like sailboats and seagulls. She also added two dry erase boards so that nurses can leave messages to each other. The doctors and nurses told Maria how much they take pleasure in the artwork of the serene room. Maria enjoyed giving back to the community and is honored to have this experience.


Gabriella Manetta, Howell

Gabriella worked with the organization, ARMS. ARMS is the American Recreational Military Services, they support and provide assistance to soldiers and their families. She worked with ARMS for their annual holiday gift drive called, “Project Little Soldier”. She also helped ARMS in the Disaster Relief effort, by helping military families that were affected and displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Gabriella collected donations at various events to create care packages for deployed soldiers overseas. One challenge that she faced was Hurricane Sandy, which helped her learn to adapt to a changing environment.


Tara Matthews, Clarksburg

Tara earned her Gold Award while studying abroad in Costa Rica. She taught underprivileged children to speak English. Prior to her trip, she collected almost 1,000 school supplies from her church, local troops and friends. She also donated books and supplies to the high school, families in the area and the church she attended. Tara taught English to fellow students in the high school, children in the church and local vicinity. As a result of this experience, Tara is extremely appreciative for all that she has, and has found her passion in life, teaching!


Elizabeth Nolan, Brielle

Elizabeth taught women self-defense through her project, “Self Defense for Her”. The program taught females they can protect themselves in any situation. Participants learned that no matter their height or weight, they have the capability and strength to fight off a predator. Elizabeth also visited a Cadette Troop and instructed them about personal safety. She believes that the most successful aspect of her project was how the message was received by all who attended. Elizabeth learned how to be a leader from this project, and how to use her communication and time management skills.


Jami Porzl, Millstone Twp.

Jami wanted to provide supplies to improve the education in Malawi. She learned many of the students there are unable to complete their education because of the lack of supplies. Jamie created a club consisting of fellow Allentown high school students. She feels that the most successful aspect of the project was this club. Over the past year the club has raised over $1,000 through various activities and learning sessions. All of the money received has been donated to the citizens of Malawi or put into more projects. Through this project, Jami learned how to be a more assertive leader and how to stand up for what she believes.


Kelly Pretz, Brielle

Kelly created the project, “The Power of Purple”, a teen mentoring program for teenagers with epilepsy. Kelly is a teen that has this condition and saw the need to provide a safe setting for teens to come together and confront the issues that they face. Each meeting was fun and informative. Her next step will be teen webinars broadcast nationally. Teens will be able to go online and share with one another on a national scale. Kelly is happy to have had the opportunity to build relationships with the teens involved and to make a difference in their lives with this project.


Kimberly Priante, Howell

Kimberly rebuilt and created activity rooms at the Jersey Shore Medical Center Pediatric Wards. She provided the children with enjoyment and entertainment. She also brought awareness to the community about the importance of making donations to the hospital. When she received toys she could not use, she donated them to Linkages, which is a safe haven for women and children of domestic abuse. The success of the project was shown by a filled brand new activity room, and a restocked playroom. During her project, she developed better leadership skills and better organizational skills.


Ellen Mae Rice, Keyport

Ellen Mae worked with her troop to prepare art classes for the children of the Long Branch hospital. She feels that art is a great way for children to pass time, create something original and learn something. Every child’s artwork was framed in a mat to be displayed in the hospital room or given to a visiting relative. She enjoyed the reception from the children and the parents when the project was completed. Through this project, Ellen Mae learned to persevere even when times get rough, the value of help from others and how to be independent.


Sara Rutch, Matawan

Sara created the “Hope in a Box Project” for her Gold Award. She asked fellow Girl Scout troops to help and taught the girls about the importance of helping others. Each girl took their shoeboxes home and filled them with toiletries for the gender they were assigned. She received over 200 shoeboxes filled with toiletries that she donated to Lunch Break in Red Bank, where they were distributed to those in need. Sara learned how to speak in public, organizational skills, and it taught her a lot about herself. She learned that no goal is too high when all effort is put into it. 


Danielle Sakowitz, Marlboro

Danielle worked with the organization, Family Promise. Family Promise hosts homeless families for a 12-week period. She focused on the lack of toys and games for the homeless children at the First Presbyterian Church of Freehold. Danielle conducted toy drives, installed new shelving and organized toys by appropriate age group. She also recruited new volunteers for Family Promise and helped increase awareness of the plight of the homeless in Monmouth County. Danielle feels that this project enhanced her organizational skills and also gave her the opportunity to work on something that she is passionate about.


Kristin Wawrzynski, Middletown

Kristin combined her love of softball and desire to make a difference in kids’ lives. During her three week clinic, children learned how to hit, throw, run bases and work together as a team. This gave the children the opportunity to improve their confidence, socialization skills and engage in physical activity. Kristin feels that through this project, she gained confidence in organizational skills and herself. She learned that she has the ability to motivate those around her.


Sarah Wood, Toms River

Sarah addressed the issue of feeding the hungry with a Thanksgiving/Christmas-themed dinner. Orginially intended for 100 members of the Ocean County Baptist Church, the dinner soon doubled because of the needs of the many people who were affected by Hurricane Sandy. She had to enlist more people to help at the dinner, and had to obtain additional food donations. She also set up a food and supply pantry at the church, with the help of the church youth group and other church members. Sarah learned that she has the skills to be a good leader. She also learned planning and organizational skills, as well as patience and time management.


Emily Zettell, Matawan

Emily organized and ran a “Locks of Love Cut-a-Thon.” Over 30 ponytails were donated, which totaled over 300 inches. Her team went around to local Girl Scout troops to educate the girls about Locks of Love. With the help of the troops, Emily was able to make 100 pillows which she donated to the Monmouth Medical Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House. She collected over 200 children’s books, which were also donated. Through this project, Emily learned that she can now overcome any obstacle standing in her way.