Three Deer Valley-area teens—Emma Green, Cassidy Knutson and Santana Thompson earned the prestigious Gold Award, the highest award a girl can earn in Girl Scouting. The three were honored by the Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC), along with 30 others girls from central and northern Arizona at a ceremony March 25, 2017, at The Bob & Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls and Women at Camp South Mountain.

I am honored to congratulate these outstanding young women,” said Tamara Woodbury, CEO of GSACPC. “By earning the Gold Award, Girl Scouts set themselves apart as top achievers, and are incredible women of confidence, courage, and character, who make the world a better place.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award is comparable to the Boy Scouts of America’s Eagle Scout merit. 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. A young woman who has earned her Gold Award has become a community leader in the truest sense. Her accomplishments reflect outstanding leadership and civic engagement.

To earn the Gold Award, girls spend over 80 hours working on a project that addresses a community problem and is important to each girl. Overall, the process usually takes 18 to 24 months and often involves seeking in-kind donations and recruiting volunteers. For most of these girls, this award is the culmination of more than 10 years in the Girl Scouts. Gold Awardees distinguish themselves in the college admission process, earn college scholarships and enter the military one rank higher. Nationally, only about one million Girl Scouts in grades 9-12 have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent since 1916.

Here is a look at these golden Deer Valley girls’ amazing work:

Emma Green: Advanced Learning League – A.L.L.

When Green learned that children were starting school unable to hold a pencil properly or cut with scissors due to their extensive use of hand-held technology, her Gold Award project was born. She developed a tutoring program focusing on early literacy and fine motor skills bringing sixth- to eighth-graders together with kindergarten through second-graders for tutoring.

Cassidy Knutson: Teaching ASL 

Noticing the lack of cohesion between hearing and deaf youth, Knutson wanted to improve the community’s American Sign Language (ASL) knowledge. She created a monthly program that teaches ASL to youth and adults, with approximately 15 participants each month. She also held a food drive that provided holiday meals for 25 families at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf.

Santana Thompson: Bracelets for Buddies

To increase involvement and raise awareness for the Best Buddies program, Thompson and her friends made and sold bracelets featuring statements of inclusion written by Best Buddies participants from around the world. The money raised bought plants for in-classroom gardens that are cared for by the students in the Best Buddies program.

The Bob and Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls and Women at Camp South Mountain is an $18 million-dollar year-round urban center to increase the local council’s capacity to serve more girls with relevant programming, from aquatics to STEM. Located on 14.5 acres, the center offers spaces for large and small meetings and gatherings, tent and cabin camping, a demonstration kitchen and kitchen garden, two pools, a Girl Scout museum and shop, staff offices, a playing field and archery range, campfire circle, and labyrinths. Adult leaders and volunteers will also benefit from the leadership and skill-building training offered at the center, and the local council sees it helping to facilitate partnerships with surrounding community groups, local organizations and schools.