Girl Scouts announce Gold Awards


The Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians (GSCSA) have announced this year’s winners of the prestigious Gold Awards. 

Many consider the Gold Award to be the Girl Scouts’ equivalent of the more well-known Eagle Scout Award that is given by the Boy Scouts of America. 

Nationally, only about six percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the award.

“These young women have worked hard to develop the leadership skills required to earn this prestigious recognition, and their dedication has made a positive łdifference in our community,” said Lynne Fugate, CEO of the GSCSA and member of Knoxville City Council. “We are proud of their achievements and grateful for their commitment to making our world a better place.”

GSCSA has approximately 10,000 girl and adult members in 46 counties from southwest Virginia, East Tennessee and northern Georgia, officials said. This year, 14 of the 20 Gold Award recipients are from Knoxville and surrounding communities.

Only Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors (Scouts in grades nine through 12) are eligible for the award, officials said. Before they can pursue it, they must meet several prerequisites including the completion of a Take Action project or earning the Girl Scout Silver Award, which requires a project to improve their neighborhood or community.

Most scouts spend one to two years working on their Gold Award projects. Like boys who earn the title of Eagle Scout, Gold Award recipient are recognized as leaders by future employers and academic institutions, and if they join the U.S. Armed Forces they often enter at a rank above other military recruits.

According to a GSCSA press release, the following 2022 Gold Award recipients are from the Knoxville Metropolitan Area: 

  • Paraskevi “Vivi” Christopoulos of Knoxville wanted to help families through the difficult time of having a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after her family’s experience in that situation. Christopoulos created handmade bags to give to families being supported through the Beads of Courage Program. The bags were a supplement to the program and distributed at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, along with small cards and social media pages to educate people about the NICU and Beads of Courage.  
  • Molly Daniels of Sevierville worked with Wearwood Elementary School to provide students with a fun new playground activity that encouraged kids to be more active and help improve their communication skills. Daniels built an octagonal gaga ball pit on the playground and taught teachers and students how to play the fast-paced game. 
  • Cynthia “C.C.” Hazelton of Knoxville created a closet at GSCSA’s Camp Tanasi stocked with supplies, so all campers have an equal opportunity to participate in camp activities. Hazelton also worked to educate camp staff about the importance of recognizing resource differences. 
  • Rachel Huffer of Maryville designed and presented a curriculum about food allergies tailored to her high school’s culinary arts program. The project was inspired by her own experiences with severe food allergies and influenced by the learning gap between food allergies within culinary arts programs and the food industry. 
  • Lauren Huffstetler of Maryville restored pollinator habitats and food resources in her community and educated people about lesser-known pollinators. Huffstetler also created the Pollinator Garden Challenge to actively engage people in cultivating pollinator gardens in their own communities.  
  • Randi Kroner of Knoxville used her experience with Celiac disease to write a children’s book about the autoimmune disease and how it affects people. Kroner’s book was distributed to people across the United States and other countries, including the Philippines and Australia.  
  • Elyssa Looney of Maryville partnered with Springbrook Park in Alcoa to create an audio tour of the park’s native tree species. Looney installed an interpretive sign in the park with a QR code that visitors can scan to access the audio tour. She also created a website to further educate people about the importance of tree biodiversity.
  • Carolyne McCord of Knoxville created a website with online resources to destigmatize dyslexia. Through McCord’s website, people can easily access resources to support dyslexic students and alternative learning styles.  
  • Peyton Pettyjohn of Knoxville recognized that many students were unaware of available college and career options, so she created a comprehensive list of resources for students and young adults to explore opportunities after high school. She then designed and painted a large-scale mural showcasing different career options to inspire and empower students.The mural has a QR code so viewers can scan and access her list of resources. 
  • Celestina Pint of Knoxville helped to revitalize the West Knox FISH Pantry by updating its facilities and online presence. Pint renovated the pantry to create a more efficient system for volunteers to use and developed a social media strategy to engage young people as a new generation of volunteers. She also created a new volunteer manual to further help the pantry recruit and retain new volunteers. 
  • Rachel “Maryn” Pope of Maryville partnered with the Blount County Animal Welfare Society to educate her community about the importance of providing doghouses to outdoor dogs through her PetPalooza event. Pope developed and hosted the event, which raised awareness and funds for doghouses and kennels. She also built several doghouses and donated them to members of her community. 
  • Elaina Thibeault of Knoxville worked with Farragut High School’s athletic director to renovate an unfinished closet space to provide the wrestling team a safe and welcoming place to practice. When COVID-19 hit, the school’s wrestling team was relegated to an unfinished closet so the previous space could be repurposed as a COVID testing site. With no space to practice, the wrestling team struggled to attract students and promote the importance of an active lifestyle. Through Thibeault’s renovation, the wrestling team can now practice in a supportive environment and promote healthy living among students.
  • Arabella Sarver of Vonore noticed a large disparity in the quality of education in the subjects of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (STEAM) that underserved children in her community received. Sarver created an interactive center that would connect students with STEAM learning resources.
  • Samantha “Sammi” Vuono of Dandridge created and published a book for teens and young adults aimed at helping them develop healthy coping skills around issues of mental health, bullying, and self-image. After publishing her book, Vuono donated several copies to schools in her area.      
  • Published on June 28, 2022.
  • 2022.