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Girl Scouts Rewarded for Giving Back to Community

MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. – For a group of four girls from Thornwood, receiving the prestigious Gold Award in Girl Scouts was the culmination of many hours of hard work and dedication.  Yet the biggest reward may be helping out those in need within the Mount Pleasant community.

“It was really rewarding because we were volunteering to help these people that needed help and you think about if we weren’t helping them, then who would?” said Girl Scout Jessica DiVenere.

The four girls, DiVenere, Shayna Sommer, Alexandra Picaro and Kristine Martin, are all seniors at Westlake High School and were named Gold Award recipients in December as a part of the Thornwood Girl Scouts troop.

They will all be honored at a ceremony held at the Westchester County Community Center in late March. The Gold Award signifies the highest level of achievement in Girl Scouts and is obtained after performing an individual project with 70 hours of work, along with 40 hours of community service and 40 hours of a paid or unpaid internship. After the work was complete, the girls participated in a series of interviews at the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson headquarters in Pleasantville, which then determined if they were worthy or not of the award.

In the individual project, each girl was given the chance to work with an organization of their choice to provide leadership and service to the community. DiVenere used her interest in teaching to work with underprivileged children with learning disabilities in Ossining. Sommer spent time working with the elderly at a senior home in Briarcliff. Picaro crafted and donated blankets and other bedding items to a homeless shelter in Pleasantville, and Martin organized a blood drive at the Mount Pleasant Community Center.

“For each of us I think it was great because we each got to choose something that interested us and were able to give back to the community at the same time,” Sommer said.

The girls have all been in Girl Scouts together in Mount Pleasant since elementary school. Receiving the award created a bittersweet conclusion.

“We’ve all worked so hard over the past couple months so it’s a big relief to be rewarded like this, but it’s a little sad that it’s coming to an end,” Martin said.

Denise Sommer, who is a troop leader for the girls and mother of Shayna, had nothing but praise for the girls.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege being on this journey with the girls from the beginning and seeing them grow over the years,” said Denise, who co-leads the troop with DiVenere’s mother Laura.

While they have achieved the highest award in Girl Scouts, each of the girls say that this does not mean they will stop giving back.

“Volunteering, in whatever way, is definitely going to be something that’s a part of my life in the future,” Picaro said.

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