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Two Pacific Beach Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award by solving community problems

Girl Scouts San Diego
(Courtesy image)

It is the highest honor in Girl Scouts

Although the problems they attempted to solve were very different, Ambassador Girl Scouts Anita Flores and Selma Hyytinen shared similar goals — both wanted to increase awareness of serious local and worldwide issues.

For their efforts, they earned the Girl Scout Gold Award. It is their organization’s highest honor.

“Pursuing and earning the Girl Scout Gold Award has deep impacts on both the world and the Girl Scout herself,” said Carol Dedrich, CEO of Girl Scouts San Diego. “The 82 Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts ... honored at the June 11 ceremony see themselves differently after setting out to create real, lasting changes and achieving meaningful results.

“They also now hold a credential that will be with them for the rest of their lives and allow them to stand out when it comes to college admissions, scholarships, internships and job applications,” Dedrich said.

* * * * *

For Anita Flores, the daughter of Christopher and Eleanor Flores, she couldn’t help but notice what she perceived to be a lack of education and resources concerning pollution in San Diego.

“People just don’t know about the different types of pollution and the effects of it in San Diego. I thought a lot more could be done at the schooling level to education kids,” Flores said.

Gold Award Girl Scout Anita Flores
(Girl Scouts San Diego)

The recent Mission Bay High School graduate began her 12 years as a Girl Scout as a Daisy. The member of Troop 3838 member also earned the “Trifecta” because she earned the Silver Award as a Cadette and Bronze Award as a Junior Girl Scout.

“The whole time I’ve been in Scouts, the Gold Award is what I’ve been working toward, so (earning) it was a big deal for me,” she said. “I had to do the entire thing on my own, and I had never done anything so intense.”

For her project, titled “What Can You Do, San Diego?” she started by creating a website.

“I did a ton of research and wrote a lot of articles, such as the types of pollution, the areas it affects, ways to help and online resources,” Flores said. “I also put together a calendar of different events, such as beach cleanups and composting classes — ways to get involved.”

Flores’ next step was to create school presentations. She ended up presenting her information to more than 300, ranging from students, teachers and parents at Pacific Beach Middle School, School of the Madeleine and a local Scouts BSA Troop.

“The presentations are some of my favorite memories; they were very interactive, so it was a lot of fun,” she said. “And kids are funny!”

As a final part of her Gold Award project, Flores got a group together and they painted a mural that reminds students to be mindful of waste at her high school, which she said was another favorite memory.

“The mural was my favorite part because I love to paint and I love art,” Flores said. “It turned out really good and was super rewarding.”

When not busy with her studies or Girl Scouts, Flores played field hockey and lacrosse. She said she gained confidence, leadership skills and self-reliance from completing her projects.

Flores also said she believes the Gold Award has already been a huge help in her future education.

“Although it is very time consuming and challenging, I think it is worth it,” she said. “I was accepted to every single college I applied to, and I think it is because of the Gold Award.”

Flores plans to go to the University of California, Santa Barbara, to study aquatic biology, but said she is open to changes.

“Going for the Gold Award is a good way to challenge yourself and find out what you can really do. I know I can do anything I put my mind to,” she said.

* * * * *

Selma Hyytinen decided to raise awareness of a very different issue — access to menstrual products for less fortunate teenage girls.

The recent La Jolla High School graduate began her 13 years with the Girl Scouts as a Daisy. The Troop 3803 member previously earned the Girl Scout Silver Award and was named an “Emerging Leader” by Girl Scouts San Diego.

Gold Award Girl Scout Selma Hyytinen
(Girl Scouts San Diego)

Through the Seaside National Charity League, Hyytinen has been awarded the Bronze Presidential and two Gold Presidential honors.

The daughter of Janey Hummell and Neil Hyytinen said she actually started thinking about her Gold Award project during her sophomore year.

“I’ve always been a feminist; it’s a big part of who I am,” Hyytinen said, explaining the idea for her project began after she watched a documentary about period poverty and realized she had never heard of it.

“I realized that it’s a very important women’s issue that is consistently overlooked by everyone,” Hyytinen said. “Even in homeless shelters, menstrual products are often overlooked.”

To spread awareness on the topics of global access to menstrual products, period poverty and gender inequality, she started a club at her high school.

With just under 60 members, she said the club received a lot of support right from the beginning.

Hyytinen then partnered with the San Diego Unified School District to organize menstrual product donation drives to both educate the public and help girls in the community who are unable to afford the items. The products were donated to a local Youth in Transition program.

While in high school, in addition to being a Girl Scout, she was a member of Two Girl UP and Girls Lead Internationally, and was on the Health and Wellness Committee and on the Board of the Parent Teacher Student Association. She also ran track.

A Girl Scout since age 5, Hyytinen said her mother has been her leader and consultant throughout her 13 years in the organization.

Hyytinen said she learned a lot from her project.

“I learned that we really can make a difference, but I feel like we don’t really believe it until we see it,” she said.

Hyytinen added that putting the project together also taught her collaboration and communication skills.

She found earning the Gold Award a bit emotional, as “it was my final year in the Scouts and knowing it was coming to an end.

“I would 100 percent recommend the Girl Scouts,” Hyytinen said. “You really get to make the experience your own. Earning the Gold Award is a lot of work, but if you pick a project you are passionate about, you will feel so accomplished when you are done. Don’t let the time or effort involved discourage you.”

Hyytinen said she will attend Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo and later apply to a four-year college. She plans to major in organizational communications with a double minor in journalism and public relations.


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