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Local Girl Scout Earns National Honor for Launching First Municipal Solar Pollinator Garden in New York State



Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York (GSNENY) announced today that Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has named Niskayuna resident Caroline McGraw (Troop 2383) a 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scout, the organization’s most prestigious honor. GSUSA selects 10 National Gold Award Girl Scouts (formerly known as the National Young Women of Distinction) annually among candidates who have earned their Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, and one that is only available to Girl Scouts. By designing and implementing extraordinary projects of measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching impact, these girls demonstrate a steadfast commitment, as well as a stunning ability, to create true change.

Each year, thousands of girls in grades 9–12 nationwide are recognized as Gold Award Girl Scouts for transforming an idea and vision for change into an actionable plan with strong impact on local, national, and global levels. Approximately five percent of Girl Scouts earn their Gold Award each year—and just 10 girls in this high-achieving group receive the National Gold Award Girl Scout distinction. The more than 500 nominations are judged by previous National Gold Award Girl Scouts, leaders from a diverse array of professional fields, GSUSA executives, and a representative from the Kappa Delta Foundation.

For her Gold Award project, McGraw focused on combating the problem of food insecurity by working to promote the health of pollinators, critical to local ecosystems and food sources. She addressed the global concern through acting locally by:

  • creating the first municipal solar pollinator garden in New York State by establishing a pollinator habitat with a diverse selection of native plants and flowers around the Town of Niskayuna’s solar array
  • advocating to secure $300,000 in the New York State budget for pollinator research
  • championing passage of legislation in the New York State Senate and Assembly to develop guidelines for vegetation management plans to be used by persons or corporations that make claims that they provide pollinator protection. The measure currently awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature to become law.

“By understanding food must also be locally available, affordable and meet quality standards, the goal of my Gold Award project and its three distinct components - creating the first municipal solar garden in New York, advocating for $300,000 for pollinator protection and research in the New York State budget, and championing the passage of solar garden legislation – was to combat food insecurity by helping address the issue of pollinator protection. I brought together government officials, Girl Scouts, and community leaders to work in a team,” said McGraw. “The result was greater attention on importance of pollinator habitats worldwide to increase global food production as well as promote the Girl Scout mission.”

Research verifies that participating in Girl Scouts and earning the Gold Award are linked to developing crucial leadership skills and advanced achievements. In addition to Girl Scouts being more than twice as likely than other girls to identify and solve problems in their communities, they over index when it comes to seeking challenges and learning from setbacks, having confidence in themselves and their leadership abilities, and forming and maintaining healthy relationships. The majority of women who earned their Gold Award display more positive life outcomes compared with women who did not participate in Girl Scouts in their youth, including being more optimistic about their future; seeing themselves as leaders; and being more civically engaged, particularly in politics.

“We’re very proud of Caroline’s recognition. Her hard work, commitment and dedication to Girl Scouts is a model for all 10,000 of the girls involved in the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York,” said Mary Buszuwski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York.

Nominated by the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York, Caroline McGraw is the first girl from the Capital Region to earn this prestigious award. McGraw graduated Niskayuna High School with honors in June 2018 and is currently studying political science and French at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC where she is also a member of the varsity swim team.

In addition to generous scholarships, McGraw will receive the National Gold Award Girl Scout pin in a ceremony in New York City where she will also speak on a panel at the United Nations and join former First Lady Michelle Obama on "The Today Show" - all in commemoration of the International Day of the Girl.

McGraw’s $20,000 in National Gold Award Girl Scout scholarships are awarded as follows:

  • A combined $100,000 in college scholarships, which includes $10,000 for Caroline, has been provided by Susan Bulkeley Butler, founder of the Susan Bulkeley Butler Institute for the Development of Women Leaders and former member of the Girl Scouts of the USA Board of Directors;
  • The Kappa Delta Foundation has granted the selected girls a combined $50,000 in college scholarships, reflecting its commitment to girls’ leadership and pursuit of education. This includes $5,000 for Caroline; and
  • Arconic Foundation has granted the ten young women a combined $50,000 in college scholarships, including $5,000 for Caroline.

Being honored as a National Gold Award Girl Scout, earning the Girl Scout Gold Award, and receiving generous scholarships are just a few of the countless incredible experiences girls have through Girl Scouts.

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