Local Girl Scouts honored as Young Women of Distinction

MANCHESTER – Girl Scouts from New Hampshire and Vermont celebrated a year of success during a ceremony at Manchester Community College in November.

The Young Women of Distinction ceremony recognized girls whose community and council contributions embody the Girl Scout mission of making the world a better place. Roughly 200 guests, including girls, parents, volunteers and supporters, attended the event.

Those honored included three national Girl Scout Young Women of Distinction nominees; Girl Scout Gold and Silver Award recipients; top sellers in the Girl Scout Cookie Program; participants in Girl Scout Destinations, a program that provides girls with opportunities for domestic and international travel; and Girls Rock the Capitol, a unique legislative internship program for high school girls.

The Young Women of Distinction were honored for their exemplary Girl Scout Gold Award projects. These girls were nominated for Girl Scouts of USA’s National Young Women of Distinction program, and awarded scholarships through the local council from Bank of New Hampshire, Northwest Mutual and several individual donors.

This year’s scholarship recipients were Courtney Barlotta, of Bedford; Madeline Riese, of Windham; and Megan McKenna, of Bennington, Vt. Barlotta and Riese, who were both away at college, were unable to attend the ceremony but addressed the crowd via videoconference.

Barlotta, a graduate of Bedford High School, completed her Gold Award project, "Crossing Continents," in September 2014. Now a freshman at Stetson University in Florida, Barlotta said her work with Sudanese refugees in Greater Manchester inspired her to pursue a degree in medicine; she hopes to one day become a physician for Doctors without Borders.

A Girl Scout since the first grade, Barlotta said she was inspired to take action after learning that many of the Sudanese students were dropping out of high school after becoming increasingly frustrated over the language barrier. Barlotta instituted a peer-to-peer tutoring program that continues to meet weekly at a Manchester church. She said one of her first "students" is now applying for college.

"Girl Scouts and the Gold Award process showed me that I can really be a leader in my own community," she said.

Twenty-two girls earned their Girl Scout Gold Award, an impressive feat considering this honor is achieved by less than 6 percent of eligible registered Girl Scouts. The highest award a Girl Scout can achieve, this national honor represents months of a girl’s time, leadership, ingenuity and efforts to effect lasting changes in her community.

Those honored for their Girl Scout Gold Award projects were Amanda Kabel, of Hollis; Natalie Lewis, of Hollis; Michaela Pillion, of Hollis; Megan Murphy, of Merrimack; Aamuktha Porika, of Nashua; Carolyn Balparda, of Middlebury, Vt.; Isabella Capone, of Windham; Sarah Dramstad, of Essex Junction, Vt.; Emily Durant, of Hampton; Bridget Eldridge, of Gilford; Gabrielle Fenton, of Milton, Vt.; Alicia Lee of Barrington; Alyssa McCarthy, of Moultonborough; Megan Michaud, of Pelham; Jordan Myers, of Hampton; Zoe Perkins, of Windham; Maddie Powers, of Keene; Madeline Riese, of Windham; Brynn Roche, of Windham; Kristyn Van Allen, of Essex Junction, Vt.; Elizabeth West of Loudon; and Ashley Wilkins, of Rochester.

Additionally, 37 girls were honored for receiving their Silver Award, which is the second-highest honor a Girl Scout can earn.

Manchester Community College President Dr. Susan Huard, a Girl Scout alumna, said her own experiences in Girl Scouting opened many doors for her as she worked toward a successful academic career in adulthood.

"These girls are forging successful futures as they become young women of exceptional courage, confidence and character," Huard said. "Tapping into their own personal interests and talents, they’re respectively setting the world on fire."

Patricia K. Mellor, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, said the Young Women of Distinction event was a day when she felt particularly proud to be a Girl Scout.

"This is my favorite time of the year," Mellor said. "Not only are these girls tomorrow’s leaders, they’re already distinguishing themselves in their own communities. They’re making the world a better place."