Julia Tilton of Amherst earns Girl Scout Gold Award

Girl Scouting’s highest honor bestowed on high school junior for her work

addressing the link between social media usage and anxiety and depression in teenagers

To counter the often anxiety-producing messages of social and other media on young girls, an Amherst teenager has designed two programs to teach young girls how to discover their own true beauty, identify toxic cultural messages, and manage stress through meditation techniques. Julia Tilton, 16, has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award for her nearly 200 hours of work on this project.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the most challenging honor a Girl Scout can earn, and it shows she has taken on a project in her community that will stand the test of time, have a real and meaningful influence on people’s lives, and leave a lasting legacy.

The Ambassador Girl Scout and Derryfield School junior worked with both Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains and Girls Inc. to create educational programs to address the link between mental health issues and social media images. Her “gIRL: Girls In Real Life program was developed as a weeklong after-school curriculum for second- through fifth-graders. She ran that program at the Manchester, New Hampshire, Girls Inc. center twice, with 31 girls participating. It is now being used at Girls Inc. centers throughout New Hampshire and during after-school programming throughout the state.

Not only has Julia brought these programs personally to over 2,000 girls in the past year, she will also present it at the Sangam, a World Centre operated by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in Pune, India, this month.

“I knew that I wanted to create some sort of educational program for young girls who had not yet reached a social-media-using age,” Julia said in her Gold Award report. After her first pilot run at Girls Inc., she said “I quickly got a sense of the girls’ short attention spans, and so had to experiment with different activities to keep them engaged. … I eliminated any activities that the girls described as ‘boring’ or which were not as effective has I had hoped. By the time I developed the curriculum for A Mindful Girl, I had cut a significant amount of content from the program. What remained were essentially the ‘favorite’ activities of girls who had tried the program at Girls Inc. that also achieved the program goals.”

Along with learning new leadership and communication skills, Julia said, “One of the most important lessons I learned from this project was about the value of stepping back and really examining the root issue of a specific problem.” It was through her research and talking to experts in the field that she said she was able to brainstorm solutions and create the curricula for both programs.

Being able to have a positive effect on so many girls was meaningful to Julia. “It is incredible to me that the programs I created now have a legacy of their own, both at Girls Inc. centers throughout my home state, and with Girl Scouts throughout my council.”

Along the way, Julia has been actively involved with the council as a girl member of the board of directors, and has participated as a speaker at the Young Women of Distinction awards ceremony this past fall, helped the council create a PSA and recipe videos to promote the sale of Girl Scout cookies, and appeared in a video created by New Hampshire Business Review magazine for the AWE (Advocating for Women’s Empowerment) Award presented in February. She previously earned the Girl Scout Bronze Award and Silver Award, and took part in the Girls Rock the Capitol internship.