Local Girl Scouts win awards

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Elora Aclin of Great Neck, recently won a gold award for her project, "Body Image and Social Media" (Photo courtesy of Christine Sammarco).

The Girl Scouts of Nassau County recently presented more than 70 gold awards, including ones to Girl Scouts in Manhasset and Great Neck, during a ceremony at Adelphi University.

Sophia D’Angelo, Sara Malvey, Jennifer Otruba, Naome Sajnani, Gabriella Stein, Isabel Vigliotti and Alexa Viola of the Manhasset association earned gold awards for projects that they each spent more than 80 hours over the past year planning and executing.

Elora Aclin and Amanda Ma of the Great Neck association earned gold awards for their projects.

The gold award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive. The projects that the girls worked on were aimed at pressing issues.

“We are extremely proud to celebrate so many local young women earning the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award,” Donna Ceravolo, executive director and CEO of the Girl Scouts of Nassau County, said. “On average, only 5 percent of eligible Girl Scouts successfully earn the Gold Award, making these girls part of an exclusive group of women with the tools to become leaders in the 21st century.”

Aclin’s project, “Body Image and Social Media,” tackled the challenge of promoting positive body image to young girls who are heavily influenced by social media’s unrealistic standards. Aclin, 19, was inspired to do the project after she noticed social media had an effect on her younger nieces’ body image.

In particular, her 7-year-old niece kept getting on the elliptical in her attic. When Aclin asked her why her niece said she wanted to lose weight. For her project, Aclin did workshops with middle schoolers to young high schoolers that highlighted how many of the images of celebrities they saw online were fabricated.

I was showing them celebrities’ Instagrams that they probably might follow, showing them how much Photoshop goes into everything, how a lot of celebrities have nutritionists, and all these people who were paid to make them look good,” Aclin said. She also did lessons on eating disorders and shared stories of people whose body image was affected by social media.

During the workshops, which ran for about three months, participants shared their insecurities and personal experiences with their body image. To Aclin, hearing people share was “liberating.”

“The most rewarding part was when people would open up about their personal experiences, their insecurities, and a lot of people were really honest,” Aclin said. “It was nice to see how many people were helping each other and how everyone was feeling the same thing but just wasn’t talking about it.”

For people who are insecure about their body image, Aclin says, “…even the people you think are the most beautiful still have something they don’t like about themselves and life is so much easier if you just stop being mean to yourself and accept yourself for who you are because no one will ever be perfect.”

Amanda Ma’s “Daily Science” project helped children understand how much science matters in their daily lives; Sophia D’Angelo’s “The Family Splash Club” project sought to educate and encourage the community to use the Whitney Pond Park Pool, which is underutilized; and Sara Malvey’s project, “Senior Connect,” helped senior citizens connect to the world using their hand-held devices.

Jennifer Otruba’s project, “Living Healthy and Fit,” created an interactive workshop to help teach children the importance of daily healthy habits.

Naome Sajnani’s project, “BRAVE: Best Response Against Violence Education,” aimed to increase awareness and provide those who needed it with resources to overcome violence and prevent it, and Gabriella Stein‘s “Engineering Is Fun” project sought to inspire children and young adults to consider careers in engineering.

Isabel Vigliotti took on the challenge of starting an all-female a cappella group in her school through her project, “Empowering Women Through Song,” and Alexa Viola worked to spread environmental awareness to first- and second-graders through her project, “Growing Green.”

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