Peoria teen Becky Heller earned a Gold Award from the Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council (GSACPC), the highest and most prestigious award a girl can earn in Girl Scouting. The Gold Award is comparable to the Boy Scouts of America’s Eagle Scout merit. Girls who pursue their Gold Award aspire to transform an idea and vision for change into an actionable plan with measurable, sustainable and far-reaching results.

All 33 Gold Award recipients from central and northern Arizona, including Heller, were honored at the Girl Scout High Award Ceremony March 25 at The Bob and Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls and Women at Camp South Mountain.

“I am honored to congratulate these outstanding girls,” said Tamara Woodbury, CEO of GSACPC. “By earning the Gold Award, Girl Scouts set themselves apart as top achievers, and are incredible women of confidence, courage, and character, who make the world a better place.”

To earn the Gold Award, girls spend more than 80 hours working on a project that addresses a community problem and is important to each girl. Overall, the process usually takes 18 to 24 months and often involves seeking in-kind donations and recruiting volunteers.

For most of the girls, this award is the culmination of more than 10 years in the Girl Scouts. Gold Awardees distinguish themselves in the college admission process, earn college scholarships and enter the military one rank higher. Nationally, only about one million Girl Scouts in grades 9-12 have earned the Gold Award or its equivalent since 1916.

For her Gold Award project, Heller, a Girl Scout for more than 11 years, created an art mentoring program for elementary school students after learning the school art programs were cut due to a lack of funds. Her efforts resulted in an after-school program that reached more than 200 elementary school students, mentored by high school students in theatre, dance, food art, choir, and band. To promote the program, Becky submitted information to her school website, North Pointe Preparatory, and had the information broadcast over the morning announcements.

The Bob and Renee Parsons Leadership Center for Girls and Women at Camp South Mountain is an $18 million-dollar year-round urban center to increase the local council’s capacity to serve more girls with relevant programming, from aquatics to STEM. Located on 14.5 acres, the center offers spaces for large and small meetings and gatherings, tent and cabin camping, a demonstration kitchen and kitchen garden, two pools, a Girl Scout museum and shop, staff offices, a playing field and archery range, campfire circle, and labyrinths.

Adult leaders and volunteers will also benefit from the leadership and skill-building training offered at the center, and the local council sees it helping to facilitate partnerships with surrounding community groups, local organizations and schools.