West Valley Girl Scouts awarded for impactful projects

Cori Borgstadt of Peoria recently helped beautify her school campus and spread a message of love and acceptance to students and staff. (Justin Liggin/Submitted)

By tackling issues in the community and developing sustainable solutions through specialized projects, two West Valley Girl Scouts, Cori Borgstadt of Peoria and Emily Shanafelt of Goodyear, have earned the Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council’s highest honor — the Gold Award.

“This year’s Gold Award honorees exemplify fantastic leadership and civic engagement by dedicating themselves to addressing important causes and taking action to make the world a better place,” said Mary Mitchell, co-CEO of Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council’s (GSACPC).

The Gold Award is not only the most prestigious award in the organization, but it also helps a Girl Scout distinguish themself in the college admissions process, earn scholarships and even enter the military at a higher rank, all while leaving a legacy of change in their communities.

Borgstadt, a Girl Scout of more than 12 years, collaborated with acclaimed artist Alex Cook to beautify her high school campus and spread a message of love and acceptance to students and staff while in pursuit of her Gold Award.

“What really propelled me to take this action was the need for campus beautification at my former high school,” Borgstadt said. “I wanted to bring a dramatic change to my former high school that would not only make the school a better and brighter place, but also connect our campus with a universal and life-changing message.”

Located under the breezeway of Centennial High School in Peoria, Borgstadt’s mural reads, “You Are Loved.”

Created by muralist Alex Cook, the You Are Loved mural project collaborates with schools, businesses, worship groups and organizations to brighten up spaces. While Cook has painted murals all over the world, the piece created with Borgstadt marked Cook’s first in Arizona.

Borgstadt collaborated with Cook to paint the mural and took the campus project as an opportunity to learn more about the artistic process and the thought that goes into painting an art piece as big and recognizable as this one.

“It was so cool to learn about Alex’s process. At first, I didn’t know how he was going to tackle such a big project, but watching him was so much fun and I learned how to paint a public mural, the steps that were involved and about the colors and paint that we used,” Borgstadt said.

For Shanafelt, her Gold Award-winning project Arizona Go Vote was inspired by a trip she took to the National League of Cities Conference in Washington, D.C.

“While attending the conference I had the chance to discuss the lack of civic engagement in teens with other youth representatives, which inspired me to pursue a Gold Award project that encourages students at local high schools to register to vote,” Shanafelt said.

To kick-start her voter outreach project and gain more insight into her local government, Shanafelt started by touring the Maricopa County Elections Department and conducting background research. Through her research, Shanafelt then created a series of educational YouTube videos teaching community members how to vote.

In addition to the videos she created for her project, Shanafelt flexed the leadership skills she has learned in Girl Scouts over the last 12 years by designing flyers and coordinating a group of more than 15 teens to hang them at 10 high schools across the Southwest Valley, reaching more than 10,000 students.

Shanafelt also continued her digital outreach by creating and designing posts for a social media campaign with her local city council to get the word out.

“I was proud of myself for staying determined and balancing the Gold Award with all my other extracurricular commitments,” Shanafelt said. “It was a valuable experience to implement a project from beginning to end.”

Shanafelt’s “Arizona Go Vote” project has further sparked her passion for civic engagement and even led to her taking on a new leadership role in government.

“I joined my city’s local youth council — the Goodyear Youth Commission — and I have learned so much about how local government functions and how important it is for citizens to be actively engaged in government,” Shanafelt said. “This inspired me to take on a leadership position within the commission where I now serve as co-chair.”