Amherst, Holyoke teens earn Gold Awards for community leadership projects 


Staff Writer
Published: 7/17/2022 9:06:20 PM
Modified: 7/17/2022 9:03:25 PM

Along the Sodom Brook Trail in the Greenberg Family Conservation Area in Westhampton, signs installed last year educate visitors about what can be done to restore and stabilize the stream banks and habitat.

In three municipal parks in Holyoke, little free libraries are providing books for children and adults to read.

Both projects benefiting these public areas were completed by local Girl Scouts, who recently earned Gold Awards as recognition for their work.

Ava Mendelsohn of Amherst, handled the project in Westhampton, while Pearl Burns of Holyoke did the project in her home city.

Gold Awards are the highest honor that can be achieved, and Burns and Mendelsohn were the only Girl Scouts from the Pioneer Valley, among 24 recently recognized by the Central and Western Massachusetts Girl Scouts. Combined, the awardees put in more than 2,000 hours for the concepts that aim to create sustainable change on a community or tackle a world issue. The ceremony was held June 16 at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

According to the organization, from creating access to menstrual hygiene products to addressing racism, the Gold Award Girl Scouts address the root cause of a problem, plan and implement innovative solutions to drive change and lead a team of people to success.

“A Gold Award Girl Scout, no matter her background or ability, learns to tap into the world-changing power within her,” Pattie Hallberg, CEO of the Central and Western Massachusetts Girl Scouts, said in a statement. “She takes the lead in designing and enacting a plan for change and makes a positive impact in her community and beyond.”

For Mendelsohn, the concept she pursued was to educate the public about nature. Working with Kestrel Land Trust, which received the 70 acres of forested land as a donation in 2017, and Pioneer Valley Trout Unlimited, Mendelsohn put in several signs along the trail that educate visitors about erosion control, the Connecticut River Watershed, and the native brook trout life cycle.

Mendelsohn wrote that her time in Girl Scouts offered both a safe place for her and a way to be empowered as a woman.

“Through Girl Scouts, I have learned how to work hard and stand up for things that are important to me,” Mendelsohn said. “And I learned the importance of the environment.”

Mendelsohn is heading to Temple University in the fall to attend Klein College and major in communications.

Burns’ little free libraries include one placed at Carlos Vega Park, and since that became available she has seen children at the parks with the books, or parents and guardians reading books to their children. The best part about the project has been restocking the books, Burns said.

“Girl Scouting is a broadening horizon,” Burns wrote. “For me, it’s something that opens a path to so many meaningful experiences that otherwise would have been impossible.”

Burns is going to Worcester Polytechnic Institute in the fall, pursuing a degree in computer science while also doing a pre-medical track.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at
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