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4 local Girl Scouts earn Gold Award honor

 Vivian Nguyen and Hadley Goodwin, both 18, recently earned the Girl Scout Gold Award.
Girl Scouts Vivian Nguyen, 18, of Fountain Valley, left, and Hadley Goodwin, 18, of Huntington Beach, recently earned the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The Gold Award is the highest achievement that one can obtain in Girl Scouting.

Four ambitious local young women recently earned that honor after planning and implementing detailed service projects in their respective communities.

Recent Huntington Beach High graduate Hadley Goodwin and Fountain Valley High graduates Vivian Nguyen, Emily Tran and Evelyn Tran all recently earned their Gold Awards, joining 48 other Girl Scouts of Orange County members to accomplish the task.

Gold Award projects require at least 80 hours invested, as well as supervision by a committee of volunteers.

Goodwin’s project involved writing and illustrating a children’s book, “With These Hands,” which shows how the deaf express themselves through American Sign Language. The book also teaches ASL signs.

Goodwin, headed to college at Belmont University in Tennessee, said she has taken ASL classes throughout high school, and was drawn to it because it’s so visual and creative.

When she published the book with the help of her advisor Penny Warner, she instituted deaf awareness and ASL workshops at local preschools, elementary schools and a Girl Scout Troop, reaching more than 150 students. She then distributed the materials to the teachers so they could continue teaching ASL.

Twin sisters Evelyn Tran, left, and Emily Tran, right, of Fountain Valley.
(Courtesy of the Tran family)

“I put in a lot of hard work and a lot of planning, so I’m really glad it all came through in the end and I didn’t have that many hiccups,” Goodwin said. “The biggest challenge I faced was trying to work around COVID. Part of my project was going to different schools and working with different kids, so having to work around COVID with the school system was probably the hardest thing I had to go through, making sure all the safety precautions were in place. But I was able to figure that out, so I’m really happy it all worked out in the end.”

Nguyen, headed to Chapman University, created an online workshop called “Stand Up Against Stress.” She also implemented a live version of the program at various youth establishments, including JMAC Karate in Fountain Valley and Thomas House Family Shelter in Garden Grove, to give teens in-depth knowledge on stress, coping mechanisms and how to improve mental health.

Nguyen said growing up, she was very anxious and had a low threshold for stress, which limited her opportunities. There is also a history of stomach problems in her family, triggered by stress.

“Schools now are beginning to address mental health and stress, but the way that they talk about it is still very general and broad,” she said. “For my project, I wanted to teach youths how to better cope with stress and the challenges going on in life, so that they can work toward their goals.”

The Tran twins, Emily and Evelyn, also recently graduated from Fountain Valley High. Emily is headed to Stanford University, and Evelyn to UC Berkeley.

Earlier in the school year, they were two of five Barons to earn scholarships for their work in Virtual Enterprises.

Emily Tran’s Gold Award project proposed two bills that would allow incarcerated and homeless women to have free and sufficient access to menstrual products. She spent months meeting with politicians and local leaders prior to the implementation of Assembly Bill 367, working with 27 Orange County high schools, particularly Title I schools, to ensure that administrators understood the need for tampons and pads for their students.

AB 367, approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom last October, went into effect last month. It requires California public schools grades six through 12 to provide free menstrual hygiene products for their students, regardless of income level.

“I believe that having access to menstrual products is a basic human right that shouldn’t be seen as a privilege,” Emily Tran said. “That was my main goal of my Gold Award project.”

Twin sisters Emily and Evelyn Tran of Fountain Valley are pictured podcasting together.
(Courtesy of the Tran family)

Evelyn Tran’s project sought to break the stigma surrounding mental health in her Asian American community, including at Fountain Valley High. She networked with experts and nonprofits in the mental health space to create lasting change, through her affiliation with nonprofit Active Minds and National Minds on Mental Illness.

“That’s where I gained a lot of my resources,” said Evelyn Tran, adding that she has long suffered from trichotillomania, an obsessive hair-pulling disorder. “I used to look at my mental illness as one of my greatest weaknesses, something that I was ashamed about, kind of like a burden that was holding me back. But when I started to mature, I realized that I could shift my perspective from looking at my mental illness as one of my greatest weaknesses to one of my greatest strengths. It enabled me to become more introspective and build resilience within myself, and taught me the power of vulnerability.”

Some of the changes that she adopted included a revamping of the FVHS student ID card, to optimize access to mental health resources.

That last aspect is typical of a Gold Award project. Though they are obviously fulfilling for each Girl Scout involved, they are also signified by their ability to make a lasting impact.

“One of the goals of Gold Award projects is that they’re sustainable, that they can live on beyond the girl graduating,” Girl Scouts of Orange County communications director Caron Berkley said. “It’s not a one-off … It’s just a totally different level of community impact.”

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