They went for the Gold

After years of service, preparation and participation, more than 150 La Cañada Girl Scouts were honored with Bronze, Silver and Gold awards Sunday at Lanterman Auditorium.

These awards are the highest honors in Girl Scouts, a national program for girls dedicated to making young girls confident leaders serving their communities. The group began with one woman, Juliette Gordon Low, and her troop of 18 members in 1912. Now, there are more than 3.4 million members in the U.S.

The awarded troops are from the La Cañada Service Unit of the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles-Central region.

Sisters Sabine and Simone Puglia from Troop 889-1 led more than 200 Girl Scouts and family members through the Girl Scout Law and flag ceremony.

Their troop leader and father, Joe Puglia, a Valley Sun columnist, is the only father who serves as a troop leader.

“I did it by happenstance,” he said. “My wife had to teach that night and I came back the leader. It’s a huge magic carpet ride with these kids.”

Puglia’s troop was honored in the past with the Bronze Award for cleaning and redesigning a disabled person’s garden at Descanso Gardens.

Among award recipients was Katie Rayburn, a 16-year-old at La Cañada High School and Girl Scout for 11 years.

Rayburn planned her project for five months and spent seven weeks with a school, encouraging students to read. She worked with La Primaria, a primary school in El Monte. She brought 40 new books, all donated from LA Parent’s book reviewer, Ronna Mandel.

Katie’s service award helped her recognize her love of children.

“I just love working with kids,” she said. “It’s my passion. I love it. I want to do that for the rest of my life.”

Katie’s troop co-leader, Janice DaVolio, said she is very proud of Katie and her entire troop’s work.

DaVolio described helping her five-member troop as a process involving interest projects at first. Interest projects help the Girl Scouts narrow their decisions from more than 60 choices with mini projects based in leadership, career and finance. There are many projects to take on, and they each take a few months to complete with preparation work.

“That’s what being a leader is about, encouraging what they want to do, not what I want them to do,” she said.

One project the troop took on was a Secret Safari, which included a day of traveling by bus to the science center, beach and aquarium with a younger Girl Scout troop.

The older Girl Scouts planned the entire day, from bus rentals to aquarium group rates, budget and snacks.

“These girls very much did their own thing,” DaVolio said. “In the beginning it was trying to help them develop confidence.”

DaVolio has led her troop since they were sixth-graders. This means a lot to her, especially because she has one special member, her daughter, Emma Persson.

Emma is a junior at La Cañada High School who raised money and collected sewing supplies for two Afghan girls schools, Zarghuna Ana and Nazu Ana, in a refugee camp in Pakistan.

Emma had enough supplies to create 30 kits for graduating eighth-graders, a typical end of an education for Afghan women.

She raised money at Round Table and La Cañada United Methodist Church. After her fundraising was completed, she sent the packages to the girls. She later received pictures from the teacher of the girls opening her packages and passing around the kits.

“The best part about being a Girl Scout is to be able to spread the values that I’ve learned from the community of girls that I didn’t know when I started out,” Emma said.

Emma views education differently after her project.

“I also think that we, not only myself, we take education for granted, especially in our small community of La Cañada,” she said. “Many of [the Afghan girls] would get married off at 12 years old, and they’d never get a chance to go to school. That’s why I wanted to help and encourage and keep the schools alive.”

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