Two local Girl Scouts win organization's highest honor

Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana CEO Sharon Pohly (center, right) is shown with Girl Scouts of the USA Board Member Telva McGruder (center, left) and Gold Award Girl Scout honorees Sunday, June 23, at Goshen College. From left are Caidy Hesting, Macie Marshall, Lainey Wooley, and Evelyn Shephard.

GOSHEN, Ind. -- The Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana (GSNI-M) honored five young women on Sunday at Goshen College during a ceremony that saw all five standout scouts receive the Gold Award, and one scout take home the national Gold Award Scholarship.

According to the Girl Scouts, the Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, recognizing girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through Take Action projects that have sustainable impact in their communities – and beyond.

The five honored scouts were:

  • Macie Marshall, Warsaw, Ind. – Inspired by the global mental health crisis, Macie aimed to improve youth mental well-being. Research showed that consuming the right nutrients fosters a growth mindset and enriches learning. She raised funds for salad bars, industrial salad spinners, and equipment for area schools to reinstate salad bars. She partnered with these schools to launch "Fitness Friday" and promote healthy body image. The program gained popularity, inspiring other schools to adopt similar initiatives.
  • Evelyn Shephard, Mishawaka, Ind. – While spending time at The Res, a 23-acre youth camp and nature center in Mishawaka, Evelyn noticed invasive species disrupting the natural ecosystem. She led a team to educate others on identifying, safely removing, and displacing these invasive species, effectively restoring the environment for native flora and fauna.
  • Caidy Hesting, Columbia City, Ind. – Caidy took a keen interest in the global population loss of monarch butterflies, honeybees, and other insects. Understanding the crucial role of these pollinators in our ecosystem, she decided to make a difference. After educating local students on the importance of creating sustainable environments for these species, she led them in creating a pollinator garden at their school, which has since been certified as a Monarch Waystation.
  • Kaitlyn Stafford, Bluffton, Ind. – Kaitlyn is dedicated to raising awareness about animal conservation and creating sustainable habitats for birds, bats, and winged pollinators. Recognizing a lack of awareness in her community, she provided educational materials at Ouabache State Park and developed safe habitats for these species. Her efforts have inspired greater environmental consciousness and compassion among park staff and visitors.
  • Lainey Wooley, Columbia City, Ind. – Lainey recognized that first responders face significantly higher rates of behavioral health conditions, including elevated levels of PTSD, suicide, and mental health issues. She crafted and distributed informational posters, wristbands, fridge magnets, local advertisements, and other resources to raise awareness, provide support, reduce stigma, and promote peer support to improve first responders' mental health.

Organizers say the keynote speaker at the event was Telva McGruder, a lifetime member of Girl Scouts and a current member of the board of directors of the Girl Scouts of the USA.

McGruder is also the Executive Director of Global Body Manufacturing Engineering at General Motors, where she leads the next phase of transformation toward an increasingly automated and digital manufacturing approach for body and paint systems.

Her primary message was about exploring curiosities with courage. She notes that Girl Scouting exposed her to challenges and adventures that first encouraged her thirst to reach past her limits.

The flag ceremony was conducted by Girl Scout Troop 00486 from Michigan City, led by troop leaders Brianna Keith and Gail Smith.

To close the ceremony, Warsaw's Marshall was presented with the Girl Scout USA Gold Award Scholarship in the amount of $5,000.

The scouts say this is a national scholarship that recognizes and provides financial support to one Gold Award Girl Scout per council to be used towards post-secondary education.

Share this article: