North Hills graduate earns Girl Scouts' highest honor
Maria Arlia's project didn't require a hammer and nails, but she definitely built something extraordinary.
For her efforts, Arlia was given the Girl Scout Gold Award, the “most prestigious award in the world for girls — and the most difficult to earn,” according to the organization's website.
The project the 2018 North Hills High School graduate earned it for was organizing workshops for local sixth-grade girls that focused on building their self-esteem and leadership skills before they hit junior high.
“It's a ripe age,” says Arlia, 18, of West View. “You're afraid of what's going to come in middle school. That's when you start picking out your own clothes and trying new activities on your own. Making new friends is up to you, not your parents putting you in groups.”
About 50 people attended “Cultivating Confidence: A Leadership Workshop for Middle School Girls.”
Held in February at each of the district's three elementary schools, the event included a PowerPoint presentation, inspirational videos and a series of hands-on activities. The sixth-graders learned about R.E.A.L. (Reciprocal, Encouraging, Accountable and Loyal) friends, how to make compliments count and the traits of an effective team leader.
Arlia spent 10 months developing the curriculum based on her own experiences and with advice from her project advisor Valerie Faust, founder of Blossom & Flourish, a non-profit organization specializing in leadership training and confidence building programs for teenage girls.
Participants walked away from the hour-long experience with a “leadership kit” filled with symbolic office supplies (i.e. a highlighting marker that encouraged them to highlight the positive aspects of their life), Arlia's contact information in case they needed a pep talk down the road, and new friendships.
Because the Gold Award program requires projects to be sustainable, Arlia's workshop curriculum will be available at all of the district's elementary schools so future groups of sixth-graders can benefit from it.
Arlia's mother, Angela Arlia, who earned a Gold Award during her own scouting days, says she's proud of her daughter's accomplishments and status as a role model.
The Gold Award is just the latest in a lifetime of accolades for the teen, an AP Scholar and National Honor Society member who was voted senior class president and homecoming queen by her North Hills peers. She recently was recognized by the Tribune-Review as an Outstanding Student and received a Westinghouse Science Honors Institute Certificate.
This fall, she plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh's pharmacy program.
A member of Girl Scout Troop 51061 since kindergarten, she credits the organization with giving her the confidence to be a leader.
She hopes to continue serving as a troop leader or mentor to future scouts looking to earn their Gold Award.
“Girl Scouts has impacted my life so much, I feel like I really need to give back,” she says.
Kristy Locklin is a Tribune-Review contributor.