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More than 10 Knoxville Girl Scouts achieve highest Girl Scout honor

May 15, 2024

Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians presents Gold Awards to East Tennessee Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians has announced its 2024 Gold Award recipients, presenting the honor to about two dozen girls across the region, more than 10 of whom are from Knoxville.

The Gold Award is the most prestigious award in Girl Scouting, presented to girls in grades 9-12 who have planned and implemented significant projects that address an issue in their communities. The honor is awarded to fewer than 6 percent of Girl Scouts across the country annually. Most Gold Award Girl Scouts spend between one to two years on a project.

“The Gold Award is the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive,” said Lynne Fugate, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians (GSCSA). “These young women have worked hard and demonstrated extraordinary leadership. They have shown empathy and problem-solving skills to enact positive change in our community. We’re so proud of their dedication.”

The following Gold Award recipients are from Knoxville:

  • Orly Berry worked to improve conditions for refugee children in Knoxville. After learning that resettled families frequently arrive with few possessions but are federally required to have new beds, she partnered with Bridge Refugee Services to raise awareness and funds. Berry provided more than 40 new beds and other supplies such as storybooks for newly arrived refugees.
  • Maleah Bird endeavored to improve circumstances for local families of sick children. Bird knew organizations assisted families who travel to receive care for a sick child, but after volunteering at a children’s hospital she realized a program was needed locally. Working with the hospital, Bird renovated a large storage closet, added shelves and stocked it with basic necessities. She also secured several new regular donors for higher demand items such as larger-sized clothing.
  • Amelia Brown led the renovation of her church theatre room to provide a free, accessible space to enjoy movies. Passionate about film, Brown held a luncheon and plaque fundraiser at the church to raise money and awareness for the space and created a large digital video library. People already have visited Brown’s theatre, and she’s excited for more children to use the space this summer, hoping they will be inspired to love film.
  • Catherine Gergel worked to help victims of racially driven attacks. After experiencing anti-Asian racism, Gergel created a website to help people find help and learn self-defense basics and for potential bystanders to learn strategies to safely intervene. She created videos and classes using karate, one of her lifelong passions, to teach both de-escalation and self-defense. She also led in-person workshops to empower people to safely confront hate in their community.
  • Helen Liulevicius helped restore a children’s play space after Catholic Charities of East Tennessee’s building was destroyed by arson. She partnered with the organization to design and build developmentally appropriate play centers. While parents meet with counselors, the children have toys to help them improve fine motor skills. Liulevicius also established low-cost, easy-to-make toy designs for parents to take home, along with information on the types of play essential for early childhood development.
  • Nirvikta Osti established music education for special education students after learning the curriculum doesn’t always include it. A passionate musician, Osti worked with local elementary school teachers to develop the curriculum and wrote a music book, including songs that help students learn about shapes and numbers and skills such as being a helpful friend. Osti secured donations to provide small music kits for each classroom and even lead a lesson with students herself.
  • Ellen Petrik, a lover of history, set out to make the subject more engaging and approachable for children. She reached out to Blount Mansion with an idea for a new interactive exhibit and then created it featuring historical toys children can actually play with, including handmade marbles, whirligigs and dolls. Petrick also constructed other interactive stations featuring reticule sewing and writing with quills. For the unveiling, she held an event at Blount Mansion and invited younger Girl Scouts.
  • Bailey Redmond created a music festival to showcase young talent. As a young musician, Redmond had been turned away from events because of her age. Her high school agreed to host the showcase, and Redmond conducted auditions and booked more than a dozen acts. She recruited volunteers, advertised the event and planned a 12-hour festival with more than 60 musicians and hundreds of people in attendance. The high school has agreed to make it an annual event.
  • Georgia Smith set out to save barn owls. Passionate about conservation and owls, Smith partnered with Seven Islands State Birding Park after learning that barn owls in Tennessee are in decline. She constructed specialized nesting boxes and created an interactive educational program to raise awareness. After installing her boxes, barn owls quickly began nesting, and new owlets already have been born.
  • Mia Warren aimed to make museum visits more accessible after learning from a visually impaired friend that those individuals don’t have the same museum experiences as sighted people. Warren partnered with the East Tennessee Historical Society to create special QR codes that offer detailed descriptions of the space and indicators to help people navigate safely. The program also allows the text to be recorded into other languages. The museum plans to share her program with museums throughout the state.

Other recipients from the East Tennessee region:

  • Sofia Filigenzi, Oak Ridge
  • Brook Fisher, Lenior City
  • Lauren Kennedy, Lenoir City
  • Emmalyn Kinsey, New Market 
  • Jacqueline MacLean, Maryville
  • Kylie Patterson, Gatlinburg
  • Alicia Pennington, Sevierville
  • Kayla Wright, Morristown

Recipients from the Appalachian Highland region:

  • Taylor Trammell, Johnson City
  • Evelyn Yang, Kingsport

Recipients from the Tennessee Valley & North Georgia region:

  • Alexia Apablaza, Signal Mountain
  • Abigail Blazer, Charleston
  • Sidney Kiner, Chattanooga

The Gold Award recipients were recognized for their achievements at a gala dinner and awards ceremony that took place April 21 at the Foundry on the Fair Site.

The Girl Scout Gold Award represents exceptional achievement in leadership development, positive values and service. Only Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors are eligible for the Gold Award, and before they can pursue it, they must meet prerequisites, including completing a Take Action project or earning the Girl Scout Silver Award, which requires a project to improve the neighborhood or community. At a minimum requirement of 80 hours, most girls spend between one and two years on Gold Award projects.

A Gold Award recipient is driven to be a leader, using her passions and problem-solving skills to make a difference in her community. She has strong professional skills that set her apart in the college admissions process and make her an outstanding candidate for academic scholarships and other financial awards. In addition, Gold Award Girl Scouts who join the U.S. Armed Forces often enter at a rank above other military recruits.

About Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians

Girl Scouts is the preeminent leadership development organization for girls, offering programs that give every girl a chance to practice a lifetime of entrepreneurship, adventure, and success—whether they want to climb to the top of a tree or the top of their class, lace up their boots for a hike or advocate for community causes, or make their first best friends. The Girl Scouts of Southern Appalachians has approximately 10,000 girl and adult members in 46 counties from southwest Virginia through eastern Tennessee and northern Georgia. Membership is open to all girls from kindergarten through their senior year in high school. Backed by trusted adult volunteers, mentors and millions of alums, Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. To join us, volunteer, reconnect or donate, visit or call 800-474-1912.

Catherine Howell