Carmel Valley Girl Scouts change lives, earn Gold Award

Girl Scouts Julia Camilleri, Brittany Jiang, Maya Kota, Rachel Lian and Kara Nepomuceno, all of Carmel Valley, have earned the Girl Scout Gold Award — the organization’s highest honor — for creating meaningful, sustainable change in the world around them. Just five percent of Girl Scouts nationwide achieve this level of recognition.

Julia and Maya earned their Gold Award by helping middle school students improve their writing skills.

Julia developed a 13-week creative writing program, in which she organized author presentations and led workshops and critique groups. Participants improved their techniques, discovered new genres, and grew in confidence. Julia recently graduated from Canyon Crest Academy, where she was president of the Creative Writing Club and organized a student writers conference. The daughter of Simone and Albert Camilleri, Julia joined Girl Scouts in kindergarten as a Daisy in Troop 1458. Girl Scouting is a family tradition for the Camilleris: Simone is a former Girl Scout and troop leader, and Julia’s two sisters (one of whom earned a Gold Award) were Girl Scouts as well.

Maya hosted workshops designed to prepare middle school students to “write for the real world.” Moving beyond the essay formats they already master in class, she showed them how to pen news pieces, short stories, lab reports, opinion articles and personal statements. For her project, she drew on her experience as news and opinion editor of Torrey Pines High School Falconer High School, from where she graduated this year.

The daughter of Rajasri and Prasad Kota, Maya joined Girl Scout as a Brownie. She represented Girl Scouts San Diego at the 2016 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, where she was a presenter on a panel. Maya plans to pursue a future in mechanical engineering.

Brittany, Rachel and Kara focused on health issues for their Gold Award projects.

Responding to an unmet need across the globe, Brittany prepared more than 100 reusable menstrual pad kits for girls in underdeveloped areas of Honduras. In addition, she educated local communities about domestic and international health issues, including the effects of the lack of proper sanitation. Brittany, whose parents are Crystal Zhang and Jeff Jiang, started Girl Scouts as a Brownie. A National AP Scholar with Distinction, she recently graduated from Torrey Pines High School, where she was a varsity swim team champion.

Rachel wrote a book and designed a website to tell her story of being diagnosed with and treated for scoliosis. The materials include advice for managing the condition, as well as X-rays and pictures documenting her recovery process. Rachel made the books and website information available to several San Diego hospitals so they could provide information and hope to other scoliosis patients and their families. A Girl Scout since Kindergarten, Rachel was a member of Troop 1115.

She currently serves as a research intern at the Setting Scoliosis Straight foundation. This fall, Rachel will enter her senior year at Torrey Pines High School, where she is president of the Synthetic Biology Club, leader of iGEM (International Genetically Engineering Machine) and a violist in the advanced orchestra. Rachel’s parents are Hongyan Qu and Bin Lian.

Kara’s Gold Award project addressed youth mental health. Through an online resource guide and a series of after-school workshops, she equipped youth in grades 6-8 with tools to fight stress. Each week, they learned a new stress-release method and began to develop wholesome attitudes and coping behaviors. Kara began Girl Scouts at the Junior level, as a member of Troop 1256. Kara, the daughter of Noreen Nepomuceno, graduated from Canyon Crest Academy in 2016. During high school, she was a member of the Dance Conservatory and a volunteer for a student-run chemistry club, Ignite Science. Currently a freshman at Oberlin College, Kara is a recipient of the MTS & Coca Cola Laptop scholarship.

The girls are among 55 Girl Scouts in San Diego who earned the Gold Award this year and were honored during a recent ceremony.