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The standard for hard work is gold

(ran W edition)

Peyton Johnston has no regrets about staying in Girl Scouts through high school even though she watched many of her friends drop out because they thought it was not cool anymore.

When Johnston was in junior high she found herself a Girl Scout without a troop and kept involved by becoming an independent scout. A year later, she joined Troop 490, and last month she received the highest award honoring her dedication to scouting. She spent her senior year of high school working toward the Gold Award by assembling a slide presentation to recruit high school girls into the organization.

"I knew personally that there was a need for more recruiting of older girls," said Johnston, a recent King High School graduate. "I almost left it when I went independent because I didn't have anyone to tell me to stay with it and encourage me."

Johnston focused on travel in her slides because she knew visiting new places was a top interest for older girls. She included slides from her troop's trip to New York and a cruise to the Bahamas. The Suncoast Girl Scout Council will use the slides for recruiting and introducing older scouts to new activities.

"There's a lot of peer pressure and people saying Girl Scouting isn't cool, but I got a lot out of it," Johnston said. "I wanted to show older girls that we have a lot of fun."

Seven girls in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties received Gold Award pins at a ceremony in May. "The Gold Award is a chance for the girls to put everything they have learned in scouting together to do something for the community," said Julie Mallard, the council's associate development director. "We've seen that these experiences stay with them and help in their adult lives."

Most of the girls worked one or two years with their projects through the council's program department. They had to follow a strict format, in which they began with a written plan of action and ended with an evaluation of what they gained from the experience.

Tracey Anderson, a junior at Dixie Hollins High School and member of Troop 1180, was another recipient this year. Anderson won for teaching younger members about Girl Scout traditions.

Clearwater High School freshman Jillian Knight and Pinellas Park High School freshman Linda Setchell, both of Troop 1041, worked together on "Footsteps of the Past," an event teaching primitive camping and performing arts skills.

Julie Martinez, a 1992 Gaither High School graduate, also received the award for teaching smoking prevention to a group of fourth-grade Girl Scouts in a summer program last year. She used the Smoke Free Class of 2000 program offered by the Cancer Society. Martinez researched the subject and used information from the American Cancer Society to organize games and skits teaching smoking prevention. She hopes to continue her project with the same group to teach new information each year.

"It always looked easy when I watched other girls working toward the award because I hadn't seen all the hard work they put in," said Martinez who works in the council's service center. "When it came to doing it myself, I realized what a reward it was to see everything fall in place."

Ann Lamb, a 1993 Gaither High School graduate and member of Troop 490, designed a xeriscape garden for her church.

Sarah Haueter, a 1993 King High School graduate and member of Troop 490, compiled a social services booklet for use by the Florida-Bahamas Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.