Friday, May 25, 2018

Honoring remarkable women and their accomplishments

On Friday, May 18, Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania honored oustanding community service and leadership at the annual Awards of Distinction luncheon at the Omni William Penn Hotel.

The prestigious event included special guest and CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA Sylvia Acevedo. She set the tone for the event by sharing her story of how she broke barriers and became one of the first Hispanic students, male or female, to earn their master's degree in engineering from Stanford University.

She spoke about growing up on a dirt road with parents who had not gone to college and were not wealthy ranchers. She shared how her experience in Girl Scouting made her see that cooking is no more than a chemistry experiment, and she learned that she was rather good at science and math.

"When it was time to go on to college," Acevedo said, "and the college counselor opened the door and looked at the lobby and looked around me, and she said 'What are you doing here?' and I said 'I'm going to college.'"

Acevedo continued, "She said 'Girls like you don't go to college.' And, unfortunately, statistically she was right. But, she wasn't right in my case."

Acevedo's personal history with growing courage, confidence, and character through Girl Scouting launched the event into impactful comments on female accomplishments, leadership, and wisdom.

The Girl Scout of Distinction, Alexis Mandell credited her experience in the Movement as inspiration to create the same opportunities for young girls in her community.

"Girl Scouts has provided me a supportive, all-girl environment to explore whatever my intention was in life," Mandell said. "Inspired by that all-girl environment, I created an all-girl science fair for my Gold Award project to encourage the younger girls excited by STEM."

Maurita Bryant, 2018 Woman of Distinction in government and law, spoke about her 39 years working on the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

When considering advice for the future leaders in attendance she said, "The love you have for one another will always overshadow the ugly in this world."

Megan "Megs" Yunn, 2018 Woman of Distinction in entrepreneur and small business, was unable to attend due to the arrival of her baby boy. She sent her words of wisdom with Katelyn Livingston, Director of Community Engagement for her company Beverly's Birthdays. Yunn encouraged the audience to follow their gut and follow the path that feels right, even if the people around you think it's crazy.

The event left the room feeling inspired to make a difference in their community and beyond. For photos from the event, visit the photo album on GSWPA's Facebook page. The clips from Acevedo's keynote speech are included here: Part 1Part 2 Part 3.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


GSWPA has added more camp sessions to the 2018 summer line up. Below you’ll find a list of the recently added sessions with a direct link to their registration page.

We hope you and your camper will find something that hits the target, lights their campfire, or splashes adventure into summer!

Me & My Gal- 4th of July Summer Bash (Lodge)
July 1-3
Grades: 1-8
Camp Conshatawba

Spa Retreat
July 22-27
Grades: 4-8
Camp Conshatawba

 Adventure Squad Camp Set Sail
July 29-August 3
Grades: 4-9
Camp Hawthorne Ridge

Hogwarts Summer School
July 22-27
Grades: 2-8
Camp Hawthorne Ridge

Slumber Party CORE (Lodge)
July 13-15
Grades: 1-12
Camp Hawthorne Ridge

Pony Party 2.0
July 22-25
Grades: 2-5
Camp Hawthorne Ridge

Horse Lovers – CORE
July 18-20
Grades: 1-12
Camp Skymeadow

Skymeadow Sampler – CORE
August 1-3
Grades: 1-12
Camp Skymeadow

2018 Awards of Distinction | Girl Scout Honorees

2018 Girl Scout of Distinction Alexis Mandell, left, and 2018 Girl Scout Humanitarian Maria Ciao, right, received their awards at the Pittsburgh Awards of Distinction luncheon on Friday, May 18.
Girl Scout of Distinction
Alexis Mandell’s 12 years as a Girl Scout have helped her cultivate strong leadership skills, which inspired her to help other girls develop those skills as her Gold Award project. Pairing that inspiration with her passion for science, Mandell aimed to impact the lack of encouragement for young girls who are interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) careers.

“Sadly, girls are often shut out of STEM because of the preconceived notion that science and math are for boys. As a result, women represent only about one in five people employed in the fields of computer science, mathematics, engineering and the physical sciences,” said Mandell in her interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

For her Gold Award project, Mandell produced the Growing Girls’ Roots in STEM Science Fair, an all-girl science fair for fourth through eighth graders. Twenty-three participants followed the scientific method to research, hypothesize, test, and present on a topic in the fields of biology, environmental science, or physical science. Mandell coordinated STEM professionals to volunteer as judges, and her website,, provides educators and parents with resources to host more all-girl science fairs.

 Outside of Girl Scouts, Mandell participates in her high school orchestra, Irish dancing, and tennis. She is a member of the National Honor Society and is the public relations officer of North Hills’ Students Against Destructive Decisions Club. After graduation, Mandell will be continuing her education at Duke University with a plan to study neuroscience on a pre-medicine track.

She thanks her parents and her project adviser, Rebecca Watters, for their support and help in making her Gold Award project possible.

Mandell further thanks the Girl Scout Movement for allowing her to learn the leadership skills necessary to make a difference in today’s world and for helping her make lifelong friends along the way.

Girl Scout Humanitarian
Service to others and leadership come naturally to Maria Ciao, a Girl Scout since she was a Daisy in kindergarten. Ciao’s Gold Award project improved safety and accessibility of a local playground for children with autism and other disabilities.

Ciao is an avid equestrian and has combined her love of horses into years of community service at Glade Run Lutheran Services with a program that helps children with autism enjoy activities like riding horses. Inspired by seeing how animal therapy helped engage children with social challenges, Ciao earned her Girl Scout Silver Award by co-authoring a children’s book about autism that featured a friendly horse as the narrator.

Ciao saw further needs in her community for children with autism. From 2015 through spring 2018, she worked with her local government, the Autism Society of Pittsburgh, and community groups to make safety improvements and add sensory-friendly components to an existing playground at Allegheny County’s North Park. With consultation from experts, she coordinated the installation of tactile and musical sensory panels that are accessible to children with autism and children in wheelchairs, addressed safety issues, and made aesthetic upgrades to make the space welcoming.

Ciao hopes that her project is a model for more public playgrounds to incorporate sensory-stimulating components so that all children, regardless of ability, can play together and have fun in a safe space.

To girls considering the Girl Scout Gold Award, Caio says, “Volunteer wherever you can and don’t fear the weight of the project—because in the end it’s worth it. I never realized the positive ripple effect this project would have—but then I saw the bigger picture.”

Ciao will pursue a degree in public relations at the University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio this fall, where she also plans to continue her advocacy for people with autism.

She is very honored to be named as 2018 Girl Scout Humanitarian and is most grateful for the support and guidance she has received from her parents and family, troop, and the Girl Scout Movement.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

2018 Women of Distinction Awards

Eight inspiring women from the Pittsburgh area, two outstanding Girl Scouts, and Girl Scout community-champion corporation, FedEx Ground, were honored at our Pittsburgh Awards of Distinction luncheon on Friday, May 18 at the Omni William Penn Hotel. Proceeds of this premier event support Girl Scouts’ mission to develop courage, confidence and character in girls and to inspire the next generation of young women to become the leaders of tomorrow.

Health Care

Congratulations to Dr. Elizabeth Miller, recipient of the 2018 Women of Distinction Award in the Health Care category!

Elizabeth Miller, MD, PhD, is the director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and professor of Pediatrics at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. She is also the medical director for Ronald McDonald House Charities Care Mobile, Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, and the 412 Youth Zone.

Trained in medical anthropology, as well as internal medicine and pediatrics, Dr. Miller’s research has included examination of sex trafficking among adolescents in Asia, teen dating abuse, and reproductive health, with a focus on underserved youth populations, including pregnant and parenting teens, and foster, homeless, and gang-affiliated youth. Her current research focuses on the impact of gender-based violence on young women’s reproductive health.

She conducts research on brief clinical interventions to reduce partner violence and unintended pregnancy, funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Justice. In addition, she is conducting a study of a sexual violence prevention program entitled “Coaching Boys into Men” that involves training coaches to talk to their young male athletes about stopping violence against women, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She is also involved in projects to reduce gender-based violence and improve adolescent and young adult women’s health in India and Japan.

Miller is the recent recipient of the 2018 Visionary Award from Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.

A Japan native, Miller earned a bachelor’s degree in history of art at Yale and a master’s in medicine and a doctorate in anthropology at Harvard.

She and her husband reside in Pittsburgh. Her daughter, Hannah, is a student at the University of Chicago and her son, Joey, attends Taylor Allderdice High School.

Technology & Communications

Congratulations to Jennifer Bullano, recipient of the 2018 Women of Distinction Award in the Technology category!

Jennifer Bullano joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2006 as a graduate intern and spent the following two years as manager of media relations before being promoted to director of communications in 2008. She is entering her twelfth season with the team and currently serves as senior director of communications. She is presently the only female to hold her position in the National Hockey League.

Bullano oversees the daily operations of the Penguins communications department and is responsible for coordinating all player and management interviews. She travels full time with the team and was a part of the Penguins Stanley Cup championships in 2009, 2016, and 2017. Jennifer has been a key contact for behind the scenes shows, such as HBO’S 24/7 The Road to the Winter Classic, NHL Revealed, In the Room, and Showtime Sports ALL ACCESS: Quest for the Stanley Cup. She recently won an Emmy for her role in “There’s no Place like Home with Sidney Crosby” in the “sports program one-time special” category.

The native of New Castle, Pennsylvania, also teaches part-time as an adjunct professor at Point Park University. Bullano teaches Media Relations in Sports for the Sports, Arts, and Entertainment Management program within the School of Business.

Bullano earned a bachelor of arts degree in public relations from Penn State University in 2003, as well as a master of business administration with concentration in sports, arts, and entertainment management from Point Park University in 2007. Bullano and her husband, Eric Ridgley, reside in the north hills of Pittsburgh with their daughter, Harper.

This is the third of four installments published in recognition of the 2018 Women of Distinction and Girl Scout honorees.