Sunday, February 18, 2018

Three Girl Scouts Named GSWPA’s Top Youth Volunteers of the Year

Girl ScoutsWestern Pennsylvania (GSWPA) has named three Girl Scouts its top youth volunteers of the year. The honor was granted to Maria Ciao, 17, of Pittsburgh, Megan Sennett, 16, of Erie and Rebecca Shissler, 13, of Greensburg, as part of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.

The honor was granted as part of the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide youth volunteer recognition program sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

A nationwide youth volunteer recognition program, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards are sponsored by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Ciao, a twelfth-grade student at North Hills Senior High School, earned her Girl Scout Gold Award, by working with her local government and the Autism Society of Pittsburgh to improve an existing playground to make it more sensory friendly for children with autism and other disabilities. Since age 12, Ciao has volunteered in a program that offers children with autism the opportunity to participate in activities such as riding horses and gardening. The beneficial experiences of these children inspired her to bring that joy to her neighborhood. As the project planner, volunteer coordinator, and fundraiser, Ciao has created a lasting improvement to her community playground by acquiring new sensory panels for the play area and benches and flowers to beautify the area. Her project created a more visually stimulating and sensory friendly place for children with autism and other disabilities.

Sennett, in eleventh grade at McDowell Senior High School, helped coordinate local volunteer efforts in Erie for the Toys For Tots organization. Toys for Tots is a program run by the United States Marine Corps Reserve which distributes toys to children whose parents cannot afford to buy them gifts for Christmas. Sennett recruited fellow cadets from her Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) unit, as well as members from her Girl Scout troop, to donate their time to the organization during the unloading of donations, sorting, repacking, and distribution of donated toys. Hundreds of families in the Erie area benefit every year from the work of Toys for Tots and their supporting volunteers like Sennett.

An eighth grade student at Greensburg-Salem Middle School, Shissler earned her Girl Scout Silver Award by building the Veteran’s Memorial Garden at Eastview Union Cemetery in Delmont. Until this project, there was no memorial for the 243 veterans laid to rest at the cemetery, nor a way to access the records for a family member buried there. Shissler worked with business owners, veteran’s groups, local government officials, and members of the Cemetery Board to develop a memorial to honor these veterans. The memorial includes a granite bench designed by Shissler, a 25-foot flag pole, a garden, inscribed paver stones, and an outdoor information center that displays the details the veterans buried there, dating back to the Civil War. Shissler obtained $3,700 in community donations for the project.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards represents America’s largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer service. Since 1995, the program has honored more than 115,000 youth volunteers at the local, state and national level. Learn more at or