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.

Tuesday, May 22, 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.

Arts & Education

Congratulations to janera soloman, recipient of the 2018 Women of Distinction Award in the Arts & Education category!

janera solomon is the Executive Director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, a historic live arts venue in Pittsburgh now in its tenth year of presenting progressive, evocative, new works in dance, music, film, education, and cultural programming. Her curatorial work includes projects with some of contemporary performance’s brightest stars.

Recognized for her transformative leadership and contributions to the revitalization of East Liberty, janera managed the merger of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater and the Dance Alloy in 2011, while maintaining affordable dance instruction at The Alloy School and creating a series of diverse programs designed to inspire and engage a wide range of audiences.

An experienced arts and culture consultant, she has played a critical role in numerous cultural

projects, including the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, Brooklyn Museum of Art, the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh and numerous others with the Toronto-based, cultural planning firm Lord Culture.

She has a passion for artists creating new work and the development of new art forms and has served as curator and advisor to a variety of artistic projects. janera maintains volunteer board positions for several organizations, including the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and The Ellis School. In 2014, she formed the August Wilson Center Recovery Committee. In 2015, janera was featured in Pittsburgh Magazine as one of the “50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh”, and in 2018, she was awarded a “2018 Women of Influence Award” by the Pittsburgh Business Times.


Congratulations to Heather Lyke, recipient of the 2018 Women of Distinction Award in the Athletics category!

Heather Lyke is the director of athletics at the University of Pittsburgh. She is the first woman to hold the full-time director of athletics post.

Lyke has an exemplary record of 22 years in increasingly high-level roles in collegiate athletics administration. She served as vice president and director of athletics at Eastern Michigan University since 2013. Prior to her EMU tenure, she was a ranking athletic administrator at Ohio State for 15 years and additionally held posts at the University of Cincinnati and with the NCAA.

Lyke found the beginning of her professional path during her days as a scholarship student-athlete at the University of Michigan, where she captained the Wolverines’ Big Ten champion softball team. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Michigan and a juris doctor from the University of Akron School of Law.

At Eastern Michigan, Lyke oversaw a department that sponsors 21 varsity sports with more than 550 student-athletes. Her tenure witnessed high levels of achievement, not only in the competitive arena but also academically and from a fundraising standpoint.

A reflection of her undergraduate studies in education, Lyke is enthusiastically dedicated to helping younger professionals in their growth and advancement. She is a frequent speaker and presenter at national conferences and serves on the board of directors of Women Leaders in College Athletics.

In 2014, Lyke became the first woman to chair the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Committee. She additionally chaired the Mid-American Conference’s Cost of Attendance Task Force.

Born and raised in Canton, Ohio, Lyke starred at GlenOak High School in volleyball, basketball, and softball. She accepted a softball scholarship from Michigan, where she was a two-time team captain and helped Michigan to the 1992 Big Ten Championship.

Lyke and her husband, David Catalano, have three children: Elle, Sophie and Eli.


Congratulations to Sylvia Diez, recipient of the 2018 Women of Distinction Award in the Business category!

Sylvia Diez is senior vice president and regional managing director for PNC Institutional Asset Management covering the central/east region. Her primary responsibility is leading sales and client service for the region. She is also chair of the Council of National Practice Groups that include Taft-Hartley/Public Funds, Endowment & Foundation, Healthcare and Insurance within Institutional Asset Management, and leads a team of segment specialists and business development officers.

She was previously the western region sales director for PNC Wealth Management. She was responsible for the sales process and the development and execution of the sales strategies for the western region.

Prior to joining PNC Wealth Management in March 2001 as a relationship manager, Diez was a retirement planning specialist with CitiStreet, a member company of Citigroup. During her ten years with CitiStreet, she served in positions of increasing responsibility from account executive to a regional manager in Anaheim, California and Pittsburgh offices. She was voted by CitiStreet’s Board of Directors to receive the Director’s Trophy, which was awarded to one employee for his or her company contributions.

Diez holds a bachelor of science degree in marketing earned from Robert Morris University. Her professional licenses have included the National Association of Securities Dealers Series 7, 6, 63, 65, and 26. She has also completed Duquesne University’s Executive Certificate in Financial Planning.

Diez is a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh XXII. She was also a corporate team member of PNC’s Grow Up Great program and a current member of PNC Women Connect EBRG, where she is the executive sponsor for the External Connections committee. Diez is a mentor in Robert Morris University Women’s Leadership and Mentorship program. She has served on several boards and has been a host committee member for many local charitable organizations, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Girls Scouts Western Pennsylvania, and Western PA School for the Deaf.

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

Monday, May 21, 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.

Community & Nonprofit
Congratulations to Amy Hart, recipient of the 2018 Women of Distinction Award in the Community & Nonprofit category.

Amy Hart is the president and chief executive officer of the Center for Hearing & Deaf Services, Inc. (HDS).

HDS is the region’s only non-profit agency providing comprehensive services to people who are deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, or have other communication needs. Her tenure at HDS has been known for growth and innovation in programs and services.

Prior to coming to HDS, she was the director of community relations at Mars Home for Youth and vice president of community investments at United Way of Allegheny County. She was founding executive director of the PA Service Corps, one of the original national service demonstration projects, and was founding executive director of PA Campus Compact. She also worked on the Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Treatment Unit at St. Francis Hospital and for the Collegiate YMCA of Pittsburgh.

Hart is known as an entrepreneurial leader who is effective at building winning relationships and effective partnerships, as well as supporting others in the field. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Pittsburgh, and a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University.

Entrepreneur & Small Business
Congratulations to Megan "Megs" Yunn, recipient of the 2018 Women of Distinction Award in the Entrepreneur & Small Business category.

Megs Yunn is the founder and co-director of Beverly’s Birthdays, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit organization that provides birthday cheer for children experiencing homelessness and families in need. Yunn started the organization after meeting a young girl, Beverly, who shared with her that she had never had her own birthday party or even her own slice of birthday cake. Inspired by the story, Yunn submitted her idea for Beverly’s Birthdays to the 2011 Scholastic Be BIG in Your Community Contest and was named one of 10 first place winners. She received $2,500 in January 2012 to start Beverly’s Birthdays. Now, six years later, Beverly’s Birthdays has raised over $1.5 million, and Yunn and her team of five full-time staff members, a 13-member board of directors, and hundreds of volunteers/donors, have worked together to celebrate more than 25,000 children’s birthdays. Beverly’s Birthdays and Yunn were recently recognized on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and on PEOPLE.COM for the inspiring work their team is doing to spread joy, cheer, and laughter for so many deserving children. Yunn is a Pittsburgh Magazine 40 under 40 recipient and was named by Next Magazine as one of five people “Making Pittsburgh a Happier Place.”

Outside of Beverly’s Birthdays, Yunn has served as an adjunct instructor at Point Park University in the communications department. She has a bachelor of arts degree in organizational communications from Marietta College and a master of business administration from Point Park University. Yunn is passionate about youth programming, servant leadership, and working with children in vulnerable communities.

Prior to starting Beverly’s Birthdays, Yunn did a term of service as an AmeriCorps volunteer and ran a character development program with adjudicated youth.

Yunn truly believes that we are all here on this earth to make a difference and to help one another. When asked about Beverly’s Birthdays and the work they are doing, she always says “I just want to dump birthday glitter on the city of Pittsburgh.”

Yunn and her husband, Mike Yunn, reside in Irwin and are the proud parents of three beautiful children—Wyatt, Lincoln, and Sadie—with their fourth son born just recently.

Government & Law
Congratulations to Maurita J. Bryant, recipient of the 2018 Women of Distinction Award in the Government & Law category.

Maurita J. Bryant is serving in her 40th year of law enforcement. After serving 39 years with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, she retired in May of 2016, as the assistant chief of the Investigations Branch. She joined the Allegheny County Police Department in June 2016 and currently serves as the assistant superintendent for the Uniform Division.

She is a 1970 graduate of George Westinghouse High School, and received her master’s degree in criminal justice from Point Park University, where she served as an adjunct professor. Superintendent Bryant is a 2004 graduate of the 218th session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, and has taught numerous criminal investigations and terrorism courses internationally.

Throughout her career, she has been passionate about issues impacting the victimization of women and children. She is most proud of serving as the executive director for a teenage intervention program called Save Our (little) Sisters (SOS); being the facilitator for the Bureau’s Moms and Cops program; serving on the executive boards for Gwen’s Girls, Pittsburgh Child Guidance Foundation, Birmingham Foundation, YES program, NOBLE, Standing Firm, Greater Pittsburgh Business and Professional Women, Inc.; and most of all for having two daughters, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

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