With graduation in about two weeks, three La Jolla High School seniors have achieved another goal they’ve been working toward: the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Ashlin Brunette, Sophie Hochberg and Samantha Ponticello completed projects for the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts, which requires each girl who tries to identify a problem, develop a strategy to solve it and spend 80 hours of community service to carry out the Plan.

The three girls — each of whom had been in the Girl Scouts since kindergarten — also had to work with a mentor, form and lead a team, and write a final report on their projects.

“There’s a lot of leadership and teamwork involved,” Hochberg said.

The awards ceremony is in June.

Ashlyn Brunette

To get her gold award, Brunette introduced a lacrosse camp to about 50 elementary and middle school-aged girls in her community after discovering that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the children she cared for felt isolated from their friends.

“[Their] parents noticed these negative effects on mental health,” Brunet said.

She targeted the girls’ lacrosse camp around “the time I joined sports teams and met new people,” she said. The girls were “missing out on crucial time [for] join the sport.”

The camp taught the basics of lacrosse and offered “sit-down talks with the girls about basic aspects of mental health, such as support groups, stress, time management” and more, Brunet said.

Brunette, who played lacrosse for La Jolla High School, said she has received positive feedback from parents and plans to repeat the camp this summer before attending UCLA.

Sophie Hochberg

Hochberg, who will attend Vanderbilt University, is interested in psychology and wanted to plan her Gold Award project in that area, tying in her love of skating.

The result was a “mental health boot camp” for student athletes.

“I realized that mental illness for sports players … is not something that society really deals with,” she said.

Hochberg brought together a sports psychologist, meditation instructor and nutritionist to talk to a group of about 25 of her peers about mental illness specifically for student-athletes — including ways to cope and overcome it.

“Everyone talked about their own experiences if they wanted to,” she said.

For four weeks, Hochberg shared information at a booth at the La Jolla Open Aire Market, handing out pamphlets summarizing tips gathered at the camp.

Samantha Ponticello

Ponticello created a website to guide people after a loved one suffers a stroke.

Website, afulllifeafterstroke.comcontains tips for identifying the signs of a stroke and tips for helping someone through the treatment process.

Ponticello started the project after her grandmother had a stroke.

The website includes everything Ponticello and her family learned after the stroke, along with information from a stroke support person.

She also hosted a booth at the Open Aire Market to help educate people about the signs of a stroke and created posters illustrating the acronym FAST for face down, arm weakness, difficulty speaking and when to call 911.

“I put them around La Jolla for people to see,” she said.

Ponticello said stroke victims and their family members would approach her at the market to write down the website address.

Ponticello, who will attend Syracuse University, said she will update the website as she learns more. ◆

By Editor

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