Girl Scout spreads mental health awareness

PV senior presents Gold Award to community


Sarah Buttikofer

Pascack Valley senior Dani Menendez presented a powerpoint on causes of anxiety in teens and coping mechanisms for her Girl Scout Gold Award at the River Vale Community Center on Nov. 14. She decided to focus this project on mental health from her own experiences.

Sarah Buttikofer, Staff Writer

When senior Dani Menendez came to Pascack Valley, she chose to take her nine years of girl scout experience to make a positive difference in the community. 

After struggling with anxiety all throughout middle school, Menendez decided to focus her Girl Scout Gold Award, a project for seniors and ambassadors to make a change in their community, around spreading awareness of anxiety at the middle school level. 

“I really did not understand what anxiety was because no one talked about it,” Menendez said. “I thought I was abnormal and I thought something was wrong with me. I thought I was alone. I got to high school, and all of a sudden, everyone was talking about [mental health].”

Sarah Buttikofer

For Menendez’s Gold Award, she hosted speaker Abby Maitland from Care Plus NJ, a non-profit that provides recovery-focused integrated mental health care, substance abuse rehabilitation, psychiatry, therapy for adults and children according to She presented a powerpoint on causes of anxiety in teens and coping mechanisms like the “butterfly hug” at the River Vale Community Center on Nov. 14. Menendez also distributed Careplus handouts and flyers and displayed a trifold board with statistics.

“If only I had known that other people were also going through the same things, it might have been easier,” Menendez said. 

To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, each student has to fulfill certain requirements: a written proposal of an idea that is then approved by the Girl Scout Board, 80 hours of community service, and a final report that outlines how the project would have a lasting impact on their community.

Menendez said the hardest part about the Gold Award process was starting. Once she came up with the idea and built her team, it became easier. 

“I was very lucky, I got to work with the mayor, Glen Jasionowski, he was so helpful in every single way and always kept me on track,” Menendez said. “He was such a key part of my team, and I am so grateful for that.”

Menendez received very positive responses from her event and is very happy with how the project turned out.

“If I could do it again, I would do it again, because I really think it was helpful, and I’m glad I was able to help out different people,” Menendez said.