2007-04-12 / Community

This Girl Scout goes for the gold

By Joann Groff joann@theacorn.com

Miranda Peterson has spent much of her young life traveling as the daughter of a Hollywood set builder, moving with her family all over the southwestern United States. But recently, Peterson, 18, has been building something of her own, a project that will benefit her community for years to come.

She has been working with the Mountains Restoration Trust as part of earning her Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouts, similar to becoming an Eagle in Boy Scouts.

Peterson joined the Girl Scouts with many of her friends in kindergarten, and after a lot of camping, projects and earning the Silver Award, she was encouraged to go for the gold.

"A lot of the parents were saying I ought to do the Gold Award," Peterson said. "It looks good for college applications, and because I was home-schooled, it would show I was active. I didn't want it to seem like home-schooling was just an easy alternative. Just like some people do the debate team at school, the Gold Award was one more thing on my resume.

"I was also interested in doing something fulfilling, doing something meaningful."

The Gold Award requires several patches, the senior girl leadership award and 45 hours of volunteer work before beginning a project designed to benefit the community. The project must take at least 50 hours to complete.

Peterson has been working toward the award for two years, and six months ago began her project with Mountains Restoration Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the native wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains.

For her project, she built an interpretive recreation area at Headwaters Corner, installing six benches and four picnic tables. The benches correspond with a trail map Peterson is designing to highlight the various ecosystems at the site.

Debbie Bruschaber, MRT's project manager for Headwaters Corner, said Peterson's work was much appreciated.

"She worked really hard and was able to provide information so that we could make decisions, and she was able to get the materials and things we needed," Bruschaber said. "So she was a great benefit as far as furthering the development of the Headwaters Corner."

Peterson began home-schooling in third grade; her father's career in the movie industry required her family to move frequently. After years in Dallas, her family, which includes 17- and 11-year-old brothers and a 13yearold sister, settled in Woodland Hills about four years ago.

"Moving a lot was more difficult when I was younger," Peterson said. "I had a lot of really close friends in Dallas. But as I grew up, I saw it was also really rewarding. I got to go to a lot of places and see a lot of things I wouldn't have had opportunity to see."

She attends Pierce College as a concurrent high school student and hopes to study psychology at a University of California school next year.

"I wanted to go ahead and start moving in my education," she said. "It's only to a certain point you can teach your children. I'm hoping fall is going to be my last semester, and I'm applying to UCLA or Berkeley in the fall."

When Peterson's family moved to Southern California permanently, she decided to contact the San Fernando Valley Girl Scout Council. As an independent Girl Scout, she doesn't have a troop.

"I decided to go ahead and do it on my own," she said. "If I needed to move, I wouldn't have to stop everything I was doing and not be a part of that."

She said the purpose of her project was to make Headwaters Corner a more relaxing and enjoyable environment for people in surrounding communities, while educating them on their surroundings.

She picked the bench locations based on varied ecosystems so that each stop had differing types of plant and animal life. She had supplies donated, organized volunteers and led a group to pour cement and install the benches and tables.

Peterson lives four miles from Mountains Restoration Trust headquarters, and had volunteered there, but had no idea how much the project would affect her, she said.

"At first, it was just a project I was doing, but once I got into it, I found that what they are doing is really impressive and they are really passionate about what they do. They have so much to share with everyone, and just want everybody to get out there and really appreciate what you are living in."

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