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Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England Leading Women of Distinction

Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who joined us at the 2021 Leading Women of Distinction Awards Ceremony on October 7!

We thank our honorees, Sara DeCosta-Hayes, Marie Ghazal, Pamela Harrop, Hilary Levey Friedman, Eva-Marie Mancuso, and Jennifer Pereira for the outstanding commitment and contributions they have made. All are amazing women in our community and have made a significant, positive impact in an impressive array of fields. These honorees represent diversity of leadership in the community and beyond, and promote inclusion and opportunity for girls and women. This group of inspiring women serve as exemplary role models for the leaders of tomorrow.

During our event, attendees heard from our guest speaker, Olivia Tracy, a Gold Award recipient, who shared her Girl Scout experience and how it taught her the confidence, values, skills, and courage to make the world a better place. The level of impact that she and other Girl Scouts have in their communities constantly astounds and amazes us. We hope it was as much a joy for our attendees as it was to us to hear directly from one of these girls. If you would like to champion the ambition of a local Girl Scout who will surely be a future Leading Woman of Distinction, and you didn’t have the chance to make a tax-deductible contribution at the event, please click on the link below to make your investment now.

Attendees also heard from multiple speakers about how Girl Scouts gave them the opportunity to camp and explore the outdoors, and the lasting impact that those experiences have had on them. If you would like to learn more about the Endowment Funds for Camp Hoffman and Camp Rocky Farm, or if you'd like to purchase a commemorative brick at Camp Hoffman, visit Gifts to these endowments will allow us to continue to provide these experiences to Girl Scouts in our communities for generations to come. 

We hope that our attendees enjoyed their time with us, were inspired by our honorees and guest speakers, and feel energized by the Girl Scout movement. Your support of Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England does so much good for girls in our community by helping them grow into girls of courage, confidence, and character. 

We are excited to announce the 2021 Leading Women of Distinction Honorees: 

Sara DeCosta-Hayes, Owner of RI Sting Girls Hockey, Olympic Gold & Silver Medalist
Marie Ghazal, CEO of Rhode Island Free Clinic
Pamela Harrop, MD, President, Medical Associates of Rhode Island
Hilary Levey Friedman, PhD, Professor at Brown University & Former President of RI NOW
Eva-Marie Mancuso, Managing Partner of Hamel Waxler, Allen and Collins Law Offices, Founder Clothes for Kids
Jennifer Pereira, Vice President of Grant Programs at Rhode Island Foundation

About the GSSNE Leading Women of Distinction Awards

First launched in 2015, the GSSNE Leading Women of Distinction Awards is a unique fundraiser that celebrates local accomplished women who exemplify the Girl Scout mission. Our honorees are women within the communities that our council represents who: 

  • Lead by example and exemplify the Girl Scout mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place—the women who demonstrate qualities of leadership and excellence in their life in whatever way you know them.
  • Are exemplary female role-models for the next generation of female leaders.


2020 Leading Women Awards

On Thursday, October 8th, 2020 at the GSSNE Leadership Center we honored eight remarkable women for modeling the G.I.R.L. spirit of Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader throughout their careers in a multitude of ways. We celebrated virtually by watching the prerecorded event with the honorees and their guests followed by the distribution of awards.

This year’s honorees included:

Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health
Kimberly Anderson, Creator, Co-Founder, PLANT CITY
Kate Brewster, Executive Director, Jonnycake Center for Hope
Angela McCalla, Newport City Council, First Ward
Sandra Pearl, President, Science & Engineering Education Development, Inc.
Carole Ann Penney, Founder, Penney Leadership, LLC
Rachel Prendergast, Owner/Operator, RaNew Salon and The Barbershop by RaNew Salon
Shannon Sullivan, President & COO of Women & Infants Hospital, Care New England

Our generous sponsors included Signature Sponsor Hebert Foundation through the Rhode Island Foundation; Gold Sponsor Amica Insurance; Silver Sponsors Ruggieri Family Fund, and Delta Dental; Bronze Sponsors Locke Lord LLP and Marsh & McLennan Agency, LLC; Supporter Sponsors Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage, Inc., The Beacon Mutual Insurance Company and Women in Leadership Nexus. A special thank you to Alison Bologna from NBC 10, Holly Viphakone 2020 Gold Award Girl Scout and our Leading Women of Distinction planning committee.

The recording is available at

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    Carole Ann Penney

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    Kate Brewster

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    Shannon Sullivan

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    Sandra Pearl

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    Rachel Prendergast

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    Angela McCalla

2019 Leading Women of Distinction Awards

The 2019 Leading Women of Distinction Awards Breakfast was held on Thursday, October 17th at the Radisson Hotel in Warwick, RI.

The Girl Scout's of Southeastern New England would like to say thank you to Alison Bologna, NBC 10 News Anchor, Founder of Shri Studio and Shri Service Corps, for emceeing the event!

Below are the names of those that were honored at the 2019 Leading Women of Distinction Awards: 

Thank you to all those that celebrated with us and our 2019 awardees! Our honorees exemplify the Girl Scout mission by being women of courage confidence, and character, who make the world a better place!

Monies raised from this event help to support GSSNE's highest awards programs, including our Gold Award which is the highest achievement in Girl Scouts!

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Our Honorees

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Katie Davis and her daughter, a new Daisy!
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2018 Leading Women of Distinction Awards

The 2018 Leading Women of Distinction Awards was held on Tuesday, October 16th at the beautiful Skyline at Waterplace in Providence, RI.

A big Girl Scout thank you to Alison Bologna, NBC 10 News Anchor, Founder of Shri Studio and Shri Service Corps, for emceeing the event!

Below are the names of those that were honored at the 2018 Leading Women of Distinction Awards: 

  • Mai Donohue, Author/Educator         
  • Daniela Abbott, Principal Engineer - Abbott Naval Architects         
  • Alexandra Curtis, RI National Guard, Former Miss Rhode Island 
  • Deborah Ricci, Director of Business Operations, Carousel Industries
  • Rep. Teresa Tanzi,  Representative, Rhode Island State House                          

Thank you to all those that celebrated with us and our 2018 awardees!  Our honorees were identified for modeling the G.I.R.L. spirit of Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker and Leader throughout their careers in a multitude of ways. They are women built of courage, confidence, and character who take the lead in making the world a better place!

Were you unable to attend the event, but want to make a donation in honor of one these incredibly inspiring 2018 LWDA Honorees? It's not too late! Click the Donate page, and you may then enter the honoree's name in the field designated for "This is in Honor of". Thank you!

New LWDA Promotional Video!
Click the image above to view our new Leading Women of Distinction Awards promotional video featuring two of our honorees, Alexandra Curtis and Mai Donohue. Credit: Blueflash Photography
2017 Leading Women of Distinction Awards
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On Wednesday, October 18th, over 100 attendees came together to celebrate the accomplishments of this year's Leading Women of Distinction.

  • You may click to view the original 2017 LWDA invite with details here.
  • You may view a copy of the 2017 LWDA program here.

In 2017 we celebrated the following Leading Women of Distinction Honorees are: 

  • Suzanne Fogarty, Head of School, Lincoln School
  • Joan Johnson-Freese, PhD., Professor, NSA, Naval War College
  • Susan Keller, Founder/CEO, Entrepreneurial Executives, LLC
  • Kati Machtley, Co-Founder & Director of the Women's Summit, Bryant University
  • Cheryl A. Merchant, President & CEO, Hope Global

We were pleased to have had Neil D. Steinberg, President & CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation as our Keynote Speaker at the Awards breakfast.

We hope those that attended enjoyed their time with us, were inspired by our honorees and speakers, and feel energized by the Movement that is Girl Scouts!

Were you not able to attend the event? You may click HERE to help support the work of empowering the next generation of leading women! Thank you and we hope to see you at our 2018 ceremony!

2016 Leading Women Awards

On April 28, 2016, GSSNE celebrated eight incredible women amongst a crowd of 180 individuals at the Citizens Bank Rotunda in downtown Providence. Check back soon for some images from the event as they become available. And huge thanks to our partner Rhode Island Monthly for believing in the Girl Scout mission! You may see a beautiful video from Blueflash Photography!

The following women were honored:

Gail Alofsin is a Newport resident and former Girl Scout! She is the Director of Corporate Partnership & Community Relations at Newport Harbor Corporation. Gail is also an author and national keynote speaker. Her book, Your “Someday” is NOW! What are YOU Waiting for? focuses on living YOUR best life to the fullest. Since being published in April 2014, 100% of the sales of the book have benefited nonprofits.

Sierra Barter is the CEO and Co-Founder of the Lady Project, a nonprofit that connects, inspires and showcases women doing amazing things through events and community engagement. Sierra has been honored as one of Providence Monthly's "10 to Watch", listed as Rhode Island Monthly's "Most Powerful Women" and the YWCA "Woman of Achievement" in 2014 and as Glamour's 'Hometown Hero" in 2015.

Alison Bologna is award winning journalist who anchors NBC 10 News Sunrise with Frank Coletta. Recently RI Monthly magazine voted Alison the top female reporter in the region! She has received many honors and awards for her journalism, including an Emmy Award, an Edward R. Murrow Award, two Associated Press Awards, a Gracie Allen Award, an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, and two Clarion Awards. Providence Business News recently named Alison as one of the "40 Under 40" professionals in the Ocean State.

Julie Sygiel is the founder of Dear Kate, a startup that makes high performance underwear and yoga pants. Julie co-founded The Lady Project, a non-profit organization connects, inspires, and showcases awesome women doing amazing things through membership, events, and community engagement. She is also a member of the Girl Scouts of the USA National Board of Directors and has a special place in her heart for Girl Scout Cookies given that she sold 10,000 boxes while growing up!

Kathy O’Donnell is Senior Vice President, Head of Public Affairs for Citizens Bank. She joined Citizens in 1995 as a public relations manager. O’Donnell works with local public affairs teams throughout the company’s 11-state retail footprint. She manages Citizens Bank’s charitable contributions, philanthropic activities, community outreach, volunteerism, communications and local sponsorships.

Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea was sworn in on January 6, 2015, and has dedicated the past twenty years to increasing Rhode Islanders' civic engagement and making our great state a better place to live and work for Rhode Islanders from all walks of life. As Secretary of State, Gorbea is dedicated to engaging and empowering all Rhode Islanders by making government more accessible and transparent, encouraging civic pride, enhancing commerce and ensuring that elections are fair, fast and accurate.

Meg DeCubellis is a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design in the Apparel Design Department and has spent her career in and around the fashion industry. Meg currently teaches at both RISD and URI in the departments of fashion and apparel and strives to bring the real world of garment manufacturing into her classroom whenever she can. Meg is also the co-founder of the Katie DeCubellis Memorial foundation, a non-profit organization which she and her husband, John, created after the death of her thirteen-year-old daughter, Katie, at the hands of a drunk-driver.

Nancy Armstrong is a lifelong Girl Scout and dedicated volunteer to the Girl Scout organization. She has inspired generations of girls over her lifetime, and has been working to make the world a better place one girl at a time. She has served on the Board of Directors and various volunteer positions including the Finance Committee and was a State Cookie Chairperson. She has been an avid GSSNE Rhody Rockets canoe team supporter since 1965.

2015 Leading Women Awards

In 2015, we held our first annual Leading Women Awards. The event was held on April 9th at the Quidnessett Country Club in North Kingstown, RI.

Those honored at the first annual event included:

  • Laurie White
  • Judy Sansone
  • Daynia La-Force
  • Betty Cugini
  • The Honorable Gina M. Raimondo