Jennifer Fukunaga, daughter of Cheryl Shojinaga and John Fukunaga, was awarded the Girl Scouts of America’s Gold Award in Pasadena for her work with the Richstone Family Center in Hawthorne.
To earn the Gold Award, the highest award bestowed by the Girl Scouts, a candidate is required to plan and implement a challenging, large-scale project that is innovative, engages others, and has a lasting impact on its target community with an emphasis on sustainability.
Jennifer is a member of Troop 8475 in Manhattan Beach, has been a Girl Scout for 11 years, and previously earned her Bronze and Silver Awards. Her interest in working with young children and her concern over the growing obesity rate among American children led her to create a gardening and healthy eating program at Richstone.
Richstone is a child abuse treatment and prevention center that, among other things, operates the Kids Club, an afterschool program that provides a safe, nurturing learning environment for children in the community.
She contacted Allison Tanaka, Richstone’s development director and head of volunteer opportunities and special events, who suggested that Jennifer begin a community garden project at the center.
Prior attempts at starting a community garden had not been successful. Jennifer believed that key to the garden’s success was ensuring that the children be vested in the garden and its continuation.
Working closely with Maribel Amaya, the director of the Kids Club, she developed a plan to teach the children not only how to grow fruits and vegetables and the value of healthy eating, but also to teach them how to prepare simple, delicious fruit and vegetable dishes and give them the responsibility for maintaining and watering the garden.
Because Jennifer could not be at the Kids Club every day, the children were given a schedule setting out the days on which they would be responsible for watering. As the project progressed, many of the children, including many who initially showed little interest in the garden, became more engaged and eventually took ownership of the garden.
She solicited donations from the International Garden Center, a local nursery, and also enlisted the help of members of the National Charity League Inc., Manhattan-Hermosa Chapter. Jennifer arranged for the members to “adopt” the garden and regularly volunteer to help ensure that it will continue into the future. The garden is now working on its third harvest and has expanded into another space at Richstone.
Jennifer recently graduated from Chadwick School in Palos Verdes and in the fall will be attending Elon University in North Carolina, where she has been selected to participate in the Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows Program.