Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Girl Scout Inspires Change with Japanese Cultural Festival

Meet high school senior Natalie Anzivino, who knows a thing or two about honor and the importance of taking action to inspire community change. Through her Gold Award project, Natalie brought an entire community together in celebration of Japanese culture by creating an annual cherry blossom festival in Huntington Beach, California.

With the support of the Sister City Association and the City of Huntington Beach, Natalie organized, planned, and executed the First Annual Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival in 2014. She brought together Japanese performers, food vendors, cultural exhibits, and craft and game booths for the event, in addition to recruiting Girl Scout troops and local high school volunteer groups to run the craft and game booths.

 Photograph by Gregory Robertson and courtesy of Historic Wintersburg.
The 2014 festival was such a success that the city made it an annual event. The Second Annual Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival was held in March 2015 and drew 5,000 attendees, with twice the number of exhibitors. Due to the astounding success of the original event, a delegation of city officials from Anjo, Japan (Huntington Beach’s “sister city”) attended this year to participate in a cherry tree planting ceremony, honoring the relationship and ties between the two communities.

In addition to increasing awareness about Japanese culture and the importance of cultural exchange, Natalie’s project inspired other students interested in community service to give back. Each year, the program will be managed by selected student ambassadors.

“I was inspired by the change in perspective that occurred within the community as a result of the festival I organized,” Natalie said. “One man that was interviewed at the event was of Japanese descent and he relished the opportunity to show his children some of their heritage that they had not experienced until the festival came along. I was proud to have created awareness of these cultural traditions and believe strongly that celebrating different cultures within our community strengthens us all.”

Girl Scouts helps girls like Natalie become the leaders they are meant to be and take action to impact their community. That’s why we launched the ToGetHerThere campaign, the largest fundraising campaign for girls in history. We know that when you invest in girls, they change the world. With Girl Scouts by their side, our girls will develop the courage, confidence, and character they need to reach their fullest potential and transform their world.