Dena Mistichelli '23 will be honored by Long Hill Township at a ceremony on Wednesday, May 10, as a recipient of the Girl Scouts Gold Star Award. A member of Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey No. 4581, she officially received the Gold Award designation, the highest honor a Girl Scout can achieve, on January 23.
Dena transformed an overgrown and disregarded outdoor space at The Center for Faith Justice (CFJ) in Lawrence, NJ into a spirituality garden, focusing on the issue of mental health and wellbeing. The facility hosts retreatants from the state and throughout the world several times each year.
“They lacked a proper outdoor space, which led to many retreat activities being performed in a parking lot,” said Dena, who has attended several CFJ activities through the JusticeworX program. She has experienced firsthand how critical it would be for CFJ to have a proper outdoor space.
With the help of her troopmates, friends, and fellow JusticeworX participants, Dena created a spiritual labyrinth. She planned the garden’s layout, the required materials, resources, and finances, and coordinated a schedule to facilitate each step. She spoke with business owners to obtain the best prices on materials, worked with CFJ to plan the best garden for their use, and learned the proper tools and procedures for weeing, pruning, and preparation of the space. She was not afraid to do the dirty work and led her volunteers by example. She also learned and strengthened her leadership, creativity, communication, and planning skills.
After researching mental health issues, Dena created a PowerPoint presentation featuring tips and facts which retreatants can be access via QR code posted in the garden. They can also provide feedback about the garden using another QR code posted there. To spread the word, she reached out to several retreat centers within New York and New Jersey, providing information on mental health, spiritual labyrinths, and a “How To” guide so that they could develop their own gardens.
“This entire experience was truly an opportunity for learning and growth,” reflected Dena. “Not only did I strengthen and gain new skills, but I further expanded my knowledge regarding the importance of mental health and wellbeing. Working with CFJ was a full-circle experience and because of my participation in various retreats there, I was able to give back to them and help them. I am incredibly proud and grateful to have earned my Gold Award and to have created the spirituality labyrinth and garden, promoting mental wellness.”