Makaela Asher and Jennifer Yamashita from Troop 5325, which meets at the Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, have earned the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting.

The girls were honored for their achievements during the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles Gold Award ceremony on June 4 in Pasadena. The awardees each completed a project of at least 80 hours that created a lasting change in their community.

Makaela sought to bring about change by reducing the use of single-use plastics at the VHB. She educated the temple leadership on sustainable products, such as compostable utensils and food containers, and helped the temple find affordable sources for these products and responsibly recycled existing plastic products. As a result, VHBT’s 2022 Obon Festival featured compostable products in all of its food booths.

She also educated the broader community on this topic as a featured speaker at a tri-temple seminar on environmental awareness that had attendees from throughout Southern California. Makaela’s project continues to have influence as Venice and other temples look to use eco-friendly products at their upcoming Obon Festivals.

Jennifer’s project was sponsored by the Venice Japanese Memorial Monument (VJAMM) Committee. She created an interactive website to educate children on Venice-West Los Angeles Japanese American history. The website features the story of Arnold Maeda, who sadly had to leave his dog behind when his family went to the Manzanar concentration camp. Maeda, who passed away in 2020, was instrumental in getting the VJAMM created. Other stories include the difficulties Rose Honda’s family faced in trying to purchase a home immediately after World War II and the meaning behind the “Aloha to the Neighborhood” mural on Centinela Avenue.

Jennifer presented her project at Kizuna summer camps, VHBT, West Los Angeles United Methodist Church and local schools.

For more information about their projects, email To join or volunteer for Girl Scouts, visit

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