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Girl Scouts give local teen its highest honor for alopecia project

Posted at 9:32 AM, Aug 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-01 13:22:32-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- At 14 years old, Gabriella Cimmino started losing large patches of hair on her scalp.

“Losing my hair, my thick hair, was scary,” Cimmino said.

Cimmino had just started high school at Our Lady of Peace near University Heights, and doctors assumed the sudden balding was correlated to stress.

“It takes a toll on your mental health, your self-confidence. You feel very alone,” Cimmino said.

In May 2021, Cimmino was diagnosed with alopecia areata. She turned to her Girl Scout troop for support, but no one understood the disease.

“Looking through photos online, there were only pictures of middle-aged men. I didn't feel represented,” the teen told ABC 10News.

Cimmino decided to use her Girl Scout Gold Award project as an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease. She started a health and wellness fair at her school, giving women the opportunity to donate their hair. Cimmino also created tote bags filled with educational pamphlets and books that students could pick up to learn more about alopecia.

“Each of those tote bags were put into every school in the Diocese of San Diego.”

Her work was so profound, the Girl Scouts recognized her work with the Gold Award. It’s their highest honor and only a short list of members are awarded.

“How did it feel when you had earned it?” asked reporter Perla Shaheen.

“It was definitely fulfillment, a lot of accomplishment. A lot of gratitude that I actually experienced everything. I turned a negative to a positive and I would never go back,” Cimmino said.

Cimmino is heading into her senior year and hopes to continue this work in college. She’ll join the Girl Scout’s Gold Award ceremony next year.