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Local Girl Scout Wins Big National Honor For Helping Empower Women

HUNTINGTON BEACH ( —  Two local Girl Scouts -- among ten in the entire nation -- are being giving the organization's highest honor.

The two are lauded as "women of distinction" for their gold award-winning projects that empower women.

CBS2's Amy Johnson spoke to Pooja Nagpal of Manhattan Beach -- one of the local winners about garnering the prestigious honor. (The other winner was Liza Villanueva of Anaheim.)

Nagpal  created her project two years ago when she was 15. It was called: "For a Change, Defend."

She taught young girls how to defend themselves.

"I taught about 40 girls," she says, "from ages 14-17  in a school in a village [in India] self defense and female empowerment."

Each of the ten award winners receives a $5,000 scholarship.

Nagpal, herself is a second-degree black belt in Taekwondo.

"I've always wanted to use those skills to teach a curriculum," she says.

Nagpal has also set up a non-profit organization to keep the classes and self-defense workshops going in rural villages in India. She's trained several people who can also teach classes in her absence.

"It is wonderful to see that that compassion is there," Pavan Nagpal says about his daughter. "So happy actually, and she had it at such a young age."

"[These girls are] the best of the best," says Melanie Larsen with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. "These are projects that have a global impact. And Pooja's project is incredibly impressive. This is clearly something she is passionate about."

Nagpal says her program doesn't just teach young women how to be physically strong in the US or abroad.

"It's not just physical strength but also mental strength," Nagpal says, "and that's where women's empowerment comes into play."

Nagpal and the other nine recipients will be honored in New York City next week.







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