Celebrating the POWER of Girl

By GSKSMO CEO, Joy Wheeler

Why am I Excited for International Day of the Girl?
Today is our opportunity to call special attention to major issues happening right now that supports this 100% youth-led movement for gender justice and youth rights. Gender inequality is a reality we can’t ignore and the issue isn’t confined to developing countries. The World Economic Forum ranks the United States 51st in terms of gender equality out of 149 countries! 

The United Nations established the official “International Day of the Girl Child” to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for efforts to improve girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential. The U.S. Day of the Girl is a bold move on the part of girls and their supporters to break the cycle of discrimination and violence and promote and protect the full benefits of their human rights.

How are you celebrating? Is there something you can DO to make a difference? Yes, there is!

There is NO organization better aligned with these goals than Girl Scouts! We have the most experience in girl leadership development throughout the world. On this special day, we’re lifting up the Gold Award– a prestigious award earned by more than 1 million girls since 1916. Gold Award Girl Scouts are the visionaries and the doers who take on a major challenge project to “make the world a better place.” The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable girl—proof that not only can she make a difference, but that she already has. Seniors and Ambassadors (9th-12th graders) who earn the Gold Award take action on issues that are of great concern to them and drive lasting change in their communities and beyond. They take on challenges as diverse as Alzheimer’s Disease education and support, teenage suicide intervention, environmental cleanup, literacy reading programs and STEM discovery.

Research shows that Gold Award Girl Scouts have more positive life outcomes as adult women– measured by volunteerism, community and civic engagement, education level and socioeconomic status. We can proudly claim the work of Gold Award Girl Scouts address the critical issues in today’s world head on.  Get inspired by watching Girl Scouts’ powerful 30 second PSA, The Mark of the Truly Remarkable and get to know some of our region’s Gold Award Girl Scouts. 

On this Day of the Girl, I ask you to Stand Up for Girls. You can take action right now! Contribute to Girl Scouts, volunteer as a community partner or mentor and contact ME to learn about our movement and become a Champion for Girls by joining the 51% Solution!

GSKSMO Troop Money Earning Guide

As you kick off your Girl Scout year, you are likely starting to brainstorm activities and events that require funds. As you start planning for these expenses, we want to remind you of a few guidelines around money earning as a troop. Before you dive in, be familiar with the 5 Steps to Money Earning as a Girl Scout Troop!

Quick Checklist:

  • Participate in Council Product Programs: Candy, Nuts & Magazine and Cookies – These are the primary money earning sources for troops across our council and across the country.
  • Assess troop needs – You will be required to indicate how you will use the funds generated by your additional money earning activity. If you are earning money for a trip, complete your travel application and receive approval prior to fundraising initiatives.
  • Brainstorm with your troop what type of additional activities you want to do to earn money – The process should be girl led and age appropriate.
  • Complete your Money Earning Application – involve your girls in completing the application and share the questions with them
  • Determine if you need to purchase additional insurance for non-members (common in babysitting fundraisers) and do so at least 2 weeks prior to event.
  • Evaluate – How did it go?  What did your girls learn? Is this an activity you would recommend to another troop? Share your ideas and experiences.  

Do’s and Don’ts:

Do: Be creative, use your skills, talk to other troops, utilize your network, get parental permission and girl buy-in, follow all local health and safety laws as well Safety Activity Checkpoints.

Don’t: Fundraise for other organizations, endorse or campaign for any public or elected official, sell or endorse commercial products, use games of chance like raffles or lotteries, or solicit money or in-kind donations directly. This includes crowd funding like GoFundMe (the only exception is Girl Scouts with approval working on a Gold Award).

For more information on Troop Money earning, refer to Troop Leader Central or communicate with your Troop Experience Manager!  

STEMMy Awards

by Joy Wheeler, CEO, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri

Women in STEMM
I can’t tell you how excited I am to watch Girl Scout Supporter Panela Leung win a STEMMy Award from the Central Exchange today. These awards celebrate the accomplishments of all women in Kansas City who are setting trends and breaking barriers in their STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics or medicine) fields.

We nominated Panela as an Enterprising Innovator in the technology field, based on her work as a go-getter and innovator helping fuel the pipeline of STEMM leaders. Her business, Generation Maker Lab, supports girls and boys, and she puts a laser focus on the engagement of girls. She volunteers her time to lead local Girl Scouts astronomy programs, expertly helping girls see the power of STEMM and how their ideas and big thoughts can be put into action. She is truly building the pipeline and showing girls what is possible by sharing about her career and community work and providing hands-on activities that capture the imagination.

Panela Leung supports our Astronomy Club Girl Scouts in creating a brand new “Reach for the Stars” mural at Camp Tongawood.

Did you know that women make up 50 percent of the college-educated workforce but hold only 24 percent of the STEMM jobs in Kansas City? In the manufacturing sector alone, the country is short 1 million workers right now, and that number is multiplying. How do we think we’re going to close that gap if we don’t harness the potential of ALL potential workers, including our future females who will enter the workforce.

Girl Scouts is how. As we prepare girls for a lifetime of leadership, we have pledged to build the STEM pipeline by 2.5 million girls by 2025. The STEM programming we provide girls from Kindergarten to age 18 is critical to keeping young girls who are interested in STEM pursuing that dream.

Just a few examples: We have dozens of badges in STEM-related categories, such as Naturalist, Digital Art, Science and Technology, Innovation and Financial Literacy. And we hold numerous community partner events, where girls get hands-on with the practical application of fields like computer programming, science, engineering and finance.

So, we send kudos to Central Exchange for recognizing local women for STEMMy leadership. And we join with them in the commitment to support The 51% Solution to our workforce challenges.

My Challenge Through Delicate Arch: Guest Post by Girl Scout Cadette Hayley S.

This summer 12 Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors & Ambassadors traveled across the country to explore the American Southwest with Girl Scout staff and volunteers. They visited five states, six National Parks, hiked 30 miles, slept at five different campsites and made countless memories and overcame obstacles. Read how Hayley overcame her own personal challenge on the trip!

June 1st through June 8th I went on a Southwest excursion where we went to national parks in each state of Colorado, Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. We went on multiple hikes that had few challenges along the way but were very worth it. As we saw what I would say is some of the most beautiful sites in my life.

One of my favorite sites I got to see was at  Arches National Park, were we got the opportunity to see Delicate Arch. I was told that it was a hard hike but had the most beautiful site and so I took the challenge because not only did I want to see the site but I wanted to be able to say I made the hike. However it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be for the hike was long and was basically made up of an uphill that was huge. When we had started I was trying to motivate myself but I’m not going to lie it was kind of hard for I felt I couldn’t breathe. It made sense because I have asthma so that didn’t make things any easier, but I still really tried to make it but I just couldn’t. I got up a little of the uphill until I told myself I couldn’t do it. I had felt hopeless as I saw the other girls in the group walk up the hill because I knew they were much better than me. As I sat there watching everyone walk past a girl name Adele sat near me she also had challenges. I almost felt a little comfort because I guess it wasn’t just me that was alone facing a challenge.

My group leader M.C. was talking to me. It was pretty much small talk at first but then she started motivating me and Adele she actually believed we could do it. It was inspiring to see that she actually had belief in us.

So we decided as a small group to keep going and face every challenge not alone but together. So we set goals for ourselves as we would go to whatever we thought was a good place to stop and take a break, but with that we would go to shrubs or cracks in the canyon and name those things as we took a break. We thought it was a fun way to waste time and to my shock once I knew it we were already over the huge hill I thought was impossible to get up. I was proud of myself I was just so happy I could do it, it’s a great accomplishment to me.

We passed the other group that had gone up before us as they were going down and that’s when I finally got it realize I can do it and it’s not a matter of who’s better than who cause we all only go at our own pace. When we finally got to delicate arch I was so excited and I finally gained a little reassurance in myself. So if it wasn’t for M.C or Adele I don’t think I would of made it so I’m so glad we were all there.

This hike overall means so much to me for it was teamwork that made it work. It was so worth it because of the challenges that made it so I guess exciting and then when you finally get to your destination you feel great. I just want to thank everyone on that trip because I got to experience things beyond this world and it was amazing. I would 10/10 do this all over again cause that’s just how worth it, it was.

Our next Outdoor Excursion is to Rocky Mountain National Park from July 26 – August 1, 2020 and registration will open in October. Don’t miss the chance to overcome your own personal obstacles and feel on top of the world!

4 Questions with Joy Broils on the What’s and Why’s of Mentorship Today

Joy Broils, Slcket Director of Community Relations

Have you heard about our latest partnership with Slcket?! We’re teaming up with this rising tech company in Kansas City to connect High School Girl Scouts with exceptional professionals from our community. But why is this important? What will girls gain out of this? We caught up with Slcket’s Joy Broils, Director of Community Relations, to help you get a better idea of what mentorship is, and why it’s so important as you anticipate and prepare for your next steps in life!

1.   What does it mean to have a mentor and what can our mentees expect from this experience?  Having a mentor gives each girl a point of contact within a field of expertise in which they have interest; someone available for questions, guidance, advice, or hands-on experience to help the girls make more informed decisions regarding their future. 

2.   What advice do you have for girls and their parents / caregivers today to best prepare for their future? 

My number one piece of advice for every girl growing up in today’s world is to find your voice and use your voice.  When I was a teenager, I was really shy outside of the classroom.  I liked raising my hand in class and answering questions, but that changed when kids started to bully me about always having the answer.  So I let those kids and their mean comments affect my behavior in class and my shyness completely took over every part of my life.  I lost the little bit of confidence that I had and lost my desire to share my thoughts and ideas – I lost my voice.  It took me a long time to find it again and realize that my thoughts and ideas were just as important as everyone else’s.  Fast forward to today, I make sure that if I’m in a meeting or at a networking event that I’m sharing my thoughts and ideas.  Sometimes that takes persistence, especially if I am in a big group, but I have found that confidence and persistence are keys to being heard.  I don’t have to be the loudest person in the room, but through confidence and persistence, my thoughts and ideas (my voice) will be heard.    

3.  What does networking with professionals mean and why is it important? 

Networking is a large part of what I do in my role at Slcket.  Networking is meeting new people, building relationships, having a one-on-one conversation to get to know each other better.  It is very important to make connections in whatever industry you are in.  The friendships I have developed through networking are vital and those friends are among the first people I go to for advice, referrals, and opportunities.  Those friends are champions for me and I am in turn champions for them.  So many times, a person will walk into a networking group for the first time and be discouraged that they didn’t come out of that event with multiple sales and/or referrals.  That person didn’t take time to build relationships with other people at the event.  They were just looking for the quick sale.  In the business world, most people feel more comfortable doing business with someone that they have built a relationship with rather than someone who is a complete stranger.  People feel good about making a referral to a friend if the person they are referring has done work for them before or is a friend.  Imagine if you referred a complete stranger to your friend who needed help with painting their house.  That referral could work out great or be a complete disaster.  If you had referred someone who had painted your house or you had built a relationship with through networking, you know that your friend will have a much better experience.     

4.    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

I have a bracelet with the inscription “Admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own.”  I think this actually goes beyond beauty.  Admire someone else’s sports skills…  Admire someone else’s character traits….  The list could go on and on.  We spend so much time looking at what other people around us are doing and comparing ourselves to other people.  Instead I think we should admire someone else’s ________ (you can fill in the blank) and at the same time admire our own.  Having that confidence is hard, really at any age, but especially when you are a teenager.  Remember you have your individual, unique qualities and embrace those qualities as uniquely YOU!  

Are you ready to embrace your own qualities and start building connections with those in fields you aspire to join one day?  Register for this mentorship program that kicks off with a casual pre-meeting on Sept. 11 where we’ll get you prepped and ready for the kick-off event at Slcket on Sept. 18 where you’ll meet perspective mentors!

Firsts with FIRST LEGO League and KC STEM Alliance

Last year, Girl Scout Brownie Troop 4070 participated in the FIRST LEGO League Jr. (FLL) program thanks to support from KC STEM Alliance and IBM! These go-getters split their bi-weekly meetings up, alternating between traditional Girl Scout meetings and working on the FLL Jr. curriculum which is designed to introduce kids to STEM concepts. From September through March Troop 4070 worked in three sub teams to build and program their WEDO 2.0 robots and design an outer space city. The program culminated with the FLL Jr. EXPO where they showcased all they learned and what their robot could do with a little friendly competition!

Troop leader Alanna Beare was instrumental in facilitating the program in collaboration with KC STEM Alliance and additional material funds provided through IBM, where she works. Through FLL Jr., Girl Scouts earned badges in both Think Like a Programmer and Think Like an Engineer journeys.

“The FLL program is directly aligned to the new STEM programs developed by Girl Scouts of the USA. Overall the skills they learn by working in small teams lends itself to Girl Scout Mission,” Alanna said. 

Troop 4070 enjoyed their experience so much, they are going to do a second year with the program with new challenges and more LEGO robot programming next year!

“The KC STEM Alliance is pleased to partner with GSKSMO by embarking on a new strategy to engage girls in creative problem solving through the development of STEM skills. The core values of FIRST LEGO League are directly aligned with the mission of Girl Scouts. The KC STEM Alliance partnership with GSKSMO provides an opportunity to reach more girls helping them create their own future and building a talent pipeline for Kansas City,” Martha McCabe, Executive Director of KC STEM Alliance said.

Is your troop interested in participating in the FLL program? The KC STEM Alliance will be sponsoring additional teams this year and your troop could be one of them! For more information, contact our STEM Community Program Manager, Kate Pankey at kpankey@gsksmo.org. There will be an informational meeting on Aug. 24 for those interested in learning more!

Girl Scouts: The 51% Solution

by Joy Wheeler, CEO, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas and NW Missouri

It’s time for the Girl Scouts to put a stake in the ground. That stake marks a future where girls and women – who represent 51% of our population – become the solution to the serious workforce challenges that are weighing down our economy. A future where the gender gaps in pay, socioeconomic status, funding and power no longer exist.

You probably realize that we’re pretty far from that future right now. But I want you to know today that the Girl Scouts are driving us there. We’re preparing Kindergarten – 12th-grade girls for a lifetime of leadership and workforce impact. And we need your help to succeed. We need you to join us in Standing Up for G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders).

Imagine an equitable future
Take a few minutes and imagine with me what is possible. Picture a world where the United States is the definitive leader in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) – precisely because we have learned to harness the power of all people to lead in those jobs, regardless of gender. Consider how your business could excel if you had access to a complete, well-trained and flexible pipeline of workers at all times. What would it be like if Capitol Hill, our board rooms and our leadership teams reflected the gender balance of our adult population?

Now, just think about the possibilities for our country if every child had the opportunity to succeed. What would happen if girls had the same socioeconomic, mental and physical health status as boys? And how would it affect our economy and our social programs if women received the same pay as men doing similar work?

You would like that, wouldn’t you? I mean, who wouldn’t?

We have a long way to go
There’s no disputing we are quite far from achieving that vision of the future. And it seems like we’re actually going backward right now. The U.S. can’t fill the increasing demand for STEM workers – not with men and not with women. And is it any wonder? We know that more than 80 percent of young girls are interested in STEM jobs, but only 13 percent push through the gender bias and pursue this career path. The Smithsonian estimated that 2.4 million STEM jobs would go unfilled last year.

And women are hugely under-represented in government: Around a quarter of state and federal legislators are women. Women hold only 20 percent of corporate board seats. And only 6 percent of CEOs are female.

With that level of representation, is it any wonder that the health and socioeconomic status of girls is lagging, too? Sadly, our Girl Scout research tells us more girls are living in poverty today than they were 10 years ago. And at the current rate of change, the gender pay gap – with women earning just 80 cents for every dollar made by men – isn’t expected to close for another 90 years. Fully two-thirds of minimum wage jobs in the U.S. are held by women.

Girl Scouts can get us there
Clearly, women can be the solution to these social and economic gaps. And Girl Scouts are a key contributor to the 51% solution. The Girl Scouts bring 100+ years of experience and a research-based approach to providing topnotch, innovative programming in financial literacy, STEM, healthy living, environmental stewardship and global citizenship, delivered in the way girls learn best. We are preparing girls for a lifetime of leadership – ensuring women have a voice in all settings that is commensurate with their 51% stake.

Our programs connect girls with female role models in their communities. They immerse young women in a wide variety of opportunities and experiences so they can pursue their full potential. And they challenge girls to the highest standard of achievement through the Gold Award.

The path of a young girl to teenager largely defines the path of the next generation. Will she become a pregnant teenager, leading to a lack of education, hopelessness and economic instability? Or will she become a woman who is supported and nurtured to have the courage and confidence that comes from enriched experiences and education? A woman who knows her worth and is prepared to reject domestic violence and pursue equity? By changing a girl’s confidence to pursue opportunities and reach her full potential, we decrease the demand for social and rehabilitative services. We drive more leadership for female equality, representation and inclusion. In short, we expand the potential for success among everyone in our society – all genders, all ages, all socioeconomic strata.

Single-gender learning is the right thing to do
So let’s address the elephant in the room – the Boy Scouts’ attempt to add girls to their programming. On the surface it sounds kind and equitable, right? We should allow girls to have the same experiences as boys. But let’s be real for a moment. Most of us can agree that boys and girls are different. While they deserve equitable opportunities, pursuing those together doesn’t always make sense.

Our research bears this out. Girls who attend single-gender schools have measurably higher academic success. Did you know a girl will generally lose 30 percent of her confidence between age 8 and 14? The single-gender learning environment provided by the Girl Scouts gives her a safe space to explore, step out of her comfort zone, take risks and become a leader. Her courage, confidence and character grow as she pursues outdoor adventure, entrepreneurship, STEM and civic engagement activities.

Girl Scouts are THE KEY to increasing STEM staffing and leadership
Here again, research underscores the role of the Girl Scouts in helping girls lead the way. Among female tech leaders, an astonishing 80 percent are Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts are twice as likely to be interested in STEM careers. That’s why Girl Scouting provides STEM programming to girls from kindergarten to age 18. We are committed to adding 2.5 million girls to the STEM pipeline by 2025.

Girl Scouts are more successful overall
It’s not just about STEM, though. The Girl Scouting program produces concrete outcomes in almost every measure of success. If you’re a Girl Scout: 

  • Your sense of self, community involvement and confidence in the future is going up during middle school, while your peers are declining in confidence.   
  • You are twice as likely to have a bachelor’s degree.
  • You earn 23 percent more than other women.
  • You’re more likely to engage in a variety of fun and challenging activities, have supportive relationships and be an active learner.

Adding to that, if you’re a Gold Award Girl Scout – representing five percent of the 50 million alums in the U.S. – you’re more successful, engaged and happy as a worker. And you have more positive life outcomes – measured by volunteerism, community and civic engagement, education level and socioeconomic status.

Girl Scouting fuels civic and business leadership
If you’re wondering whether Girl Scouts make a meaningful difference in achieving that future we discussed earlier, consider this: In 2018, 58 percent of women elected to Congress were Girl Scouts, and nearly three-quarters of women in the Senate are alums. Five of the current nine female state governors are Girl Scouts. And every female secretary of state has been a Girl Scout. It’s clear that Girl Scouts builds leaders who make a lasting impact on their communities.

Girl Scouts are well represented in business, too, with 66 percent of professional women and more than half of female entrepreneurs and business owners being alums. And you thought it was all about cookies!

The power of Girl Scouts goes beyond skill-building                                                              
I’d like to share a story with you that helps illustrate the tremendous impact our program can have on a girl’s life. Paige Taylor has experienced mental illness in her family and has been struggling with depression and anxiety herself since age 10. The high school senior from Lansing, Kansas, has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten. She calls her girl squad her “safe place” to share and says her sister Girl Scouts are her real sisters. The confidence Paige has gained through Girl Scouts has allowed her to achieve a level of success she otherwise wouldn’t have dreamed of. She recently completed her Gold Award, where she bravely shared her personal story, opened a door for other teens to share their stories, got school officials to acknowledge the statistics and add more resources, and stood with the Kansas governor who signed a state-wide proclamation. Paige plans to pursue sports psychology and counseling when she attends college next fall. When we asked what gave her the courage and confidence to break away from the stigma and challenges of mental illness, Paige gave Girl Scouts the credit: “Without Girl Scouts, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I know my voice matters and I’m empowered to continue to use it as I pursue my dreams.” Now, that’s the kind of difference we can make!

Why your support is critical right now
The value of Girl Scouts and the essential role of our contributions to solving these issues is clear. Now, more than ever, we need your help – your money, your influence and your passion.

Funding: Cookie sales make the Girl Scout experience memorable. The program supports girls to grow their financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills as it builds their confidence. But how many other organizations require their beneficiaries to fund their own services by the sweat of their brows? We need your private funding, too. Based on the latest reports available, Girl Scouts received just half the private funding of Boy Scouts, while serving approximately the same number of youth.  

Influence: We’re asking you to talk about the Girl Scouts. Use your connections to bring us to the table to represent girls and all the potential they bring to EVERY discussion about workforce development, economic equality and diversity.

Daily Advocacy: We are asking you to use your power to advocate for girls and women everywhere. If you’ve participated in Girl Scouts or have Girl Scouts in your family, you ARE Girl Scouts! Yes, gentlemen, even you. Are you Man Enough to be a Girl Scout? We want you to wear the Girl Scout identity and do things like follow and share the powerful stories of our Girl Scouts locally and beyond.

The only way we’re going to bring this solution to life is by proactively championing girls and women in our everyday lives – giving them a seat at the table and Standing up for G.I.R.L.s.   Advocating isn’t enough – we need you to be their champions – when they’re in the room and when they’re not. Because there’s something missing today – that’s the other 51%. None of us is as powerful as all of us!

Barbara Hanson – A Family Legacy of Supporting G.I.R.L.s

A family connected in Girl Scouting! Meet Barbara Hanson, a former Girl Scout troop leader, Kaw Valley Council staff member, Juliette Gordon Low Society Member and all around awesome G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)TM! For more than 30 years, Barbara helped raise Girl Scouts as a leader and inspired so many more when she worked at the former Kaw Valley Council for nearly 15 years and served in several volunteer roles. Following in her footsteps, her daughter Lori is a Gold Award Girl Scout as well as a Membership Manager at GSKSMO.  Barbara also has four granddaughters, three of which are Girl Scouts – Claire, Kate & Aidin. As a volunteer, Barbara led her granddaughter Claire’s troop when she was in the program and is currently involved in Aidin’s Girl Scout journey! Being Girl Scout Green runs in the family!

Girl Scout adventures for the Hanson’s!

Barbara started leading troops in the mid-1970s in Topeka, KS when Lori was in elementary school and continued until about 2008. As her daughter Lori recalls, “My mom became the leader when the former leader handed her the Brownie stuff and said she ‘we’re moving, you’re the leader now”!” That turned into decades of service to Girl Scouts and too many family experiences to count.

One of the best parts for Barbara was watching her own daughter, as well as her Girl Scout sisters, grow as people. “I loved watching them in Girl Scouts because girls had experiences they wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Barbara said. From trips to Kansas City that let some girls visit Missouri for the very first time, to camping adventures, there were so many opportunities that came from Girl Scouts. Many times, these experiences impacted the adult volunteers just as it did the girls.

Lori remembers her mother gaining from the experiences just as the troop did. “My mother found a passion for the outdoors that she didn’t know she had. About 6 years after become a volunteer she led a council backpacking trip with other Girl Scouts while I was on my Destination trip,” Lori said. Exposure to things that push you outside your comfort zone is a hallmark of Girl Scouting and in this case helped Barbara discover a new passion.

Left: Aidin, Lori & Barbara Hanson; Right: Larry, Barbara and Lori Hanson

Beyond troop life, Barbara found that Girl Scouts let her get closer to her daughter. “I believe that Lori and I’s closeness came from our Girl Scouting experiences,” Barbara said. She also found a close community with Girl Scouts, making friends and growing her circle of amazing families. “[Girl Scouts] has so many great experiences, especially when you get involved as an adult. You gain just as much as the girls do and you make friends,” Barbara said. Combining service, leadership and community – that’s what Girl Scouts has always been about. The Hanson family is an amazing example of what it means to be Girl Scouts through and through!

Today, Barbara continues to support the mission as a member of the Juliette Gordon Low Society. She truly exemplifies what it means to a Girl Scout for life – finding new ways to support the mission as life changes! From serving as a leader, to becoming a staff member, to being an advocate and now through generous financial giving, we thank Barbara, Lori and the entire Hanson family for all they’ve given to girls!

Leaving a Legacy for an Inspirational Leader

The Lela Mae Girl Scout Adventure Fund!

Girl Scout leaders are inspirations for the girls in their troops and create a lifetime of memories. For Karen Ebert, and all the girls in her troop, that inspirational leader was Lela Mae Knipp. Not only was Lela Mae a fantastic troop leader who pushed the girls to be the very best versions of themselves, she stayed involved in Girl Scouting for more than 60 years! Karen was a Girl Scout in the early 1960s, a time when women were not always encouraged to dream big about their careers – but Lela Mae gave them that confidence through Girl Scouting! This lasting legacy of service and supporting generations of girls inspired Karen to do something incredible – invest in the future of girls in Lela Mae’s name.

For Karen Ebert, creating a fund for Girl Scouts that will leave a legacy was the best way to honor Lela Mae. “I believe leaving a legacy is important. As a Girl Scout alum, I wanted to give back to the organization that meant so much to me,” Karen says. To honor Lela Mae’s 60 years of volunteer service, Karen set-up the Lela Mae Girl Scout Adventure Fund in 2018 at the West Region Volunteer Celebration. This fund will provide financial support to girls in Westmoreland and throughout Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee Counties so they experience incredible adventures in Girl Scouting.

As a girl, Karen remembers Lela Mae’s generosity and the courage she instilled in her. “To Lela Mae, every girl was unique and special,” Karen said. One memory Karen has of this generosity happened when she was selling cookies to raise money for camp. “I took my money from my cookie sales to Lela Mae, and she said to me ‘oh you are so close, but you are short $14.’ My heart sank and I know she saw that. Later that night, she called to say she ‘miscounted’ and I had just enough to go to camp. I will always think she had something to do with me having ‘just enough,’” Karen said.

With all these amazing memories and life skills that Karen learned from Girl Scouting, she wanted to make sure today’s girls have access to the same opportunities she did. “If people look back at the experience they have in Girl Scouting, I think they would want every girl to have that experience. As adults, I hope we all want to give to the future,” Karen said. Thank you, Karen, for investing and honoring Lela Mae!


Karen Ebert, Lela Mae Knipp and family members, Sonja Stanley, Bonnie Taylor and Melissa Phipps as they presented Girl Scouts with the check to establish the fund.

In March 2019, Lela Mae celebrated her 95th birthday, and Karen Ebert and the Knipp family created a shower of gifts to help local Girl Scouts by donating to the fund, and you can still make a gift as well! A gift of any size to the Lela Mae Girl Scout Adventure Fund in honor of her birthday can be made by via www.gsksmo.org/donate. Thank you to Karen Ebert for establishing this fund to honor an amazing Girl Scout!

Double the Gold, Double the Impact

Spotlight on 2019 Gold Award Girl Scout Twins Claire & Grace Genis

Reaching for Gold is the ultimate goal for every young Girl Scout. However, achieving the Gold Award is much more difficult than one might expect. Gold Award Girl Scouts must take all they have learned from their time as a Girl Scout and develop a project that will create sustainable lasting change in their community.

 To earn a Gold Award, Girl Scouts epitomize what it means to be a G.I.R.L., by being a go-getter, an innovator, a risk-taker and a leader. These are the reasons the Gold Award is the most prestigious award for Girls in the world! Grace and Claire Genis are two Girl Scouts in the 2019 Gold Award class who have a special sisterhood beyond the Girl Scout community. They are twins!

When asked to describe their sister in three words, Claire describes Grace as “intelligent, hardworking and kind.” Grace describes Claire as “bubbly, creative and happy”. Since joining Girl Scouts in kindergarten, Grace and Claire have gone on to earn all three of the Highest Awards in Girl Scouting, the Bronze, Silver and Gold Award.

The girls still look back at the beginning of their Girl Scout journey fondly, recalling a visit to the fire station as Daisies. “The firefighters talked to us and we got a tour […] I just thought it was super cool,” Grace said. “I really liked the camp outs when we learned about astronomy and the telescopes,” Claire said.

The idea of two girls Going for Gold in one household seemed impossible but these Go-Getter Girl Scouts and their family worked together to help their local community. Claire and Grace have grown up inspired by their mother who followed her heart and works with special needs students. Her suggestions helped the girls use their own passions to form strong and innovative project plans.

Grace’s project, titled Operation Explore the World, addressed the lack of materials in her community for visually impaired students. Grace is visually impaired and built four light boxes, which are used to develop awareness of light, color and objects for students also challenged with a visual impairment. As a student who has faced the same obstacles, Grace knows the power this project will have on young kids who are just beginning their educational journey.

Claire’s project, titled Music for Everyone, addressed the lack of clubs and activities offered to special needs students in her high school. Claire developed a music club for these students and received 12 donated instruments; a total value of over $10,000 dollars. A majority of the instrument donations were supplied by Band of Angels, an organization that collects donated instruments and distributes them to children in need.

Claire and Grace implemented their leadership skills by getting their community members involved with their projects. Grace successfully recruited high school students and family members to help build lightboxes that are sturdy and will last for years. Claire recruited and organized students at her high school to teach music to special needs students each week. “Once I told [other band students] about my project, they immediately jumped in and said, ‘Hey I want to help!’” said Claire. She also inspired students to become leaders themselves and continue the music club next year after Claire graduates from high school.

By stepping out of their comfort zone and being risk-takers, the girls were able to meet people from all different walks of life. “I have made connections and relationships with people I may not have known if not for Girl Scouts” Grace said. Girl Scouts has given the Genis sisters friendships and a life-long sisterhood. “I am so humbled that I could be part of this organization from such a young age.”

After Claire and Grace graduate high school in May they plan to attend college together in the fall at Johnson County Community College. Claire plans to pursue her passion of playing music and Grace will pursue a career in nursing. The twins hope Girl Scouts who plan to Go for Gold will find a project they are truly inspired and passionate about. Claire says, “The amount of work you put into it WILL pay off! Keep [Girl] Scouting!”

Learn about all 47 of our 2019 Gold Award Girl Scouts and what they did to make our world a better place at gsksmo.org/inspire