What words come to mind when you think of a Girl Scout? Words like courageous, confident and strong are probably top of mind, right? Now for those of you who understand the incredible sport of rowing, the same words probably come to mind when you think of these awesome athletes.
What an honor it is to have a brand new assistant rowing coach as one of our Girl Scout alumnae. Meet Hanna Wiltfong or Coach “H” as her student athletes call her, originally from Kansas City, Missouri and now a Division 1 NCAA assistant rowing coach at Kansas State University. Hanna has worked incredibly hard to follow her dreams, and she takes her Girl Scout experience with her every step of the way.
“My love of the water and my mom’s encouragement started it all,” Hanna said. “I remember how hard my first sailing experience was, but the support I received from the Girl Scout camp staff made me want to keep going.”
Hanna exemplifies being a Girl Scout. She did it all with her amazing mom, Pam supporting her as troop leader. Hanna began as a Daisy Girl Scout, sold cookies, traveled to Switzerland, experienced the outdoors with troop and resident camping and earned her Gold Award. Hanna made all of these great Girl Scout achievements while excelling academically and as a high school athlete (volleyball was Hanna’s sport).
With such a busy schedule, it would have been easy for Hanna to let Girl Scouts go. Of course, there were times that Hanna’s mom had to push just a bit harder. However, there was determination inside Hanna that kept her going and working toward the next goal. She knew that Girl Scouts was giving her something that no other thing would give – time to strengthen her relationship with her mom and skill-building that would lead her toward future goals.
“There’s a lot that shapes my leadership style, including emulating some of my mom’s great skills and taking what I learned as a Girl Scout – determination and hard work gets you to your goals, accepting and appreciating differences in others and staying true to your values and convictions are just a few things.” Hanna said.
So as her Girl Scout years went by, Hanna returned to camp each summer and got stronger and stronger on the water. She loved the challenge that the water offered. Little did Hanna know at the time, but the skills she was building in the water, as a high school athlete and as a good citizen would come into play soon.
Hanna was ending her high school career and had just earned the highest award in Girl Scouting, the Gold Award. She was ready for the next steps in her journey, and she hoped to land a volleyball scholarship. As she was looking at smaller schools, Hanna received a call from a recruiter at Kansas State University. Now, it wasn’t for volleyball but instead rowing.
Rowing you may be asking yourself? That’s right, rowing recruiters look at high school volleyball and basketball players (tall and strong is the assumption). What the recruiters don’t know at the time is the kind of mental muscle the athlete may have. This discovery comes later when an athlete comes into the program as a red shirt freshman.
Hanna wasn’t sure that neither Kansas State University nor a path in rowing was for her. Don’t worry, here comes the gentle pushing of mom, Pam. Always a sounding board and source of encouragement, Pam knew how to let Hanna process her next steps.
In the end, Hanna accepted the scholarship and worked harder than she ever thought possible. What she found on the rowing team was similar to the sisterhood she found as a Girl Scout. This was a place where a lot of diverse, but equally tough young women came together to work as one team.
Hanna red-shirted her freshman year and worked all year to build her skills and bond with her team. She competitively rowed for five years and served as a graduate assistant for three years. While a graduate assistant, Hanna earned her Master’s Degree in College Student Development-Administration with a masters certificate in Academic Advising.
This summer, Hanna was named as an assistant rowing coach (this program has one head and two assistant coaches). She will be in charge of recruiting new team members and coaching the red shirt freshmen. This is the perfect place for Hanna where she can use her marketing, people skills, ethics and tenacity to support new collegiate athletes. Hmm…. Those skills sound kind of familiar, right?
“Girl Scouting is special – it is the place where girls grow strong,” Hanna said. “Just look at me and know that if you persevere your dreams can become a reality.”
What an incredible and inspiring role model Hanna Wiltfong is! We are so proud of her accomplishments and honored she is a GSKSMO alumna!!
Do you know a GS alumna we should spotlight? Share her story with us.