Spotlighting GS Alumna Elizabeth Bourquin
Girl Scout cookies – delicious and full of tradition. What many people don’t realize is the lifetime skills (goal setting, money management, decision making, people skills and business ethics) instilled in girls. One Girl Scout shows just how far cookie sales can take you with hard work and goals. Meet Elizabeth Bourquin, or “Weebles” if you met her at camp, from Topeka, KS. This Girl Scout alumna used her brains and business skills to have experiences that otherwise would have been out of reach.
As a 1st grader, Elizabeth begged her mother, Dora Lee, to let her and her sister become Girl Scouts. “None of the parents wanted to be the leader, but I begged the hardest, so my mom did,” Elizabeth said. As a single mom, leading Troop 428 wasn’t always easy, but it was important to her because of the experience it provided. “[My mom] grew up on a farm and didn’t get many experiences outside of school and farming. She wanted me and my sister to have experiences she didn’t get,” Elizabeth said.
Throughout their Girl Scout years, Troop 428 did “Try It” badges and community program events. As they got older, they set their eyes on a bigger adventure – travel. Enter the Cookie Program. As younger girls, they began planning trips and budgeting. To use their resources wisely, the troop planned trips to Kansas City, Leavenworth and the Kansas City Zoo and budgeted to stay at camps rather than hotels.
With a goal in mind, the girls worked hard and raised funds through cookie sales to travel to Nebraska, Mall of America, Chicago and a big trip in high school to California (San Diego Zoo), Arizona (Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Four Corners), Oklahoma and Colorado (camped in Garden of the Gods). In addition, they funded smaller troop activities and projects. They sent a teddy bear to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City as part of a multi-council program and found creative ways to get the most out of their troop experience (their bear came back home with special patches and awards).
The troop’s annual cookie booth in Goodyear’s parking lot became a popular spot in Topeka. More than a decade later, people still ask Goodyear when Girl Scouts will be selling cookies there. “One year radio V100 did a live broadcast from our booth and I did a sales pitch. A car salesman came by and said when I turned 16 he wanted to offer me a job,” Elizabeth said. What a way to show her leadership skills!
Dora wanted the girls to take full advantage of the business skills they could learn from the Cookie Program, so she insisted they learn by doing. “It was important to my mom that we were able to manage money, do the math and get customers all by ourselves. She was there and watched, but she wanted us to learn,” said Elizabeth. They had to make connections in the community and work as many booth opportunities as possible. When it was freezing and other troops stayed home, Elizabeth had personal goals that kept her selling even when it was hard.
Beyond troop trips, Elizabeth’s personal goals of getting to camp and travel motivated her to go above and beyond. And by beyond we mean 3,700+ boxes of individual sales in one year! Some days she would be the only girl working the booth for hours before and after everyone else would take a shift. This dedication paid off. A former cookie funds program at Camp Daisy Hindman earned her an average of 1.5-2 weeks per year at camp because of her sales. This turned into a passion and Elizabeth became “Weebles,” a camp counselor at Camp Daisy from 2007-2009. At camp she wanted to give younger girls the same experiences she had at the camp she calls her second home.
In 2006 cookie funds took her even farther. By selling over 3,700 boxes of cookies she was able to go on two Wider Opportunities to a Kentucky horse ranch and to Boundary Waters in Minnesota. One year she travelled to a horse ranch and learned even more about the power of hard work. “There was work with the fun, which I find really important for girls to learn. If you work hard, you achieve great things. That’s what I took out of Girl Scouts doing the hard work to sell cookies so I could do fun trips,” Elizabeth said.
Elizabeth is now a manager at Payless at a young age, a testament to her business skills. She also has a cosmetology degree, showcasing that blend of creativity and business sense that she developed as a Girl Scout. As a passionate Alumna, Elizabeth participates in camp reunions and plans to begin volunteering. For her, Girl Scouts is more important than ever for girls to be in. “I think it’s really important for girls, especially in society right now, to learn outdoor stuff because we are becoming an indoor society. Girls have to know they can do whatever they want – it’s not man’s world anymore, it’s a woman’s world,” Elizabeth said.
Thank you to Elizabeth for proving that with hard work, anything is possible. Your story is an inspiration! If you knew Weebles at camp or want to share a story, comment below!