Giving Back to Her Country and G.I.R.L.s

Meet Sgt. Lauren Swensson, proud member of Daisy’s Circle, Girl Scout mom and active duty member of the Army National Guard, stationed in Leavenworth, KS! Sgt. Swensson has dedicated her life to serving others as a medic and supporting her own G.I.R.L., Juliette Girl Scout, Layla!

Helping others is a big motivator for Sgt. Swensson and what has led her down a path of serving our country. While stationed in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps, she found a passion for volunteering in the surgical shock and trauma platoon and helping fellow servicemen and women. She serviced back-to-back tours in Iraq and decided to go back to school in Kansas City, eventually becoming a surgical technician.

Sgt. Swensson joined the Army National Guard and found herself the mom of a proud Girl Scout starting when her daughter, Layla, became a Daisy in the Skyline Council in Virginia around 2015. They were living in Virginia and had great family support, but the Girl Scouts became a second, critical family for these awesome women. It’s a network that Sgt. Swensson is proud to have Layla in.

Layla and Sgt. Lauren Swensson, a proud military family.

“Girl Scouts supports at a local level, as close knit to home as it can be by providing experiences for your child, but it also supports women on a national and global level. Girl Scouts helps mentor women and puts them on a path to succeed and gives them a foundation,” Sgt. Swensson said.

As a military family, moving was part of Layla’s life and they found Girl Scouts to be a great home for both of them. Girl Scout sisters became Layla’s dear friends and troop leaders provided Lauren some much needed help getting Layla to and from Girl Scouts.

“It’s so nice to have something for Layla that’s a constant [between moves]. She takes pride in it and the troop leaders she’s had understand her experiences as a military child,” Sgt. Swensson said. She’s been able to watch Layla grow in confidence through the Cookie Program and as a leader when she worked with younger Girl Scouts. These important moments get to be shared through the program.

Because of the second family feeling and the great programming that Girl Scouts provides, Sgt. Swensson and Layla have joined Daisy’s Circle, GSKSMO’s monthly giving program.  “It’s important to me to support something that my daughter is a part of, personally, but also, the mission of Girl Scouts and what they do is something I absolutely want to support that,” Sgt. Swensson said.

Layla and Sgt. Lauren Swensson surrounded by military care packages created by Daisy’s Circle troops in October 2018.

This past weekend, Sgt. Swensson and Layla attended a celebration for Daisy’s Circle troops and Girl Scouts at Camp Prairie Schooner. It was double special because the service project was creating care packages for servicemen and women overseas. Sgt. Swensson got to speak to the troops about how much these packages mean to those serving.

We thank Sgt. Swensson, Layla and all the members of Daisy’s Circle for providing consistent, reliable support that provides programming and opportunities for girls all over our Council. To learn more about Daisy’s Circle, visit www.daisyscircle.org.

From Cookie Seller to State Senator

Girl Scout Alum Senator Lauren Arthur

When Lauren Arthur started knocking on doors as a state senate candidate in her hometown, Kansas City, MO, memories of selling cookies as a Girl Scout in those neighborhoods came flooding back. For this go-getter, selling cookies did more than teach her business skills, it helped her develop core skills that helped her run a successful political race as an adult. Girl Scouts was more than a place for opportunities, it created a passion for connecting with other women and the belief that every girl has the power to change the world. Elected in June 2018 to serve in the Missouri state senate, this G.I.R.L. is proudly representing the Northland’s 17th District!

Senator Lauren Arthur being sworn into the Missouri State Senate, 2018

Lauren’s started as a Girl Scout Brownie in KCMO in 2nd grade and fondly remembers her troop experience. Her troop leader offered her a welcoming community and encouraged the girls to support one another. “The most important aspect of Girl Scouts in my life has been its ability to connect me with other young women,” Senator Arthur said.  She loved getting to know her Girl Scout sisters at Day Camp and experiencing the outdoors with them.

“As a city girl, I don’t know that I would have had similar opportunities to be outdoors […if not for Day Camp]. Things like archery, horseback riding and just the opportunity to be outside,” Senator Arthur said. She remembers making up jokes and cheers at camp and all the positive experiences there.

One of the other things Lauren did in Girl Scouts was actively participate in the Cookie Program. “I was old school, I went door to door and sold cookies the hard way! But that was a great experience for someone who was shy because it made me go outside of my comfort zone,” Senator Arthur said. These risks and learning to be bold catapulted her to her current service as a state senator! In fact, she realized as she was campaigning that some of the houses she was knocking on as a candidate were the same doors she’d knocked on to sell cookies as a child.

Right: Senator Lauren Arthur serving in the Missouri State Senate; Left: Candidate Lauren Arthur working with children during her campaign.

Senator Arthur knew she had a passion for helping kids and spent time working for Teach for America, which helped inspire her to run for office. It became a big part of her campaign – wanting to advocate for education and seeing the potential in girls. During her political race, she loved getting to visit schools, see Girl Scout troops and watch firsthand how much these young girls had to offer the world.

Senator Arthur believes in the power of inspiring children during the most formative years, a time when Girl Scouts can be incredibly beneficial. “The world is in desperate need of women leaders. I think that those early years are so important for girls. It’s when you instill character, values and develop skills that can translate into accomplishment and helping them become good people,” Senator Arthur said.

For her, the power of the Girl Scouting program rested in the relationships and confidence she developed that still influence her life today. “I developed friendships in Girl Scouts that continue today […and] it has translated into relationships and networking opportunities and it feels wonderful to be part of a network of enterprising, high achieving women, both in Kansas City and across the country,”  Senator Arthur said.

Lauren Arthur is a wonderful example of the determination of an inspired G.I.R.L.! She saw problems she wanted to address and felt the need for female leadership…so she decided to do something about it! What a truly inspiring alum! Thank you, Senator Arthur, for your service in the Missouri State Senate and for advocating for girls just like you! We’re proud to have alums serving in public office and having a voice in the development of future policies.

Earning the Highest Awards in Girl Scouting

What you need to know & expanded criteria

In Girl Scouting, the Bronze, Silver and Gold Award are the highest honors a girl can achieve. Each award gives girls a chance to identify an issue they’re passionate about and create lasting change within their community!

The highest awards are progressive. The earlier a girl starts the process in their applicable level, the better prepared she is to go for the next level – and the better prepared you are to support her!

As Juniors, girls work together on their Bronze Award as a troop, sharing responsibilities and practicing group decision making.

Troop 3327 from Topeka, KS made comfort kits for children undergoing cancer treatments at Children’s Mercy Hospital after one of their fellow troop member’s sister went through cancer treatment herself. After the troop did some initial research, they invited the sister to the troop meeting to help them brainstorm care package items and make a shopping list. They created five different packages based on age and included blankets and homemade cards in each kit.

Left: Guest speaker talking about her cancer treatment experience at Children’s Mercy. Right: girls making blankets for comfort kits.

As Cadettes, each girl increases her level of responsibility and can work in small groups of one to three girls to complete their Silver Award Project.

In Troop 2041 in Kansas City, MO, three Girl Scouts identified three issues that they cared about. Emma S. wanted more children to experience the joy of art so she created and sold her own pieces to purchase supplies for children at Mattie Rhodes Art Center. Avery W. educated her community on water pollution and how to keep water clean and water bills down, earning her Citizenship award in the process! Andra B. became interested in the issue of light pollution after traveling to a national park and seeing the true night sky for the first time then created a website article and is initiating conversation on the issue of human caused pollution of light.

Left: Snip it of Emma’s flier. Center: Avery selling her art. Right: Light Pollution image on Andra’s article (Photo Credit: chungking / Fotolia).

Then, as a Senior or Ambassador, a Girl Scout is ready to lead a project on her own and earn her Gold Award – the most prestigious award in the world for girls. Each year we recognize Girl Scouts who have achieved this honor and present them with their Gold Award Pin at Inspire a Girl – Expo & Gold Award Ceremony.

Taylor Edwards from Troop 506 in Lansing, KS earned her Gold Award last year after creating the Young Voters Committee at Lansing High School. She worked with her State Representative and History Teacher to create workshops educating her peers on political issues that are affecting their community and it is now a recognized school club that meets monthly reviewing issues on upcoming ballots with elected officials attending as guest speakers!

“Because of Girl Scouts I was able to find myself as a leader not only in my troop or school, but in my community,” Taylor said.

Left: Taylor with Debbie Deere, State Representative 40th Ditto, during Gold Award project. Center: Receiving her Gold Award Pin from troop leader, Carla Wiegers at Inspire a Girl. Right: Taylor in the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat at Girl Scout Day at the K.

When girls are introduced to and practice the components of the highest awards as Juniors and Cadettes, they are best prepared to Go Gold! However, Bronze and Silver are not prerequisites for the Gold Award.

As of October 1, 2018 Girl Scouts of the USA expanded the criteria for Silver and Gold Award projects to no longer exclude Girl Scouts from being the beneficiary of a Silver or Gold Award project. It is still important for girls to go through the process of identifying and selecting the cause that is important to them. Silver and Gold Award projects should only serve Girl Scouts if the girl(s) decide that is the best audience for their project! Any projects benefiting our council or Girl Scout property will need to be approved by a GSKMO Vice President. For more information, contact TracyHull@gsksmo.org.

The Bronze and Silver Awards are approved at the troop level, there is no paperwork required on the council level once the project is complete; but we do ask that you complete the tracker so we know about your project and can potentially share your story! Upon project completion you’ll want to visit the Girl Scout Shop to get all the swag that shows your accomplishments, especially the Bronze or Silver Award pins!

Beyond sharing your troop or girls’ story with us, help them share it within their community and beyond. On social media use #gsBronzeAward, #gsSilverAward, #gsGoldAward and #gsksmo. If you have media inquiries during or after the project is complete, contact prdept@gsksmo.org so we can work with you to tell the story in those mediums.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service and honors students in grades 5-12 for making meaningful contributions to their communities. This is a great opportunity for girls who have achieved earned any of their highest awards to potentially be recognized. In 2017, we had two Girl Scouts receive honors! 2018 applications are due November 6.

Earning these highest awards and leadership achievements is a BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT! We want all our Girls Scouts to be proud and share their accomplishments far and wide!!

Back to Troop Season

Fall activities for Girl Scouts and Troops

It’s a great time to be a Girl Scout! The leaves are changing, the weather is getting cooler, so it’s time to enjoy all that fall has to offer -and it has SO MUCH for our Girl Scouts, their families and troops!

Hispanic Heritage Month, Cops & Bobbers – Oct. 13
Kids will enjoy outdoor fishing fun with law enforcement while building strong bongs of respect for each other and the environments.  Fishing poles and supplies will be provided on a first come first serve basis.

Girls in Aviation Day – Oct. 13
Get up close and personal with aircrafts and meet female aviation professionals at this annual event with the Museum of the Kansas National Guard and Combat Air Museum.

Girl Scout Night at the Rangers – Oct. 14
Swope Park Rangers invite the Girl Scouts to Children’s Mercy Park this fall for the annual Girl Scouts Night at the Rangers! Come out and see the Sporting of tomorrow take on the LA Galaxy II then participate in a post-match clinic with the pros!

Kansas City Ballet, The Wizard of Oz – Oct. 17 & 20
Girl Scouts, get your discounted tickets to the Kansas City Ballet’s production of the Wizard of Oz on October 17 or 20!

Honeywell Spark Event – Oct 18
Honeywell Manufacturing & Technologies invites Girl Scout Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors to their Spark Event on Oct. 18 to hear from female professionals in the industry, get creative and use their minds to create and their hands to build! Deadline to register is Oct. 16.

Ernie Miller Nature Center, Haunted Kansas – Oct. 20
As darkness falls, walk through the trails of Ernie Miller Park and listen to the stories of long ago! Characters from the past will share legends around the campfire. Expect a shiver down your spine and a mild case of goose bumps for those who dare enter the forest on this autumn evening.

LabConco Spark Event – Oct. 26
Make great use of the day off school on Oct. 26 (Park Hill, Blue Springs, Liberty, Center – just to name a few!) at LabConco’s first-ever Spark Event! Girls will tour their plant, talk with female STEM professionals and do several hands-on science projects! Deadline to register is Oct. 24.

STEM Expo Day at Camp Tongawood – Nov. 3
Girl Scout Juniors & Cadettes! Are you interested in the diversity of life and learning about organisms, mysteries of the universe, or going back in time sifting through the remains of prehistoric organisms? Investigate our world — from tiny micro-organisms to the vast Kansas blue skies at our STEM Expo on with experts from the University of Kansas & Kansas Dept. of Wildlife & Parks.

HappyBottoms + Henderson Engineers – Nov. 10
Henderson Engineers need YOUR HELP to collect diapers for HappyBottoms and bring them to their wrapping event on Nov. 10! During the event at Henderson, girls will hear from guest speakers, enjoy snow cones and fill the bust with diapers donated for the community!

Arrowhead Takeover – Nov. 16
The Kansas City Chiefs are hosting Girl Scout Brownies and Juniors for an Arrowhead Takeover event on Nov. 14! Girls will do Play60 activities with the Kansas City Titans (Kansas City’ female football team!), learn about sports training, Chiefs History, chat with a Chiefs reporter and hang out with the Chiefs Cheerleaders and leave with a fun patch!

Harvesters, Juliette Gordon Low Birthday Celebration – various dates
Give back and honor our founder, Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday by helping sort and pack food at the Kansas City or Topeka Harvesters locations!

See all our 150+ Community Partner Programs at gsksmo.org/community!

Traveling Far and Wide with Girl Scouts

Spotlighting Girl Scout Volunteer Extraordinaire Chris Hrdy

When you understand the power of Girl Scouts, it’s hard to walk away from living that GS Strong life. Meet Chris Hrdy, a Girl Scout Alum, mom, former troop leader, member of Daisy’s Circle and travel volunteer who found a way to continue giving back after her daughters graduated. After developing a love of travel in Girl Scouts herself, Chris has decided to give back to girls by serving as a volunteer on our council-sponsored trips. This awesome volunteer shows what it means to give as part of a lifestyle.

Chris has fond memories of her time in Girl Scouts and her little green sash she got to start filling with badges. She was involved through middle school, but found her journey start back again years later when she became a mother. The program really mattered to her because it gave her daughters the chance to be themselves. “Girl Scouts gives girls the opportunity to be weird, to be unique, to be involved and be in a space where there are no parents and no boys!” Chris said.

Chris and Ann Marie Hrdy at the 2016 Inspire a Girl Ceremony!

Chris’ daughters, Ann Marie and Melinda, were both Girl Scouts and benefitted from Chris’ involvement. For Melinda’s first years, she served as cookie mom, so by the time Ann Marie was in Kindergarten the next year, she was ready to lead. For all of Anne Marie’s Girl Scouts years – through senior year of high school – Chris served as troop leader.

Troop 110 had a wonderful experience, traveling to places like Costa Rica and earning highest awards. Both daughters earned their highest awards and served our council, Melinda as a Teen Board Member and Ann Marie a part of the Teen Leadership Circle – so this is a high achieving family of G.I.R.L.s! Chris also served as Unit Leader for Day Camp and Service Unit Manager for SU 678. Once Ann Marie graduated though, Chris wasn’t ready to give up her Girl Scout adventures and emailed us to find opportunities.

Chris Hrdy traveling with Girl Scouts!

Fast forward two years and Chris has adventured with girls to the 2017 Inauguration in Washington DC, Chicago (2018) and plans to join them for the Belize trip in 2019 as well as the next Girl Scout National Convention! The change that Chris gets to watch when girls experience travel is what keeps her engaged.

“When girls are out of their element and their parents aren’t around, they’re so different. They’re open to learning new things, seeing new things, and the changes that can place in just a week during travel is mind-boggling. It’s the most fun thing to watch and I LOVE IT!” Chris said.

Because of the travel adventures, highest awards and other experiences Melinda and Ann Marie got to have, they’re now living pretty amazing lives. Melinda just finished culinary school and Ann Marie is a sophomore in college with goals of becoming a home economics teacher, a career path inspired by her Gold Award project! Though all three ladies are now alums, they’re still giving back to the world and living the life of true Girl Scouts.

The Hrdy family became members of Daisy’s Circle because of their belief in the program and wanting to give that to girls who might not otherwise be able to have some of the same experiences Ann Marie and Melinda had. “Girl Scouts is very important to me, it opens up the personalities of the girls and when they get older, it opens up doors through opportunities. I like the idea of being able to offer that to a girl who might otherwise not be able to have those opportunities,” Chris said.

Thank you to Chris and the entire Hrdy family for giving to Girl Scouts and for leading the way for other girls by being brave G.I.R.Ls! Learn more about Girl Scout Travel or Daisy’s Circle by visiting our website – www.gsksmo.org.