The Ultimate Go-Getter

A Gold Award Alumna Spotlight

Gold Award Girl Scouts are go-getters to the ultimate degree. Through the Gold Award, they spend over 100 hours solving a problem in a sustainable way that positively impacts their community. It’s no wonder that these Girl Scouts go on to achieve some pretty remarkable things! Meet Amanda Stanley, a Gold Award alumna who turned tremendous personal obstacles into a profession and life of positivity.

Amanda started Girl Scouts as a Junior in Wichita. As the first Girl Scout troop at the school, she got to help younger girls learn the ropes…Sometimes, quite literally! One of her favorite annual service projects was teaching Girl Scout Daisies and Brownies  to camp – how to tie knots, pitch a tent and cook over a campfire. It’s no wonder that this love of service translated into an awesome Gold Award project.

During high school, Amanda saw a need for a better way to organize volunteers at a living history museum she volunteered at. This was before digital databases were common (early 2000s), but looking forward, Amanda knew this would be a good solution to the problem. “My biggest challenge was all the places they had volunteer data. You’ve got paper data and data in excel sheets and word documents and jotted on pieces of paper and trying to put that into a usable system was difficult,” Amanda said.

Amanda and her troop at a camping event – one of her early service projects; Amanda as a Cowtown volunteer; Receiving her award for her Gold Award project.

Her project produced a usable database for the Old Cowtown Museum, allowing the organization to find volunteers with those unique “living history” skills, when they needed them. It’s not always easy to know who can play a blacksmith or teach kids to churn butter! But the database let them find those volunteers – all thanks to the work of a Girl Scout!

“What I love about the Gold Award, and why I think it’s important for girls now, is that it makes you look at a problem and see if you can come up with a solution. You then plan it out, work on time management and figure out how your project will create good,” Amanda said.

During high school she also got to participate in Girl Scout Destinations, including one to Washington D.C. focusing on art. “We went to art galleries, stayed with a Girl Scout family for a night, did art projects that I still have hanging on my wall. It was a great way to see the monuments and city,” said Amanda.

Amanda and her mother who served as troop leader; Amanda’s troop at a horse riding event.

Completing her Gold Award earned Amanda two scholarships and she attended Newman University in Wichita where she got a degree in Biology. From there she went to the KU Med, on her way to becoming an MD. After her first year of medical school she was diagnosed with cancer and, always the fighter, she had surgery, it went into remission and she returned to school. After her second year, the cancer came back, she had another surgery and decided to take a year off to focus on her recovery. During that year, she decided life was too short to not be in a career she completely loved…so she took the LSAT and enrolled in law school! Talk about a driven G.I.R.L.!

“I knew I wanted to leave all through my second year, but was too scared because I didn’t have a backup plan. Plus…no one drops out of medical school. But during my year off and almost dying…I realized life was far too short to go to work and hate your job every day,” Amanda said.

In 2014 Amanda graduated from KU Law and is now working for the League of Kansas Municipalities. She travels around Kansas, teaches classes to city officials and loves her job. She is also a lobbyist for local governments to the KS legislature, meaning she testifies in front of committees and really makes an impact on the Kansas government.

As a Girl Scout alumna, she sees the benefits of the program for today’s girls, just like it positively impacted her. Girl Scouting gave her the courage and more importantly, gave her people “in her corner” who were there to support her. “We are in a unique time in history where girls have come a long way, but there are still implicit biases, discrimination and stereotypes – like girls aren’t good at science – that Girl Scouts gives you the tools to combat. It teaches that a stereotype is just a stereotype and if you’re motivated, you can do whatever you want,” Amanda said.

We couldn’t be more proud of this incredible G.I.R.L.! She’s recently decided to become a volunteer at Girl Scout Day at the Capitol, helping girls learn more about the KS government she loves so much. Thank you, Amanda, for continuing to support girls and for being such a great example of a Girl Scout alumna!

Supporting G.I.R.L.s Lasts a Lifetime and Beyond

Spotlighting our Newest Juliette Gordon Low Society Member: Ally Spencer

Early October brought Girl Scouts, volunteers and advocates together from all over the country for the ultimate gathering of G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM – the 2017 Girl Scout Convention (G.I.R.L. 2017). Among these delegates voting on the future of Girl Scouting was Ally Spencer and her daughter, Alex, a Girl Scout Senior from Kansas City , Missouri. Serving as delegates allowed these two to spend time together and help shape the future of an organization they’re passionate about. How passionate? Ally serves as Northland Encampment Director, service unit volunteer, troop leader and new member of the Juliette Gordon Low Society! Talk about a family that LOVES Girl Scouting!

Ally Spencer is a proud Girl Scout alumna, but feels her true Girl Scout journey began when Alex was in kindergarten. As often happens, a Daisy troop was forming, but had no leader. Ally hesitantly raised her hand after seeing no other volunteers and it was a life changing moment that has shaped the last decade of her life with her daughter.

“I sent a long email to my membership manager about my first year because it was so magnificent. I talked a lot about my challenges (the membership manager thought I was quitting most of the email she told me later), and ended it saying ‘thank you for one of the best years of my life,’” Ally said. That first year has turned into a decade of service, with her little GS Daisies now strong, independent GS Seniors.

Ally and Troop 2089 at the Kansas City Lyric Opera community partner event (left), at a troop meeting (center) and Alex, her daughter, receiving her Silver Award (right).

One thing Ally particularly loves is the support a service unit can give to new leaders, which ledto her volunteering on a larger scale. “Walking into a service unit meeting is wonderful. Your first year, you don’t know what to say, you don’t know what you don’t know…but at a service unit meeting, you have 30-40 troop leaders there representing probably 100 years+ worth of experience…all there ready to help you,” Ally said.

She took on becoming director of the Northland Encampment, a big event for the Northland Girl Scouts that’s very successful. The 2016 Encampment was a rainy, muddy weekend, but she loved how the Girl Scouts splashed in the mud and found a way to turn the rain into joy.

Northland Encampment over the years.

As a mother, Ally has loved watching her daughter grow into a strong young woman through Girl Scouting. At Convention, Alex had some hard decisions to make when she voted on national issues. After one particularly divided issue, Ally witnessed Alex not only continue to support her vote,  but spoke up to opposition who questioned her decision.

“My daughter said ‘you tell me I’m smart enough to be a delegate [and evaluate decisions] and that I can control our destiny, so I voted the way I thought was appropriate.’ It was a beautiful moment, I thought ‘she’s not a teenage girl right now, she’s an articulate, young lady.’ It’s moments like that you see [in Girl Scouts],” Ally said.

Experiences like this led Ally to join the Juliette Gordon Low Society while at National Convention. This society (previously known as the Trefoil Society at GSKSMO) is for anyone leaving a financial legacy to Girl Scouts in their estate plans.

Ally receiving her Juliette Gordon Low Society pin from Founding Chair, Dianne Belk (left & right). Ally posing with Dianne and Lawrence Calder (center).

“As someone in the corporate world, my time is money. Right now, I can give my time, but when I’m no longer able to give time, leaving a legacy means my giving can continue on past me,” Ally said. In a very special moment, Ally was pinned by JGL Society Founding Chair, Dianne Belk, at Convention.

 

We thank Ally for her service and continued dedication to Girl Scouts. Her volunteer work and leadership is helping girls become all they can be. By joining the Juliette Gordon Low Society, she is creating a positive future for the girls of tomorrow. Thank you for creating lasting change!

 

Do you know a special volunteer we should highlight? Tell us about her or him in the comments below.

From Gold Award to the Silver Screen

Spotlight on Filmmaker and Gold Award Alumna, Morgan Dameron

Morgan Dameron has known that she wanted to make movies ever since she was old enough to figure out what a movie was. As a young Girl Scout Brownie, she remembers being fascinated with the coveted Polaroid camera and the camcorder that that was just as big as she was. “I used to make my family members and pets re-enact scenes from Disney animated films in my living room,” Morgan said!

When Morgan was in high school in the early her passion for film grew and the arts scene in Kansas City was only beginning to blossom into what it is today. With the leadership skills she learned through Girl Scouting, Morgan influenced the film scene for women and teens. She was an honorary board member for Kansas City Women in Film, founded the youth division of the Kansas City Independent Filmmakers Coalition and started the first ever film festival for the Kansas City Teen Star.

“Having that idea of being a leader, following my dreams and having a support system of other strong-willed girls and leaders of our troop really influenced me growing up.”

It’s no surprise that when it came time to think about her Gold Award, making a movie was what Morgan knew she wanted to do for her project. With some help from the Women in Film Commission, Morgan wrote and produced a short-film called Finding Harmony; a story about a young woman and older man who formed an unlikely friendship through music.

“I had to raise the money, cast, shoot and do everything. The amount of hard work that is required is a lesson I was able to learn so young is a result of my Gold Award project.”

That lesson has paid off, ten-fold.

Morgan graduated from Pembrooke High School in 2007 and attended University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts on a full-ride scholarship. While at USC, she made short films that played in film festivals all around the world. When she graduated, she landed a job with a production company in Los Angeles where she worked on movies including Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek Into Darkness and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Yep, she worked with the amazingly talented Film Director J.J. Abrams.

Now at the age of 28, Morgan’s first-ever feature full length film Different Flowers is being screened in theatres across the United States.

“I had always wanted to tell stories since I was little girl. I had gone to USC to film school and worked in the industry for 5 years and the time was right to make this movie. I was just bursting at the seams to make my first film and nothing was going to get in my way,” Morgan said.

Morgan made a plan. Plan A was to make a movie; there was no plan B.

“It’s been a year!” Morgan said.

Different Flowers is a dramedy feature film full of kooky characters, and real heart inspired by the relationships and surroundings of Morgan’s childhood, growing up in Missouri. Characters, Millie and Emma are sisters with a rocky past who are each stuck in their ways and bring out the best – and worst – in each other. When Emma helps Millie run out on her wedding, they embark on an adventure neither could have anticipated. It’s a story about following your heart, and how, sometimes, you find yourself in the middle of nowhere. And that’s okay.

Shot on location in Kansas City and surrounding areas, Different Flowers isn’t only about women but it’s powered by women too. Something that was important to Morgan as a female filmmaker. “I really wanted it to feel authentically Kansas City and authentically mid-western. I wanted it to be infused in every element.”

Morgan spared no detail in achieving that feel. The cinematographer is from Kansas City, many of the sound tracks are by local musicians including Sarah Morgan, Darling Side and Brewer and Shipley, one of the necklaces worn by a cast member is made by a Kansas City jewelry artist and Millie’s wedding dress was designed by Kansas City Designer, Emily Hart.

This project was a family affair for all of the Damerons and they were promoted from their home movie roles they played in the 90’s for Morgan’s first feature-length film! Morgan’s younger sisters and fellow Gold Award recipients Natalie and Mallory have cameos in the film in the bridal suite, her Dad is the reverend and Mom plays Chef Suza.

Different Flowers also has some connections to Morgan’s Gold Award project film, Finding Harmony. The lead actor from that film, Ari Bavel, has a supporting role as a Boulevard Delivery Man in Different Flowers.

“The Gold Award has stuck with me. Even though you know it’s going to be so much work, you know that it’s going to be so rewarding to do what you know you love to do,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s sister Natalie also got to use skills she learned through her own Gold Award project, serving as the on-set photographer for the film!

Photos by Gold Award Alumna, Natalie Dameron.

“The biggest piece of advice I can give is to give yourself permission to follow your dreams. Don’t wait for someone else to give it to you. You have the tools you need to tell your story, you can make it happen. The Gold Award is a good experience to just try it,” Morgan said!

We love that Morgan’s Gold Award project inspired her to follow her dreams and that she’s using the leadership skills she gained through her Girl Scouting experience to continue empowering adult women to pursue theirs!

Different Flowers is being shown at AMC Town Center in Overland Park, KS and AMC Barrywoods in Kansas City, MO beginning Sept. 29, check their websites for show times. Want to meet the Leader and filmmaker Morgan Dameron?! She’ll be doing a talk-back on Oct. 1 at AMC Town Center following the 5:10pm showing and at AMC Barrywoods following the 7:00pm showing!

Check out the trailer for Different Flowers!   And, make plans to join us! Let’s pack the theater with Girl Scouts!!

Girl Scouting Goes Full Circle

Spotlight on Girl Scout Alumna, Katelyn Clark

Like most kindergarteners, Girl Scout Alumna Katelyn Clark had no clue what she was getting into when her mom signed her up for Girl Scouts. What she does remember from being a Girl Scout Daisy is being asked by her troop leader, Kim Harrington, what she wanted to do, what badges she wanted to earn and when she wanted to bring in snacks for the troop.

“I had a phenomenal troop leader. Even at that young age, she ensured a girl-led experience. That inspired me at a young age to be confident and self-led,” Katelyn said.

She also remembers making snow globes out of baby food jars to learn about the different winter holidays celebrated around the world; an activity that would influence her Gold Award project ten years later.

Katelyn as a Girl Scout Daisy and Brownie.

There are many life lessons learned and passions discovered that Katelyn credits to her time as a Girl Scout in the Spirit of Nebraska Council.

In middle school that Katelyn started to realize the opportunities available to her because she was a Girl Scout. At the age of 13 she went on her first destination trip to the Boundary Waters and fell in love with travel. “My mom put me on a little prop plane and I flew up to Ely, MN. I spent a week canoeing and I think that sealed the [Girl Scout] deal! I realized that I loved camping and that at 13 years old I could fly by myself, I could pick up a canoe and carry it over a portage and camp. It was really empowering to meet all these Girl Scouts from all over the United States that had such cool stories” Katelyn explained.

Katelyn during her Girl Scout Destination trip to the Boundary Waters.

Almost immediately upon her return from her Boundary Waters trip, Katelyn started planning her next adventure; she wanted to go to Costa Rica.

To raise funds, she and a Girl Scout sister Beth Harrington planned a lock-in for over 40 Brownies complete with workshop rotations and followed Girl Scout Safety Activity Checkpoints! They even recruited non-Girl Scouts to help with programming! It was so successful that it not only raised the funds they needed to go on their destination, but also inspired their Gold Award projects.

Drawing on that first Girl Scout memory with the snow globes, Katelyn created a half day Holiday Fun Fair for girls to learn about five different winter holidays celebrated around the world. Instead of charging admission to the event attendees were asked to bring an item like diapers, formula, etc. to be donated to The Child Saving Institute, a local nonprofit in Nebraska. At the end of the Fun Fair, Katelyn delivered two car loads of items to The Child Saving Institute!

“To go from a Daisy to earning your Gold Award is so fulfilling. At the time though, I didn’t realize the magnitude of it.”

As she grew through Girl Scouting, Katelyn wasn’t really thinking about the Gold Award. It was her progression through the program when it just kind of happened for her.  “I thought the Gold Award was something I wanted to do for me and thought it was just something you did in Girl Scouts,” she said.

After completing her project, Katelyn recalls receiving her Gold Award congratulatory packet in the mail. It contained letters of support and recognition from community members, elected officials and even the President of the United States and she thought “holy cow, this is a big deal!”

“I was more appreciative of my Gold Award actually after I earned it. It became something I put on my college applications, on resumes.”

Left: Katelyn with GSSN Board Member, Karen Morey. Center: Katelyn collecting items for The Child Saving Institute during her Gold Award Project. Right: Katelyn with Girl Scout sister Beth Harrington.

Those college applications and essays earned her admission into Rockhurst University’s international business administration program and Katelyn moved from Nebraska to Kansas City to pursue her Bachelor’s Degree. Girl Scouting was never out of mind though, she returned to Nebraska every summer and worked as a Girl Scout camp counselor.

“Girl Scouts taught me I am who I am. I lived in middle school and high school as my most authentic self for who I was. Girl Scouts taught me that other people can be different as well and that everyone has a story. It also taught me to be compassionate, to look at those around you and see how you can make the world a better place.”

Today, Katelyn’s Girl Scouting experience has come full circle and she has remained in KC working for a senior living marketing company and is a Gold Award advisor and travel volunteer with our council, inspiring and empowering Girl Scouts through her own experiences!

Katelyn on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park with GSKSMO Girl Scouts!

Katelyn’s advice to Girl Scouts? “I know it gets hard in that 5th, 6th and 7th grade time frame, but hang in there and look at what you can do as a teen Girl Scout. There are so many opportunities to travel, sit on teen advisory councils, sit down with mentors and business leaders. That’s a unique opportunity you can’t get anywhere but in Girl Scouting in your teen years. Know that while not every badge is the most fun or every Journey the best, look around and at the people you’re meeting. Some of these girls will be lifelong friends. You’ll have a moment that you change your perspective. Maybe you’ll be inspired and it’ll lead to a career. You’ll be surprised at where Girl Scouts will take you!”

You’re a Girl Scout Rock Star, Katelyn! We appreciate all you do for girls in our council!!

Don’t miss out on these upcoming opportunities available to teen Girl Scouts!
The first deadline to apply for a Girl Scout Destination trip is Nov. 1, you can take a domestic or international tirp with Girl Scouts from all over the US!
– Want to travel to the Boundary Waters, canoe and camp for a week? We’re taking a council-sponsored trip in July, 2018!
– Thinking about Going Gold?! Learn more about the steps and requirements!

 

Built by G.I.R.L.s for G.I.R.L.s: A Look Inside the “Magical” Camp Prairie Schooner

Frolicking with the Prairie Fairy and adventures out in Farmer’s Field – those are experiences that Girl Scouts who call Camp Prairie Schooner home are very familiar with. For more than 70 years, Girl Scouts have taken pride and ownership in this beautiful camp located near the Little Blue River in Kansas City, MO. It’s also the location of our upcoming Alumnae Reunion Weekend, Lifetime Member Picnic and Trefoil Society Pinning Ceremony on Sept 23 – 24! Today we’ll take a look how this camp came to be and the women whose tenacity made it a reality.

Camp Prairie Schooner patch (left); Flag ceremony and patches (center) and early sign (right).

In the early 1940s, the Independence Council of Girl Scouts decided they wanted a camp for Kansas City Girl Scouts. A leader in that initiative was Mrs. Dewitt, who was active in the community and knew about a war time fund that had unallocated money. During World War II, the War Chest fund had been active in raising funds and by 1945, the remaining money was in limbo, ready to be reorganized.

Mrs. Dewitt, advocating for girls, approached the War Chest Board about the funds before they reorganized and the leadership wasn’t sure if they could trust ladies to establish and run a camp. As we know, G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM can do anything, and the Girl Scout Council knew they could achieve their goal, even if the Board doubted them.

The Council found the land where Camp Prairie Schooner currently sits and decided it was an ideal location. With a train stop just a short hike away, wooded areas and space for camp, they advocated for the funds. Despite pushback from the War Chest Board, Mrs. Dewitt was a hard woman to say “no” to and the Board sent the Jackson County Planning Commission to look at the land and make a recommendation. They had planned to use this as a stalling technique, hoping the women would give up before getting the funds.

Jerry Manning was sent to inspect the site and as he visited, he met the team behind the camp plan. It included community leaders and strong women who knew this would be a success. He realized this was a project backed by serious people wanting to create a better world for girls, not a whim that ladies had. He made the recommendation that the War Chest

Camp Prairie Schooner staff from 1988 (left) and approx. late 1970s (right).

funds should be given to Girl Scouts, and they were. After they acquired the land, the Council asked Mr. Manning to become the Camp Chairman, which started many years of service he gave to Girl Scouts, including serving as President of the Pioneer Trails Council!

Cookie money and funds from the War Chest paid the $4,000 for 127 acres of land that is now Camp Prairie Schooner. Still having reservations about the project, the War Chest Board held the title to Camp Prairie Schooner until the Council proved the camp was successful. After the installation of a pool and successful management of the property, they realized that these G.I.R.L.s meant business and the title was officially given to Girl Scouts.

Camp Prairie Schooner philanthropy! Girl Scouts from SU 638 & 639 built a Gaga Pit in 2015 (left) and Burns & McDonnell host annual work days at camp (right).

Today, Camp Prairie Schooner stands as a living testament to the power of G.I.R.L.s who wanted to make the world better for young women. We thank those early pioneers for their vision and tenacity that brought that camp to life as well as the current day donors who add to camp each year! Businesses, donors, and girls have added new facilities and games to camp, creating more opportunities and adventures (read our blog post about girl donated projects). Thank you!

We invite you to join us at Camp Prairie Schooner for our Alumnae Reunion! Registration closes SOON, so register today at www.gsksmo.org/reunion! See you at camp!

A New Home for the Oakledge Ish-Ki-Ti-Ni

The most recognizable symbol from Camp Oakledge was the totem pole (or “Ish-ki-ti-ni” for more recent Girl Scouts) that stood near the dining hall. Its image was on badges and shirts, serving as a friendly face for campers. When Camp Oakledge was decommissioned, the Ish-ki-ti-ni was moved to Camp Prairie Schooner. Now renamed the “Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni,” the rebuilt totem pole will be rededicated during the Alumnae Reunion and Picnic on Sept 23 -24, 2017 at Camp Prairie Schooner. We wanted to share the story of this symbol of camp history and celebrate its new life!

The name Ish-ki-ti-ni comes from a Native American mythology of the owl. While the whole totem pole has come to be known as the “Ish-ki-ti-ni,” it is started as the name of the owl that symbolically sits at the top of the totem. According to Oakledge camp legend, you can sometimes see Ish-ki-ti-ni flying over camp at night, watching over Girl Scouts.

Below the Ish-ki-ti-ni are symbols – the Girl Scout Trefoil, the frog, the turtle, the butterfly and the gnomies (pronounced “ga-no-me” for this totem). Each represents a part of the camping experience.

 

For alumnae and younger Girl Scouts alike, the Ish-ki-ti-ni serves as an important part of childhood. “In 2013, we pretended it was a time traveling machine. We wrote a song and we would hold onto it while singing it and it would take us to different summers. Kind of like a ride down memory lane. The song went: ‘Ishkitini Ishkitini take us way back when / Show us all the memories that you hold within,’” Girl Scout camper, Olivia (AKA Puffy) said.

Marley Parsons (AKA Ferris), resident camp director and alumna, feels the Ish-ki-ti-ni is a symbol of her Girl Scouting life. “The Ish-ki-ti-ni was a huge representation of my childhood. From whispering in the Green Gnomie’s ear to help find lost times, to peeping in the hole in the back to try to see the Red Gnomie, it was all part of my camping experience,” Ferris said.

Since the Ish-ki-ti-ni is made of wood, it needs to be remade about every 10-15 years, meaning a new group of Girl Scouts gets to give new life to the totem. Currently, the Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni is being rebuilt for the 2017 Alumnae Reunion, retaining as much of the original as possible.

“In 2004, the totem pole I grew up with fell into disrepair. While I was heartbroken that we had to build a new one, I loved that Bean and Beaner had us write wishes on the back of the new feathers [on the owl at the top]. It made it really special. Part of me was now a part of the Ish-ki-ti-ni. It makes me really happy to know that I am also here now, in 2017, helping rebuild it for another generation of campers,” Ferris said. She’s also part of the rebuilding team that’s preserving the memories of the totem.

In the process of being rebuilt, the Ish-ki-ti-ni is also finding a new home at Camp Prairie Schooner. “I’m happy it is being rededicated to Prairie Schooner because, for me, that’s where it all started. My very first camp was Schooner. So because the journey to camping at Oakledge started [at Camp Prairie Schooner] for me, it’s giving me a sense of closure,” Puffy said.

We hope you’ll join us on Sept 23 -24, 2017 at Camp Prairie Schooner where we will rededicate the Oakledge Ish-ki-ti-ni at Camp Prairie Schooner and create a time capsule with it! Registration closes on September 8th, so get registered today at www.gsksmo.org/reunion.

 

Becoming a Woman of Confidence

Spotlight on Alumna & Donor Chris McClain

 Girl Scout Lifetime member and Camp Prairie Schooner alumna, Chris McClain found her voice in the great outdoors at camp as a Girl Scout. Through Girl Scouting, Chris was able to discover who she was, learn acceptance and become the strong woman she is today. Growing up in the 1950s, Chris was given unparalleled opportunities because of Girl Scouts.

Now a resident of Vermont, Chris found herself back among the Prairie Fairy and familiar trails of Camp Prairie Schooner last winter when she was visiting Kansas City. While on a walk through memories and trails of camp, Chris happened upon the GSKSMO Philanthropy team as they were having a meeting. After some introductions, she was able to reconnect with the council and camp of her childhood.

Chris McClain (third from the left), with GSKSMO Philanthropy team in December 2016.

Camping was a huge part of Girl Scouting for Chris. She remembers working at Camp Prairie Schooner and getting to know new girls every time she went. It was a place of discovery where she was able to push her limits and explore possibilities.

During the 1960s, camp was a place where she learned acceptance and social inclusion as race riots in Kansas City changed the dynamics of camp. During the riots, there was a particular push to get Girl Scouts of color to camp, not only for their protection, but to give them a chance to just be girls and focus on their own development. For Chris, this gave her new opportunities to meet girls she’d never met before and see that everyone was accepted. At camp, everyone was a Girl Scout, no matter the social climate in the city.

“[Girl Scouts gives you] the confidence to try stuff outside your comfort zone and to stand up for what you believe is right,” Chris said.

A highlight of her experience was attending a Girl Scout Roundup in Vermont during high school. After applying with thousands of other girls from around the country, she and her troop were accepted and jumped on a train for Vermont. She and 10,000 other Girl Scouts camped together and made new friends. One of the best parts? A closing campfire with the real life Maria Von Trapp!

This Roundup group continues to hold reunions every other year, reuniting Girl Scout friends from around the country. Chris is an active member of planning these reunions and loves the chance to reconnect with one of the most life changing opportunities she had in her childhood.

 

Chris McClain in her home in Vermont and enjoying bagpiping – a hobby and profession for this alumna!

Today, Chris is a proud Girl Scout Lifetime member, an active community member and periodic volunteer for Girl Scouts in Vermont. She loves having opportunities to inspire young girls and give back to the organization that helped her grow into the woman she is today. She’s also become a member of the Trefoil Society, giving back to Girl Scouts through her estate. “After all Girl Scouts did for me, I can finally give back,” Chris said.

Thank you to Chris and the other Trefoil Society members who are leaving a legacy and making a better tomorrow for girls. If you’d like to share a powerful Girl Scouts story from Camp Prairie Schooner, leave a comment below!

For the Love of Girl Scout Camp

Spotlight on Resident Camp Director Marley Parsons

Girl Scout Camp. Where your girl gets to be the person she’s been taught to be. Where she tries new things, is curious, confident, embraces the unfamiliar and makes new friends. Friends that are as much different, as they are alike. Camp is where she has the opportunity to fall in love with something larger than herself.  Girl Scout camp is an experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else.

For Resident Camp Director, Marley Parsons (aka Ferris), camp was all of those things and more; which is why she is so passionate about providing Girl Scouts with those experiences at Camp Daisy Hindman each summer.

Marely joined Girl Scouts when she was in third grade. Something she had always wanted to do after hearing her mother share stories of Girl Scout camps, badges and pins. For her first Resident Camp experience, Marley had to convince her mom to let her go to Oakledge where the programming was more advanced, because she wanted to be at the same camp her mother had attended and worked!

That first summer was just the beginning for Marley. She was at camp every summer after that, often for multiple sessions. At camp, Marley completed all three Treks – Canoe, Pack and Sail, which was a remarkable accomplishment for any Girl Scout.

“Camp was the place where I went to be included and be successful. Where I was encouraged to be strong and challenge myself,” Marley said.

In 2002, she completed the Counselor in Training (CIT) program and was on staff the following two years and then returned to camp staff for a summer after college in 2012. In 2016, Marley’s passion for Girl Scout Camp brought her to Girl Scouts full-time, as the Resident Camp Director.

“I wouldn’t have been brave enough to do so many amazing things if it weren’t for the skills of resilience, self-reliance, self-rescue, and bravery that I learned at camp. I wanted to be a Camp Director to teach girls these skills. Teach them how to be courageous, show them their strength, and help them grow into people who will run the world in the future.”

Just like her mother, Marley is telling her own stories to campers and the camp staff, instilling a love for this organization and its experiences that will continue for generations to come.

“In my opinion there is nothing better for youth development than Resident Camp. It’s a structured environment for girls to try new things in a safe and accepting place. For most youth, camp is the first experience away from a familiar environment. It’s the first experience young children have with adults who are not relatives or teachers who take a genuine interest in their lives. I’m a grown adult now, and those staff who helped me grow as a child are still heroines in my mind’s eye.”

What memories do you have from Girl Scout Camp? How has Girl Scout camp impacted your Girl Scout? We would love to hear your stories in the comments below!

The Love of Camping Becomes a Career

Meet Lifetime Girl Scout & GSKSMO Staff Member “Willow”

Girl Scout camps are magical places and the weeks Girl Scouts get to spend in the great outdoors each summer are often the highlights of their year. For some special Girl Scouts, the love of camp and inspiring the next generation of G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM, can become a life mission. Meet GSKSMO’s Outdoor Experiences Manager – Alli Bearly (aka “Willow”)! This Girl Scout Alumna, Lifetime Member and experienced camper has turned her love of camp into a career helping girls.

Alli joined Girl Scouts as a 1st grader and stayed with the program through her senior year. She loved getting to know her Girl Scout sisters, doing service and getting outside. It wasn’t until later in her Girl Scouting career, the last summer she could in fact, that she experienced the magic of resident camp.  “When I was younger, I was very shy. I loved camping, but the idea of doing it for a week with people I didn’t know stressed me out. The summer after my junior year, however, my friend convinced me to do this canoe track and told me ‘don’t worry, they’ll teach you how to canoe,’ so we went,” Alli said.

That experience was a turning point for Alli. They slept under the stars, canoed over 90 miles and she had independence like she’d never experienced. Not only did that inspire Alli to get involved with Girl Scout camp as a counselor, it was a foundational experience that gave her the courage to study abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France, during college. All because of Girl Scout camp and pushing her limits.

The summer of 2012 was Alli’s first summer on staff and she joined the Adventure Staff, teaching rappelling.  Rewind several years to Alli being a 4th grader who watched rappel and made the choice to not complete the activity with her troop – a decision Alli feels was right for her at the time. “I love the ‘challenge by choice’ philosophy that we use at camp. I remember as a girl being able to make the choice not to rappel and no one telling me I had to go. It’s something I still use in my personal life and I think it’s a great model for girls to realize they’re the ones that make those decisions for themselves, even if the decision is no,” Alli said.

For Alli, the reason she’s decided to have a career with Girl Scouts is because she’s getting to change the lives of girls every day, just like her counselors gave her the courage to be a G.I.R.L. when she was a girl. “Camp is a place where there are no limits placed on you. Girls get to do whatever and try anything and I wanted to give back to a place and organization that gave so much to me by letting me try. It’s awesome to see girls face scary challenges every day and decide what they want to do,” Alli said.

As the Outdoor Experiences Manager, Alli directly works with adventure staff and helps develop new programs. In particular, she’s excited about the Low Ropes course at Camp Prairie Schooner because “it’s a great opportunity for troops to learn how to work together and improve their relationships,” Alli said. While many of the programs encourage personal challenges, like rappelling and zipline, she loves the group challenge that Low Ropes provides.

While summer is the highlight for Alli’s team, she loves every aspect of working with girls on adventure programming year round. “I love my job because I can see differences being made in girls. As someone who’s been on the other side, as a girl, I know how much these little things can impact a girl’s life,” Alli said.

With summer in full swing, Alli and her staff are out at camp and helping girls become G.I.R.L.s! Thanks to all our dedicated staff who makes a difference for girls! If you’d like to learn more about our Council Properties and adventure programs, visit our Outdoor Experiences page!

Inspiring the STEM G.I.R.L.s of Tomorrow!

Spotlighting Girl Scout Alumna Emily Meyer

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math…STEM. It’s a term that we hear a lot today. Getting kids interested in STEM, especially girls, has become a focus for Girl Scouts so we can fill the STEM pipeline and change the statistics that report less than 20% of STEM jobs being filled by women. One Girl Scout alumna who’s making a difference is Emily Meyer! Emily is the STEM Education Program Manager at Science City (one of our awesome Community Partners) and has a passion for engaging girls in STEM! By showing girls how cool science, technology, engineering and math can be when they’re young, we can change the future and take advantage of the greatest untapped resource of the future – G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders)TM!

Emily Meyer loved her Girl Scouting experience as a girl. She fondly remembers exploring the outdoors with her troop, spending time at camp and trading SWAPs. The memories of camp still fill her mom’s house with little blasts from the past still in daily use. “My mom still uses a popsicle stick napkin holder I made at camp. I’m not sure if she’s repaired it or it was made with really good glue, but she still has it. She also still has my SWAPs hat…that I’ve been able to share with my daughter’s troop,” Emily said.

 

Left: Cadence’s Daisy Troop 5006; Right: Emily and Cadence having fun

Fast forward a few decades from those camp days and Emily is now the proud Girl Scout mom to Girl Scout Daisy, Cadence. She decided to put Cadence in Girl Scouts because of the positive experience she had as a girl. “Girl Scouts was such a big part of my childhood. [With Cadence’s troop] I get to be really involved with planning activities and things like that,” Emily said. Recently she helped the troop plan, plant and maintain a butterfly garden full of daisies at their elementary school! The troop did everything, from planting the seeds to transferring them to the garden to agreeing to maintain the garden over the summer. What a cool way to introduce girls to STEM!

In addition to awesome projects like this, Emily is shaping the STEM experience for girls at Science City. After graduating with a degree in biology and chemistry she became a researcher and was asked to go to a school to talk about life cycles with children. That one trip was all it took for Emily to realize how much she loved STEM education and she went back to school to get a graduate degree in education!

 

Emily  (and Emily and Emily and Emily!) at Science City’s Genetics Exhibit: Unlock the Code, playing with the Duplication Station

Now, Emily gets to teach and inspire a love of STEM every day at Science City and create programming for groups like Girl Scouts! She was proud to see that the three of the top winners of the 2017 Greater Kansas City Science & Engineering Fair were high school girls with truly inspiring projects. How inspiring to see girls making a statement in science so young!

Teaching STEM is more than just a career, it’s combating a global issue on a local scale. The more girls we can expose to STEM, the more we can fill the STEM pipeline of the future. More than that, it’s a way to develop skills that every G.I.R.L. needs – not just those going into STEM as a career. “Teaching STEM isn’t just about creating more scientists, because science isn’t for everyone. STEM education is about encouraging curiosity, developing critical thinking skills and learning that failure is okay,” Emily said. We couldn’t agree more!

Thank you, Emily, for all you do at Science City and for creating opportunities for girls all over Kansas City and beyond. We love the partnership with Science City and can’t wait to see the new, innovative ways we can come up with to inspire girls in STEM!

Click here to learn more about Science City events with Girl Scouts!