Four Generations of Girl Scouts

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Spotlight on Girl Scout Alumnae and Volunteers Doris Frost, Janet Pelton, Becky Blankenship and Girl Scout Cadette Katie Blankenship

There’s a special bond that Girl Scout mothers and daughters have. From sharing stories of badge earning decades ago, teaching the newest Girl Scout about how to cook on an open fire, to traveling together to the birthplace of the organization that you all hold so dear to your heart, Girl Scouts brings women even closer together who are already connected through their family tree.

Girl Scout Cadette Katie Blankenship is a fourth generation Girl Scout in her family. You might say that she was destined to be a Girl Scout that it’s in her DNA. After all her mother, Becky Blankenship was a Girl Scout. Her Grandmother, Janet Pelton was a Girl Scout. Even her Great Grandmother, Doris Frost was a Girl Scout!

As Doris recalls her own Girl Scouting experience, it doesn’t sound much different from the ones her great granddaughter Katie is having today. She remembers having awesome leaders, going camping, earning badges and just generally being a G.I.R.L. (Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader)™.

Today, Becky and Janet are both troop leaders, and Doris is a retired troop leader. Between the four of them they have over 100 years of Girl Scouting experiences and stories!

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Doris (front), Janet (left), Becky (center), Katie (right)

Katie’s grandmother, Janet, went through all the Girl Scout levels herself then when her daughter Becky was old enough, she volunteered to lead her troop of Girl Scout Brownies (the first level of Girl Scouting in the 1980s) and saw them all the way through earning their Gold Award! When Becky left for college, Janet started all over again, with a brand new troop of Girl Scout Daisies, but this time she recruited Doris to join her on the troop leader adventure, and oh what an adventure Doris had with her daughter and the group of girls they led!

After 12 years of Girl Scouting, in Janet & Doris’s troop embarked on an 8-day cruise to culminate their Girl Scout experience before life took them in all different directions. That Girl Scout trip is what got Doris on an airplane for the first time in her life, at 84 years young.

“That trip was wonderful, the best time I ever had,” Doris said!

Doris (left) & Janet (right) on the cruise!

Doris (left) & Janet (right) on the cruise!

After that trip, Doris hung up her Girl Scout volunteer hat, but Janet decided to dive right back in and start all over again with her third troop; all while still continuing to serve as Service Unit Manager for Service Unit 661.

While Doris and Janet were leading their troop in Leavenworth, Kansas, Becky was stepping up for troops who were without leaders in Emporia, Kansas, while also going to school full time at Emporia State University!

After graduating college, Becky moved back to the Kansas City area, got married and had Katie! In January, before Katie was set to go to Kindergarten, Becky called her area service unit manager and let her know that she could count on her to lead the Daisy troop where Katie would go to school that fall!

Becky always dreamed of giving Katie the opportunities through Girl Scouting that her mother, Janet, had given her.

“Girls have opportunities they wouldn’t have without Girl Scouts,” Becky said.

This past summer, Janet and Becky took Katie’s troop on the council-sponsored trip to Savannah, Georgia, the birthplace of Girl Scouts. A trip that was important for Becky to experience with her mom. “She gave me my start in Girl Scouts and I wanted to have the experience of going to the birthplace with my family,” Becky explained.

“It was really neat that we got to do that last trip together,” Janet said of the cruise with Doris. “I’ve gotten to do so much with Becky now.”

Janet (left), Katie (center) & Becky (right) on the council-sponsored trip to Savannah, GA.

Janet (left), Katie (center) & Becky (right) on the council-sponsored trip to Savannah, GA.

For this family, Girl Scouting truly is in their DNA. Through all the things that life has thrown at them, they credit Girl Scouts for keeping them going. “Being a Girl Scout leader was a lifesaver during the times that my parents were sick. Most people quit being a volunteer when those things happen but it kept me sane,” Janet explained. “Girl Scouts is what keeps me happy.”

Girl Scouting has come full circle for these four women. Doris loves hearing what Katie is accomplishing through Girl Scouts and what exciting activities and trips Janet and Becky are doing as leaders for their girls. The memories that the four of them have all overlap and constantly remind them of what they’ve experienced not only as Girl Scouts, but as a family.

“All of the things Girl Scouts get to do are good. Everything is a learning experience for them,” Doris said.

Thank you Doris, Janet and Becky for all you’ve done to empower girls and instill the Girl Scout leadership experience in their DNA!

 

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A Gold Standard of Girl Scouting

Spotlighting GS Alumna Vickie Trott

Warm campfires, s’mores and service – those words often revive fond memories for Girl Scouts. Meet Vickie Trott, a proud Girl Scout lifetime member, former troop leader, donor, Gold Award advisor and Trefoil Society member who continues to help girls go for Gold. Recently she won the “Philanthropist Award” at the Central Region’s Volunteer Appreciation event for her awesome work supporting girls – including getting her troop of six to all earn their Gold Awards. Thanks to donors like Vickie, Girl Scouts are continuing to create lasting change in their communities and reach for the stars.

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Vickie Trott started Girl Scouts in 2nd grade as a Brownie and volunteered her mother to be the troop leader. She fondly remembers adventures to Camp Oakledge and Timberlake and doing day camp with her troop. Her mother strongly encouraged camping and loved being outside with her girls.

After college, Vickie went on to become a successful business woman who holds a Bachelors in Accounting and her MBA, cofounding a family business along the way. Once kids entered the picture, her life turned back to Girl Scouts and Vickie became a leader of Troop 196 for her daughter, Anne and later her stepdaughter, Kelly. Her daughter’s school started with two troops for the grade and as time went on the other troop merged with Troop 196, eventually becoming a troop of 6 girls from three different high schools.  The troop loved camping, service and travel. Following in the footsteps of Vickie’s own Girl Scout experience, Troop 196 went camping often, sometimes Vickie’s mother, Gerry, would even join the adventures – three generations creating Girl Scouting memories.

Left: Troop 196 Investiture ceremony (1985) & at the International Fair (1987)

Left: Troop 196 Investiture ceremony (1985) & at the International Fair (1987)

“I learned camping skills as a Girl Scout, so we took our girls camping a lot. We had rules like ‘no makeup’ and joked that we could guarantee rain in whatever area we decided to camp in,” said Vickie. Four of the girls in the troop went on to become wranglers at Camp Winding River, wanting to inspire the younger girls. The troop adventured beyond the campsites with trips to Chicago and St. Louis as well as a float trip. On one of the float trips they encountered a Boy Scout troop who offered to help them set-up camp. As camping veterans, the girls assured the boys they were confident in their abilities to make their own campsite.

During the years of leading Troop 196, Vickie was an active volunteer, working as a troop organizer, Service Unit manager, Day Camp manager, Product Sales Manager for her Service Unit and taught a leadership institute for Senior Girl Scouts! Talk about keeping busy!

Left: Vickie, Gerry (mother) and Anne (daughter) at Camp Timberlake ( 1987); Center: Troop 196’s overnight (1986); Right: GSKSMO CEO, Joy Wheeler with Vickie at Camp Prairie Schooner honoring Trefoil Society members.

Left: Vickie, Gerry (mother) and Anne (daughter) at Camp Timberlake ( 1987); Center: Troop 196’s overnight (1986); Right: GSKSMO CEO, Joy Wheeler with Vickie at Camp Prairie Schooner honoring Trefoil Society members.

One thing Vickie knew was that she wanted to help her girls get their Gold Awards…and she succeeded! All six in the troop earned their Gold Award as a troop, as that was part of the program in the mid-1990s. For their project, the girls built tables, benches and racks out at Camp Winding River. “This was a time before the internet, so the girls went to the library, researched how to do it, how much wood they would need and raised money. We had to have adults actually cut the wood with the power tools, but we told the dads ‘only cut on the lines the girls drew’ and the girls did everything else,” Vickie said.

Today, Vickie continues her service to Girl Scouts as a Gold Award advisor and donor. She’s dedicated to the work of Girl Scouts because of the role models it provides. “Girl Scouts is the only all-female organization that I belong to because I think it’s really important that girls have a place where they’re in charge, where women are leaders,” Vickie said. Because of her passion for the mission of inspiring girls, Vickie decided to generously include Girl Scouts in her estate plans, ensuring her legacy lives on.

Camp Prairie Schooner – with Troop 196 in 1989 & as a Trefoil Society Member in 2015

Camp Prairie Schooner – with Troop 196 in 1989 & as a Trefoil Society Member in 2015

Caption: Camp Prairie Schooner – with Troop 196 in 1989 & as a Trefoil Society Member in 2015

“[My husband and I] each picked an organization that we believe in and an organization we jointly decided to give to in our estate plans. I think it’s important, if you have the means, to support organizations you believe in in that way,” Vickie said. With a continued inequality in funding for girls organizations compared to boys organizations, it was especially important to Vickie to support Girl Scouts in both a volunteer and financial capacity to allow girls to thrive.

We thank Vickie Trott and her family for their continued advocacy of girls and for making a difference every day. By supporting Girl Scouts, Vickie is paving the way for generations of leaders, just like her own family. Watch for new Gold Award Girl Scouts that Vickie will be leading as an advisor in the future! We’re excited to see new girls going for gold. To learn more about the Trefoil Society, contact Vanessa@gsksmo.org.

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A Spotlight on Girl Scour Alumna Sanushi Jayaratne O’Sullivan

When Sanushi Jayaratne O’Sullivan and her family moved to the United States from Australia at the age of 9, she didn’t really know what all was in store for her. Upon their arrival to the states, her mother accepted a job as graphic designer for an organization called Girl Scouts of the Mid-Continent Council and all of a sudden Sanushi was an Australian in America and a Girl Scout, whatever that meant.

Sanushi joined Girl Scouts as a Cadette and her troop consisted of six other girls, led by a very committed volunteer, Jayne Vehlewald. Jayne made sure that her troop did the typical Girl Scout activities like camping and travelling, but one of Sanushi’s fondest memories was their annual Christmas “Bake-Off.”

“For a teenager, we didn’t think that being a Girl Scout was necessarily the ‘coolest’ thing to do, but we never got flack for it and we loved it,” Sanushi said.

As the girls in the troop grew older, Jayne made sure that every girl knew about the Highest Awards and encouraged each one of them to earn her Gold Award. Sanushi was totally on board. For her project, Sanushi collected school supplies and distributed them to students who would otherwise go without.

In addition to earning her Gold Award in 2005, she also received the Beth Winters Memorial Scholarship that year. “I knew I wanted to go to a big name school which meant it would be a lot of money and I wanted to be able to pay for it on my own,” Sansuhi said. “It meant a lot to me, having that be a memory of Beth Winters, I hope that I have done her family proud.”

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Sanushi went to that big name school; the University of Michigan to be exact. While there, she studied cultural anthropology and was a pre-med student. During her freshman year, she continued to stay active in Girl Scouts and served on the Mid-Continent council’s board of directors as a girl member. She was invited back to speak at the 2006 Honors Ceremony which recognized and celebrated that years’ Gold Award recipients and she got to help present Victoria Immethun with the Beth Winters Memorial Scholarship that year.

While moving to new places was something Sansushi was familiar with, it didn’t necessarily make it easy. “I owe the ability to move to a new state and make new friends to character building of Girl Scouts.”

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 2009, Senushi returned to the Kansas City area to further her education at the University of Kansas Medical School keeping all that she had learned as a Girl Scout at the forefront of her mind.

“I was raised to be kind and respectful and sometimes, as woman, that can be take advantage of. Girl Scouts taught me that you can be kind and nice, but that you can also be assertive,” Sanushi explained. “That helps a lot especially when you’re in a male dominated field like I am.”

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Sansushi graduated from KU Med this spring and is now an intern in a residency program in Oklahoma. She is the only female in her class.  “It’s really important to me now to have that sense of self I developed in Girl Scouts!”

We love seeing all the great things that our Gold Award alumnae are accomplishing and learning how Girl Scouts has impacted their lives thus far. If you’re a Highest Award recipient, we want to hear from you – let us know in the comments below!

The sweet success of being a Girl Scout

Gold Award Alumna Spotlight – Heather Magee

When Girl Scouts runs in the family, girls know they are destined for greatness. Meet Heather Magee, a 3rd generation Girl Scout, Gold Award Alumna and volunteer who is passionate about the leadership and business programs Girl Scouts offers. She’s also the artist behind the floral arrangements at the 2016 Inspire a Girl event that made the room beautiful. A dedicated Product Sales Manager, Heather Magee shows that when Girl Scouts is in your blood, you never grow out of it.

Heather grew up in Stewartsville, MO where she joined as a Brownie and was one of the first Girl Scouts in her town. Of the original troop, three of the girls continued through high school and completed their Gold Award, setting the bar high for any girls who followed in their footsteps. The troop camped at Camp Woodland in Albany, MO and were in charge of the “work and play weekend” where they helped get the camp ready for the spring and helped close the camp in late fall. It was one of her early introductions to a life of service that she fondly remembers.

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4 Generations: Sheryl (Mother), Heather, Twila (Grandmother), Kinley (Niece), Erin (Sister) & Allie (Niece)

As a Scouting family, Heather’s siblings often accompanied her at day camp and other events. Her sister, Erin, is also a 3rd generation Girl Scout (her daughter  Allie is a 4th generation Girl Scout) and brother, Adam, is a 3rd generation Boy Scout (2nd generation Eagle Scout) and his sons, AJ & Ryan, are following in his footsteps to start the next generation of Eagle Scouts. “My sister and brother were always tagalongs at events and camping. We have [Scouting] in our blood. My grandma was even our cookie manager at the time, which I do in Oak Grove now,” Heather said. Both Erin and Heather earned their Gold Award and their mother earned her First Class Award. Talk about a family of achievers!

For her Gold Award project, Heather did improvements to the softball field at her high school. Her project entailed building stairs and a railing to help fans get to the field safely as well as planting flowers and doing general improvements. While the Gold Award project wasn’t easy, she feels like she learned a lot. “It’s one of the hardest things you’ll ever do that you’ll also have the most appreciation for. It’s hard, it’s stressful, but you learn a lot of things you wouldn’t otherwise. When you’re a shy person, having to get out and talk to people, it drew things out of me,” Heather said.

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The process of completing a Gold Award can be daunting, and Heather knows how scary it can be to look at all the work that has to go into it. However, as someone who completed the project, she knows just how valuable completing the project was to her life. “I think what scares a lot of people is that it is a lot of work and some people take that the wrong way. But just doing all that work and going through the process, it’s so rewarding at the end and you don’t see it until you get there,” Heather said.  Completing the project helped her have the courage to face her next big life step – attending Graceland University in Iowa to study Commercial Design.

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Today, Heather loves getting to be involved as a Girl Scout volunteer and watching her nieces embark on their Girl Scout journey. Her main volunteer role is as serving as Product Sales Manager for Service Unit 644. “I like everything about Girl Scouts and I call cookie season ‘Cookietopia’ because I just love it so much. The organization, the colors and the program, I love it all. I think I got it from my grandmother because she served as cookie manager for 15 years,” Heather said.

At the end of the day, it’s all about the personal benefits that service has for Heather. “Giving back, volunteering, that changes a person. I think that helps you, just in general, become a better person by giving back to the community,” Heather said. This dedication is exactly what Girl Scouts learn by being in a program focused on service.

The Cookie Program is an incredible experience for girls but takes a lot of work for our volunteers, so we can’t thank Heather enough for her service. In addition to her gift of time, Heather gives financial gifts through Daisy’s Circle, the monthly giving program through GSKSMO. She’s even a Founding Member of the program! In addition, Heather is also a Lifetime Member of Girl Scouts. Thank you, Heather for inspiring the next generation and for living a life of service.

If you know of another amazing Girl Scout Highest Award Alumna, share her story in the comments below!

 

Christine Perlinger – Highest Award Alumna

A First Class Role Model for Girls

Leading by example – that’s what Troop Leader Christine Perlinger is doing for the 10 girls (2 Seniors, 8 Ambassadors) in troop 1446 from Overland Park, KS. Christine does more than just support this troop, she’s an event coordinator for Service Unit 634, managing an awesome bridging ceremony for the whole unit! Her seniors did a beautiful bridging over a mountain they built, showing how high Girl Scouts can climb. As a First Class Award Recipient, mother of Eagle Scouts and Day Camp Director, Christine has devoted a great deal of her life to Scouting and the great outdoors.

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Christine started her Girl Scout adventure as a Brownie in 1st grade (Daisies didn’t arrive on the scene until the 1980s) and continued through her high school career, achieving the First Class Award along the way around 1979. Just a year or so later, the award was given the name it currently has today – the Gold Award. During her 9th-10th grade years she served as an assistant to her leader in Raytown, Missouri, which may have inspired her to take on the leadership role as an adult. “I remember doing a lot of camporees and we lead a lot of the younger girls. We kept everything organized, kept them going and came up with a lot of the ideas,” Christine said. She loved camping at Prairie Schooner and being part of leadership.

After high school Christine attended Northwest Missouri State University (one of our awesome community partners) and soon after became a mother. She now runs her own business as an in-home daycare provider, taking care of children for a living. This also affords her the flexibility to plan and implement amazing experiences for her troop and Service Unit as a volunteer.

Now as a leader, Christine (or S’more as the girls call her at camp) gets to watch the next generation excel. Her niece, Zoey, just bridged to Brownie and her daughter, Gretchen (known at camp as “Big Bird”), is working toward her Gold Award by doing a project that combines Youth Ministry and music. Her son, Brendan, has Cerebral Palsy and completed his Eagle Scout project by running a housewares drive to outfit four apartments for young adults with Cerebral Palsy. Son, Noah, and husband, Dan, are also Eagle Scouts with son, Evan, working on his.

“Earning the Highest Award in Girl Scouts has given me the confidence to know that I can do anything I set my mind to. It’s given my daughter confidence and it’s given me confidence to be a leader. I was so shy in high school, I never thought I’d be able to do something like this, but Girl Scouts helped me break out of that shell,” Christine said. That’s why she’s such a strong advocate of the Gold Award and Eagle Scout Award and why she’s encouraged all of her kids to achieve these honors. In fact, most of her Girl Scout troop is on track for Gold as well!

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Troop 1446 is where Christine focuses most of her charitable attention these days. The troop cooked a Thanksgiving turkey dinner on a brick oven they built in a fire pit at Camp Prairie Schooner. They even included Camp Ranger, Zac, his wife and son to the meal! As a senior project, the girls are working to build a full brick oven at Camp Prairie Schooner and have already received over 300 bricks so far! “We’re building the oven and putting together a recipe book so that younger girls can learn to cook in a brick oven out at camp,” Christine said.

The mission of Girl Scouts, the girls she works with and the impact it has had in her own life is what keeps Christine going as a troop leader after all these years. “I believe in the program. It’s a strong program that’s been around for 100+ years […] but what keeps me going as a leader is the girls. I love all my girls. Sometimes when I want to give up, my girls keep me going,” Christine said. The dedication is obvious – troop 1446 goes camping about once a month, tackles large service projects and volunteers as teen leaders at the Service Unit’s Day Camp. Her daughter, Gretchen, is also on the GSKSMO’s Teen Leadership Circle. It’s inspiring to see girls hard at work with a great role model leading them forward.

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We thank Christine and the entire Perlinger family for their time, dedication and support of Girl Scouts. We love seeing where Highest Award Recipients go in life. If you’d like to share a story about an awesome troop leader or volunteer, like Christine, comment below!

Taking Care of Business

Gold Award Alumna Spotlight: Dena Neuenschwander

All businesses face challenges that sometimes prevent them from moving toward success…but business consultants help change those challenges into successes. Gold Award Alumna, Lifetime Member and Beth Winters Scholarship Recipient, Dena Neuenschwander is a University of Kansas and Harvard Business School graduate whose work with the Boston Consulting Group is changing the business world for the better. Empowered to help organizations be their best, Dena uses the courage, confidence and especially character she learned in Girl Scouts to excel in the business world.

Dena joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie and was fortunate to have a mother, CeeAnn, who is a GS Alumna with deep connections to the organization as her troop leader. She remembers being inspired by her mother who was a national volunteer for Girl Scouts and did work with our council. Her sister is also a Gold Award Alumna and all three (mother, sister and Dena) are Lifetime Members. Her troop experience was an important part of growing up and there was pride in being a Girl Scouts. In fact, the troop did money earning projects to make sure every girl became a Lifetime Member when they graduated.

In addition to the personal connections, Dena found leadership and travel to be exceptional opportunities that Girl Scouts offered. “There were so many opportunities to grow as a leader. I remember seeing the girls who were older than me leading activities, and I was so inspired by that to lead when I got to that next level,” Dena said. Being a leader became a core skill that Dena used to propel her toward success with the Highest Awards.

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The inspiration to lead encouraged her to go for Gold, which she achieved by creating a dental hygiene program for kids. She got toothbrushes and tooth paste donated and designed a portable curriculum to teach kids about proper dental hygiene. “Brushing your teeth correctly, with the right tools, is so simple and it actually contributes to overall health. If you can educate children about dental health, you can create impact on their overall health for the rest of their lives,” Dena said. A special part of this project involved her sister’s troop that was working on their Silver Award at the time. They created small, brightly patterned bags for the kids to take their dental hygiene products home in for Dena’s Gold Award project!

This exceptional project earned Dena the Beth Winters Scholarship, providing her with financial relief and encouragement. “Joyce and Chip [Winters] are so inspirational to me, and the way they give back to the community in honor of Beth is incredible. Having people who believe in you and who are willing to help fund your journey gives you the opportunity to take adventures that otherwise wouldn’t be possible,” Dena said. For Dena, the scholarship went far beyond the financial aspect – it was knowing that someone believed in her.

Some of these adventures included travel, which she still does a great deal of today. It was through Girl Scouts that she first took big adventures outside the USA in high school. “[In Girl Scouts] we took a trip to Italy, France and Switzerland. That whole process from money earning, planning the trip and having to work a group was an incredible experience,” Dena said.  Because of those first experiences, Dena is able to travel alone for work even today with complete confidence! “I travel a lot for work and am going to meet new people, by myself, a lot of the time. I think that confidence stems from that initial experience in Girl Scouts,” Dena said.

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Today, Dena is a Project Leader at the Boston Consulting Group, living in New York City! She works with large companies to help them figure out complex, strategic plans. Talk about a woman taking the lead in business! She has also continued a life of service through college, her Master’s program and everyday life. While living in Boston and attending Harvard Business School she worked with the “Impact Initiative” which provided leadership programs for middle schoolers in Boston. She also pitches in when work has community service days and adopt-a-family holiday events. “To me, service is just second nature. When an opportunity comes up, I always take advantage of that. Especially when I’ve been moving around a lot, you see that everywhere you go, there are opportunities to serve,” Dena said.

Being a Girl Scout had a lasting impact on Dena and she reflects affectionately on her experience. “Girl Scouts, especially as an older girl, changed from trying new things and learning to be a leader to actually having the courage, confidence and character to take on challenges and get things done. The Gold Award is an ultimate example of that. There was so much I didn’t know when I started the Gold Award, but I had the confidence to take on those challenges and achieve a goal,” Dena said.

What an inspiration to girls looking to take on the business world! It’s so exciting to hear how skills learned in Girl Scouts make a real difference in the lives of alumnae. If you know Dena and want to share a memory or know of another awesome Gold Award Alumna whose story we should share, comment below!

Taking the STEM World by STORM at OU

Gold Award Alumna Spotlight: Rachel Norris

Girl Scouts know that no challenge is too great if you put your mind to it. Gold Award Alumna Rachel Norris took the confidence she gained in Girl Scouts to conquer incredible academic success as a woman in STEM and give back to her community. By combining service, a love of Girl Scouts and STEM, Rachel has is helping change the course of gender inequality in the sciences with her own successes and by filling the STEM pipeline by inspiring younger Girl Scouts.

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As a girl in Girl Scouts, Rachel loved spending time at camp! Starting in 5th grade, she went every summer, including becoming a counselor at Camp Oakledge and Camp Daisy in 2013. “My family didn’t travel a lot, but camp gave me that sense of independence. I could do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it within the camp program verses having a more structured life during the school year,” Rachel said, This independence and a love of service her troop experience instilled inspired her to go for her Highest Awards.

Rachel joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy and continued through high school where she earned her Gold Award in 2012. She proudly earned both Bronze and Silver with her troops and Gold Award on her own. Having grown up in Kansas, Rachel is no stranger to dangerous weather and wanted to do something to educate others for her Gold Award project. Working with Johnson County, Kansas, she revamped the youth severe weather preparedness curriculum that currently existed only on VHS tapes from 1999. Focusing on flood, lightning and tornado safety, she narrowed the curriculum specifically for Kansas youths and gave it new life. She taught the program at elementary schools around town and became an official weather spotter.

Her project was so stellar that it earned her the prestigious Beth Winters Scholarship. Beyond the Scholarship itself, the networking opportunities she had with other Alumna and other Beth Winters Scholarship recipients was her first step into the world of Alumnae. “At the banquet I got to hear about other Gold Award projects, the impact their projects had on the communities and what they were going to school for. It was my Alumnae experience and something I felt very adult doing,” Rachel said.

When she was gearing up to move to Oklahoma for school at the University of Oklahoma (OU) after earning her Gold Award, she knew her Girl Scout experience made that transition easier for her and her family. “Girl Scouts gives you opportunities that are very personalized […] It provides you a bridge to where you want to get to professionally and academically. I know my parents had confidence that I had the skills I needed to be able to go to school in another state because of what I had achieved in Girl Scouts,” Rachel said.

Now as a college senior at OU, Rachel knows some of the core skills she learned in Girl Scouts – communication and confidence – have contributed to her successes. “As a Brownie selling cookies, I had to talk to new people, remember information and explain the cookies in ways they could understand. As you progress into Bronze and Silver Awards you have to learn to coordinate with people, reserve a venue […] things like that. Then getting my Gold Award, I had to be a sales person to sell that my idea was worth the time to others. I wouldn’t have learned those skills if not for Girl Scouts,” Rachel said.

In addition to learning to communicate, she learned to talk about her accomplishments with confidence. Rather than letting her successes hide quietly on a resume, she has the confidence to sell herself in a professional setting. That confidence has led to a successful college career. Rachel is the first student in six years to attempt a dual major in Meteorology and Electrical Engineering and the first student in more than a decade to achieve it, as she will have earned both her degrees by December 2016!

Even though she’s been away at college for the last few years, she’s kept in touch with the family she formed in Girl Scouts. “I’ve kept in touch with my leader and several of the girls…it’s been a really rewarding experience, even after, to be able to say I’m a lifetime Girl Scout,” Rachel said. Becoming Lifetime Members was so important to her troop, they fundraised collectively to buy Lifetime Memberships for every girl in the troop when they graduated. What a great dedication to Girl Scouts!

Aside from personal connections, she’s stayed involved in Oklahoma, by working with the Women in Electrical Engineering group to help bring STEM programming to Girl Scouts in the area. As a group, they’re helping build the STEM pipeline.

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Rachel’s next big life step is to continue her education by going to graduate school in another state. Being a woman in STEM, it’s important for her to be her best and inspire more women to become STEM leaders.  “I’ve had three internships so far and on one of the missions, the Director of the program was a woman and she was really respected by the men. That was really nice for me to see. Meteorology is getting a lot more integration. I think it’s a lot more inviting when both genders are working together. I hope that continues to become the case for engineering in the next couple decades,” Rachel said.

We want to say WAY TO GO to Rachel for her incredible work as a woman in STEM and for her dedication to service. By giving back to Girl Scouts through STEM, she’s helping to fill the STEM pipeline and make her dream of an integrated gender engineering workforce closer to a reality.

If you know of an awesome Gold Award Alumna, share their story in the comments below!

The Girl Scout Gold Award: Blazing a Powerful Trail for Future Innovation

You’ve probably heard of Crohn’s Disease or Colitis, but how familiar are you with it? Did you know that 1/20 people live with this condition? Or that 200,000 American’s are diagnosed each year? Did you know that conditions vary by individual, ranging from mild to severe? Probably not, because as Girl Scout Alumna, Alyssa Rollando puts it, “it’s a closeted disease.” Crohn’s and Colitis are chronic inflammatory bowel dieses that affect the lining of the digestive tract, and people don’t like to talk about issues that affect people if it has to do with the bathroom.

That’s exactly why Alyssa chose to work with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation in Phoenix, AZ for her Take Action Project which she earned her Gold Award in 2010. Alyssa put together an educational program about Crohn’s and Colitis and presented it to various groups, churches, YMCA’s, swim teams and classes at her school.

Girlscouts1At the age of 15, Alyssa was diagnosed with a severe case of Crohn’s Disease. The difference between Crohn’s Disease and Colitis is that Colitis is curable, Crohn’s currently is not. There are also many other side effects from having Crohn’s disease such as arthritis, psoriasis, autoimmune inflammatory diseases, diarrhea, vomiting, and more. Of those diagnosed with Crohn’s 80% will have to have some type of surgery in their life and 60% of those people will have multiple surgeries within the same year.

While Crohn’s has physically affected Alyssa, it helped identify a career path for her. “Having Cohn’s impacted the fact that I wanted to be in the medical field,” Alyssa said.

After earning her Gold Award, Alyssa attended Bucknell University where she was a member of the women’s swim team and earned her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering. This may she will graduate from the University of Kansas with her master’s degree in bioengineering with a focus in biomedical product design and an entrepreneurial certificate, and she’s not stopping there; the program takes her straight into earning her PhD, with the same emphasis and continuing research.

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The device that Alyssa has been working on, and subsequently wrote her master’s thesis about, is called a Fistula Occlusion Device. This non-surgical device has the potential to help those who have had ulcers burrow between their organs and create a tunnel, a common side effect of Crohn’s and something which happened to Alyssa, twice.

The only option currently available to patients who suffer from this side effect is a major surgery with at least a 12-week recovery time. Something that Alyssa believes her research can drastically change in the future.

Alyssa is still active in Girl Scouts as an alumna and volunteers her time as a Gold Award Advisor for our council. She is currently working with four girls who are in the various stages of their Take Action Projects to earn that coveted Gold Award, an accomplishment that Alyssa believes every Girl Scout should aim for.

“While the Gold Award has an impact on the community, it has an even bigger impact on you as a person; the fact that you learned how to do something all by yourself is a big deal. It shows you that one, you are capable of doing something and solving problems that you’re passionate about; and two, shows you how much of a leader you can be no matter what the project is.”

She praises the Gold Award process for preparing girls for life after high school. “Girls will be expected to solve problems without direction, and that’s exactly what earning the Gold Award teaches them.”

Like many, earning her Gold Award was the culmination of Alyssa’s Girl Scout experience and she now looks back and sees how pivotal it was to shaping her into the person she is today. She wishes the same for the girls she now advises.

“Being able to say that you were a Girl Scout for that many years is impressive. There is nothing else that you will be able to say you did for that long.”

We are so lucky that Alyssa has joined our council and will share her wealth of knowledge with girls who are pursuing Take Action projects in the STEM fields! If you know of a Highest Award Alumna who is inspiring girls, share in the comments below!

Highest Award Alumna helps build the skyline of Kansas City

Girl Scouts are known for reaching the pinnacles of success in their lives, especially Highest Award recipients! Girl Scout Alumna Marsha Hoffman gave a whole new meaning to reaching for the sky by becoming an architect who is literally building the city around her. Recently she was a judge for the 2016 Cookie Construction event at Crown Center in KCMO, showing her continued dedication to Girl Scouts! This inspiring alumna shows that earning the Highest Award can lead girls to new heights in their lives.

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Marsha started her journey in Girl Scouts in Emporia, KS as a Brownie and continued through high school. She enjoyed camping and the outdoor activities that Girl Scouts offered. Her favorite Girl Scout memory, however, came in high school when her troop produced a play to raise funds for a trip to New York City. The troop secured the rights to a show, created all the costumes, sets, props and even put out a call for actors and held auditions. The money they raised funded their trip to New York City for a week.

On the trip they stopped in Philadelphia, saw a Broadway play, went to Rockefeller Center and did the traditional New York tourist stuff. “We did everything in New York, I don’t know how they packed it all in!” Marsha said.

Traveling with Girl Scouts was one of her favorite parts of her experience because of the feeling of freedom it gave her. “The trip gave us the feeling of freedom to do anything. I’m not sure if that instilled the travel bug in me or not, but we didn’t travel much as a family, yet I have always loved to travel and I’ve always loved New York, so maybe it did,” Marsha said.

By the end of high school, Marsha earned her First Class award because it was something that was always a goal she planned to achieve. “It was always a goal to earn [the First Class award]. So working through each of the badges to make sure you made it to that point…it was always what I wanted to do. I enjoyed the experience of getting all the badges,” Marsha said.

After graduating, Marsha went to K-State and got a degree in Architecture and Design Planning. At K-State she was able to take part in a 5 year program that included an internship for some of the last years in the program. With the travel bug instilled in her, she jumped on the opportunity and spent about 8 months of each year in Texas. After graduating, she moved to Texas and spent about 5 years working on buildings in the southwest. “I really enjoyed the cultural and diversity in San Antonio. I enjoyed the freedom you had with architecture and design because they weren’t afraid of color or art,” Marsha said.

From there she moved to Washington D.C. and spent five years as part of a firm, Architectural Design Group and running her own design firm, called Designer Studio. After time on the East Coast, she returned to the Midwest and lives in Kansas City. There, she found a home at SFS Architecture where she is a principal. She’s able to be involved in every part of the design process and really feel invested in every project. “There isn’t a part of the design process that I don’t enjoy. There’s a lot of satisfaction when you get a building built. You have to work with a wide diversity of people on every project. Being a team is really important. You have a great feeling when you see the end result,” Marsha said.

Buildings Marsha Hoffman has worked on (left to right): King Louis Renovations, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception & the Reynolds Journalism Building (MU)

Buildings Marsha Hoffman has worked on (left to right): King Louis Renovations, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception & the Reynolds Journalism Building (MU)

In particular, she’s been working on a lot of public buildings, where she really feels like she’s adding to Kansas City. “When you work in the public sector, you want a design that the public feels is a quality building that will last them a long time,” Marsha said. Some building Marsha has worked on are the renovations of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Kansas City, renovations of the King Louis building in Overland Park, KS and on the Reynolds journalism building at the MU.

As an alumna, Marsha helped with leadership workshops and is now helping the girls involved in Cookie Construction. Her continued involvement stems from a belief that Girl Scouts played a positive role in her life. “Girl Scouts had a huge impact in my life because it taught me that I wasn’t limited. No one told me I couldn’t do something in Girl Scouts. I think it’s so important for girls to know you’re not limited by someone else’s thoughts or opinions,” Marsha said.

Marsha Hoffman (center) & team at SFS Architecture

Marsha Hoffman (center) & team at SFS Architecture

Marsha also strongly believes that women should do a better job of helping other women, especially by promoting female awards like the Gold Award. “Sometimes I think women are more competitive with one another and men do a good job of helping one another. As women, we have to start doing a better job of pulling other people up and supporting other women,” Marsha said. Of course, having a strong Girl Scout sisterhood helps that! We hope all girls in Girl Scouts aim to lift one another higher and promote their successes.

Thank you to Marsha for your incredible work with Girl Scouts, for inspiring women and as an architect of Kansas City. If you know of a Highest Award Alumna who is inspiring girls, share in the comments below!

Bringing the Girl Scout Swagger from Georgia to Kansas

Spotlighting Gold Award Alumna Tiffany Hogan

When Tiffany Hogan earned her Gold Award in 1999, little did she know that her Girl Scout experience was only just beginning.  She grew up in the small town of Milledgeville, GA and had what she considers the all-around Girl Scout experience!

She fondly remembers all of her troop leaders and the experiences that they provided her. There was Miss Beth and Miss Barbara when she was younger and then Miss Patsy as she grew older in Girl Scouts. “Miss Patsy had the vision then gave us Girl Scouts the tools and let us go,” Tiffany explained.

Her troop camped a lot. She recalls taking a spring break trip to Key West and when they were talking through the details, Miss Patsy proudly explained to the troop that they would STILL be camping! Miss Patsy wasn’t going to let them miss out on that experience!

Tiffany worked her way all through Girl Scouts, earning her Bronze, Silver AND Gold Awards.

“I remember the ceremony and the feeling so supported in what I had accomplished,” Tiffany recalled.

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Tiffany went on to pursue and marketing and management undergraduate degree at the Mercer College and was a first generation college graduate in her family. After graduation she worked her way up to a senior leadership position doing real estate marketing and found herself back in Milledgeville leading the re-visioning and reconstruction on her community’s mall turned community center. A project that landed her a key to the city and a “Tiffany Hogan Day” in her hometown! “It felt good to go home and make a difference again,” Tiffany said.

Fast forward nearly 10 years and now Tiffany owns her own family law practice in Olathe, KS. So how does one go from running the marketing initiatives of a real estate management company to running her own law practice?

Two words, Girl Scouts.

Looking back on her Girl Scout experience, Tiffany recognizes that every activity and adventure she did was truly molding her into the professional she would become.

“Girl Scouts prepared me for my career today,” Tiffany admits.

In fact, all the Girl Scouts that Tiffany graduated with are now professionals. One of her Girl Scout sisters is a nurse in their hometown and another teaches English at a school in France, just to name a couple.

Tiffany has never strayed far from Girl Scouts. When she was in college she volunteered with the Girl Scouts of Historic Georgia Council bringing the Girl Scout experience to underserved girls in Akon, GA and today Tiffany is newly appointed Girl Scout Gold Award Advisor for our council and she even got to meet Anna Maria Chavez at our Inspire a Girl event last weekend!

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We are so excited to have Tiffany bring her wealth of knowledge, experience and her very own Girl Scout Swagger to the next class of Gold Award recipients! In fact, Tiffany has some great advice for those girls already, “embrace Girl Scouts, take advantage of everything it has to offer!”

Do you know a Girl Scout Highest Awards alumna we should spotlight? Drop us a note in the comments section below.