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.

From Gold Award to Army Captain – a life serving our country

Girl Scout Alumna and Gold Award Recipeint, Jacque Ralston

As a Girl Scout you learn discipline, commitment and how to achieve long term goals. These are traits that are valuable in any job, but particularly when protecting our country is the main objective. Captain Jacqueline (Jacque) Ralston is a Gold Award Alumnae who has dedicated her life to the ultimate form of service – a life in the army. As Jacque says, “you don’t know your own strength until you do it.” Through Girl Scouts and the military, Jacque has become a better, stronger woman by pushing to her limits.

Jacque was born into a military family and a life of serving has always been the norm. Though she was the youngest and her father had retired by the time she was two, growing up in Leavenworth instilled a sense of honor and duty that the military community exudes. She joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie, following the example of her six older siblings who were Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were a family affair. Her mother was the Service Unit manager and her father was the Treasurer. Out of a total of five girls, four of them earned their Gold Awards! It’s clear the family knew the type of skills the girls were learning that they couldn’t get anywhere else.

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As with most Girl Scout Alumnae connected with the military, Jacque sees a real power in Girl Scouts for military children in particular. Though she didn’t move around much, her older siblings did as well as some of her nieces and nephews. The power of having a group where you belong in each place is a particularly special part of being a Girl Scout as a military dependent. “[Girl Scouts] gives you that common bond…when you show up in a new place it can be really overwhelming. If you already know Girl Scouting, you already have that network and you can be part of a team,” Jacque said.

 

Continuing the family tradition of “going gold,” Jacque earned her Gold Award by running a child care program during the holidays for military families at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, so parents could do holiday shopping. Unlike civilian families, military families usually don’t have extended family close by to help with childcare, so the need for help was there. Working with other Girl Scouts and friends, she was able run the program for several weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Jacque was involved with many clubs and activities in high school, but realized the value in the opportunities and skills she was learning by staying in Girl Scouts and made it a priority. As Jacque says, “it’s about your priorities, you have to know that it’s important, value the leadership and the skills you’re learning. The Gold Award itself is valuable because if you set your mind to a goal and you have to achieve it and feel that sense of accomplishment when you’re done, it shows you what you can do.”

After graduating high school, Jacque attended Creighton University, majoring in marketing and military management as well as joining the ROTC program as her entry point into the military. After college she was commissioned into the military and has since served in Hawaii, Iraq, South Carolina and Kansas. During her time in Hawaii she married her husband, Anthony, who is currently in medical school. They now have a son, Joseph, who is 18 months old.

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From November 2010 – October 2011, Jacque served at Camp Liberty in Iraq, working with the logistics unit. Their team was responsible for closing down outlying units. Her deployment was intimidating at first, being in a new country and new situation, but she knew that pushing her limits only made her stronger. There she developed a love of running and challenged herself. The ability to travel, serve her country and build a career in a community is why Jacque loves her life in the army.

As a woman in the military, Jacque feels it is a great community for women because your skills set you apart, not your gender. She’s currently a Captain, but is promotable to Major. “I’ve had some amazing female role models. Some of my first battalion commanders were women. Now that they’ve opened the military up more…it’s not about being a female, it’s about who I am. If I perform at my best, that’s what my leadership expects of me. They don’t look at me as a girl, they look at me as an officer,” Jacque said.

Jacque sees so much value in the wide range of opportunities the military offers. “[In the military] you can be an engineer, a police officer, in the medical field, communications…whatever you’re interested in, there’s probably a link in the military. It’s a great opportunity to see other places, get pushed out of your comfort zone and you meet amazing people. The comradery is my favorite part,” Jacque said.

Having spent a life in the military and in Girl Scouts, Jacque sees the missions as very similar – serve your country and help people at all times. “[The common mission of Girl Scouts and the military]…it’s in the promise ‘on my honor I will try to serve God and my country’ – that’s what we do, we serve our country. We are helping people at all times. The words may be different between the Girl Scout Promise and what we say when we’re commissioned, but the message is the same,” Jacque said.

We thank Jacque for her service both as a Girl Scout and as a member of the armed forces. What an inspiring story of leadership, dedication and strength! If you would like to share the story of an awesome Gold Award Alumnae like Jacque Ralston, comment below!

Engineering a Life of Service to Women in STEM

A Gold Award Alumna Spotlight: Katie Lin

What does saber throwing and industrial engineering have in common? Besides an understanding of physics and being able to react to changing conditions, not much else comes to mind, right? For Girl Scout Gold Award Alumna and Lifetime Member, Katie Lin, the two are linked in her life through Girl Scouts and the STEM experiences that she’s been exposed to since childhood. Now the president of the KC chapter of Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and an engineer, Katie Lin is living a life of leadership, STEM and service to women in her community.

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Growing up in Texas, Katie joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy and stayed through high school. Her mother served as troop leader or co-leader for the majority of her years and she remembers getting to do exciting outdoor adventures, service activities and growing as a leader. “Girl Scouts impacted me a lot in terms of leadership. I’m a shy person, especially when I was younger, and Girl Scouts helped me with public speaking and I learned to get involved. That has carried through my whole life,” Katie said.

Her troop, 5029, took advantage of their location by visiting sites like the USS Lexington, a naval ship permanently docked in Corpus Christi, Texas. “We spent the night and got to see what it was like to work on a ship like that. We got to sleep in bunkers…wash the planes in the morning…and sit in the cockpit chairs. As a troop, we really enjoyed that,” Katie said. It was experiences like this that exposed Katie to new things and helped shape her as a leader.

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In high school Katie had her sights on earning her Gold Award, having earned her Silver Award with her troop. As a member of color guard (a sport that combines dance, flag handling and rifle throwing), she saw an opportunity to educate younger girls about the sport many don’t know about. “Color guard is one of the few activities you can join in high school without having experience. With sports, dance teams, orchestra, band, they want skilled performers or players who have done it in the past. With color guard, you didn’t need any prior experience,” Katie said. Her project was to create a camp for younger girls to learn about color guard and the opportunities it provided.

After finding a passion for STEM in high school, Katie packed her bags and moved to Columbia, MO to join the engineering program at the University of Missouri (MU). Engineering wasn’t always on the top of Katie’s list of careers, partly because her parents were geological engineers and studied rocks for a living. “Most of our family vacations were to national parks where they would try to explain to me how things were formed…and I thought ‘it’s pretty, but I don’t care.’ So I didn’t want to be an engineer because I thought they studied rocks. It wasn’t until high school that I realized there were all these different kinds of engineering and that I liked math and science and that I was good at it,” Katie said.

While at MU, she met the man who is now her husband, Hao Lin, a fellow engineer who moved with his family from China to St. Louis, Missouri when he was 13. It was at MU that she first found SWE and served as the president of the MU chapter for two years. SWE’s goal is to help female engineers network, learn about the industry and support one another. After moving to Kansas City to work at Honeywell, she got involved with the local SWE chapter and now is serving as its president as her way of giving back to women in her STEM community.

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As a female engineer, Katie believes in encouraging young women to explore STEM fields as career options. “Engineering is one of the few fields that hasn’t progressed [in terms of gender equality]. I think women are currently around 18% [of the engineering workforce]. It’s important for girls to understand that there are opportunities for STEM. A lot of girls like math and science, but may not understand what engineering is or that it can be a good career,” Katie said. That’s why she not only encourages young girls to participate in STEM activities, but is also a Girl Scout supporter as a member of Daisy’s Circle (the monthly giving program for GSKSMO). She also encourages young women to network through groups like SWE NEXT, which is a free membership level in SWE for girls under 18 curious about engineering.

Through Girl Scouts, Katie found the confidence to thrive, to speak up and to have the courage to be an engineer. “In engineering, you have to be courageous and wanting to take the initiative to try something new. Especially being a woman in a male dominated field, you have to be those things. That is something Girl Scouts helped me with,” Katie said. Today, she gets to travel for work and as a hobby, leads a community of STEM women and leads a happy life as an engineer.  Thank you, Katie, for your inspiring work and for continuing to connect women in STEM.

If you know of a great Gold Award Alumna story, share with us in the comments below!

 

A ROCK-ing Girl Scout Experience

Celebrating Girl Scout Highest Award Alumna Nancy Banta

How closely do you look at the landscape around you? If you’re a geologist like Girl Scout and First Class alumna, Nancy Banta – the answer is probably a lot. Through Girl Scouts, Nancy was able to share her love of geology to educate other girls and gain life skills that gave her the confidence to thrive. From wrangling cattle in muddy boots to getting her first job offer while working at camp, Nancy is a proud Girl Scout and woman in STEM who defied the odds to live a life of adventure and travel.

Born into a military family, Nancy moved frequently, but found a home in Girl Scouts. “[I liked] having something that was the same structure wherever I went. I may have been the new kid in school, but I was still a Girl Scout – that gives you a lot of confidence,” Nancy said. Starting as a Brownie, she continued through high school and earned the First Class, an award that is now the Gold Award. While in Girl Scouts she remembers camping, service projects and developing leadership skills. “We used to say they could drop us out of a plane with a jack knife and twine and we could build a city,” Nancy said.

Her first job was as a counselor at Girl Scout Camp Brandy in New York and required special permission from GSUSA since she was below the age threshold. At camp, she became “Battleship Nancy” and said that “as a counselor, it was important to me to give [girls] an experience that their parents couldn’t offer them.” Camping was a passion and inspired her decision to become a geology major at Beloit College in Wisconsin.

As a woman in STEM in the 1970s, she faced shocking gender obstacles. Missouri legally would not allow women to descend into mines, making her field work dependent on what the men in the group could bring back. This lack of gender equality in the field was daunting, but didn’t stop Nancy from graduating as a geologist and even pursuing her PhD in geology from the University of Texas at Austin in the 1980s.

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After college, Nancy became a counselor and geologist at National Center West, a highly competitive and prestigious Girl Scout camp.  That summer gave her lifelong friends and skills that helped her get a job. Known as “Rock” at camp, Nancy spent hours riding horses each day to teach Girl Scouts about geology.

Toward the end of her time at National Center West, Nancy got a call from Getty Oil Company asking her to come out to California for an interview. Getty Oil was a large, successful company that has since become part of Texaco. At the time, it was owned by J. Paul Getty (named richest living American by Fortune in 1957). In 1974 less than 1% of petroleum geologists were female, so the odds of Nancy getting a job with this prestigious company was so unthinkable, she didn’t take it seriously. “The big deal at dinner was ‘well Rock, when you get this job, we’ll all go with you to Los Angeles!’” Nancy said. Little did she know – those girls actually would travel to California with her and become her first roommates.

The interview process wasn’t stressful because Nancy didn’t think she had a chance. “I was totally relaxed. At that time women in petroleum geology were .06%, so I had extremely low expectations,” Nancy said. To her surprise, Getty sent a limo to pick her up from the airport and hired her as a Junior Geologist.

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Working with Getty allowed Nancy to have a life of adventure. She traveled all over the world, spending time on oil rigs and examining ground samples. She mapped swamps in Guatemala, worked on wells in Columbia and Canada and visited places like Madrid, Glasglow, Houston, London & Vienna for a geology meetings, among many other adventures. Nancy was responsible for giving presentations from her team because she was an excellent communicator. They even took presentations to schools to teach kids about geology – skills she had from being a camp counselor. With Getty she was part of the team responsible for exploration in Spain, Northern Europe and North Africa. The experiences she had with Getty were the ultimate outdoor adventure – a life of science all over the world.

Nancy continues to inspire girls and be an advocate for women in STEM. She’s a member of Daisy’s Circle, GSKSMO’s monthly giving program and a member of the Trefoil Society. Nancy believes that Girl Scouts has a lasting power for women – no matter the generation. “Girl Scouts teaches values, gives you friendships and the confidence from having the skills you need. [As a Girl Scout] you really aren’t afraid of things that go bump in the night,” Nancy said.

There is one camp song in particular that Nancy feels sums up the camping experience and her time as a Girl Scout. The lyrics are from “On My Honor” and go: “But we find more meaning in a campfire’s glow / Than we’d ever learn in a year or so / We’ve made a promise to always keep / And the day is done before we sleep / We’ll be Girl Scouts together and when we’re gone / We’ll still be trying and singing this song.”

Thank you to Nancy for all your amazing advocacy and work with Girl Scouts and as a woman in STEM. If you have any memories with “Battleship Nancy,” “Rock” or of another awesome Highest Award recipient, share in the comments below!

Gold Award Alumna is Making a Slam Dunk in Sports Journalism – Lindsay McNary

Have you listened to a K-State HDTV recently? You might have noticed one of the sportscasters covering some of the hottest sporting events for the Wildcats is a woman…and of course, she’s a Girl Scout. Lindsay McNary is breaking the mold in the world of broadcasting by pursuing a career as a female in sports journalism. Driven by the courage, confidence and character, Lindsay is a Gold Award recipient from Sabetha, Kansas who doesn’t let gender stereotypes influence her ability to succeed.

Lindsay began her Girl Scout journey as a Daisy and was proud to close out her girl experience as a Gold Award recipient. At the age of 16 she was not only working on badges herself, but became a troop leader for 25 Daisies. “The biggest lesson I learned [with the Daisies] is that too much love can hurt you. When you have 25 little girls want to hug you all at once, you’re not physically able to stop them. I thought ‘this is it, I’m going out because of too much love!’” Lindsay said.

For her Gold Award project, entitled “12 Seconds to Live,” Lindsay organized a reenactment of what a drunk driving accident with fatalities looks like close up. It was designed to be a wake-up call to high school students and the community about what really happens in a fatal car accident. It also doubled as a mass causality drill for local first responders and has continued to serve that purpose as a training exercise. The project idea came from Lindsay’s own experience losing a cousin in a drunk driving accident and knowing that in a small town, teens are more likely to drinking as a form of entertainment.

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Her Gold Award project was so inspiring that Lindsay was one of eight Girl Scouts selected from across the country to travel to Washington DC and meet President Obama in 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts. Talk about an incredible leader from our council!

After high school, Lindsay went to K-State to study Journalism, the first in her family to go to college. She landed great internships with local news stations and even worked as a marketing intern with our council. At K-State, she worked her way up and served for two years as a producer and sports at the school radio station, The Wildcat 91.9, with 45 students under her management.

Her first couple of weeks at The Wildcat 91.9 were a little challenging for a unique reason – about half of the male students that were supposed to be on her team walked out of the station, refusing to work in the sports division under a female manager. “They decided, ‘we don’t like this, if we all leave, she won’t be able to keep her job.’ Well, they ended up keeping me and it was a good lesson because it taught me how to be a good leader and how to instill confidence in my abilities to my team. In the end, all but two of the students, plus 10 more, came back,” Lindsay said.

It was a good thing they trusted her at The Wildcat because she organized internships, travel and unique opportunities that had never been offered there before. Talk about confidence in the face of incredible obstacles! She has since left The Wildcat 91.9 and is now working with K-State HDTV as a host, sportscaster and crewmember.

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Looking back, Lindsay remembers that there were times when she thought about leaving Girl Scouts, but now, looking at the experience she gained in the program, she’s happy she stuck with it. “I was bullied in high school, I was the quintessential nerd…but I stayed in Girl Scouts because I made the best connections there. All of these students in college now have no other experience except maybe playing sports in high school. They’re going to struggle to find a job, where as I have experience. I’m a small town girl who didn’t even think I was going to go to college. Through Girl Scouts I figured out what I wanted from life,” Lindsay said.

Lindsay believes that a great deal of her ability to conquer the academic and work world comes from earning her Gold Award. “Because of the Gold Award, I can walk into any boardroom, any job, any interview and hold my head high, not only having the self confidence that Girl Scouts has instilled, but knowing that I rank so much higher than any other student or potential employee. That alone is so empowering. I know that I will be desired in the workforce and that I have the ability to follow my wildest dreams,” Lindsay said.

Now in her final year at K-State, Lindsay is excited about the future. She and her fiancé are expecting their first child late this summer 2016 and planning to move to Omaha, Nebraska. She has a variety of great job offers already and knows she’ll be able to tackle any of them. As a soon-to-be mom, she wants to remind other parents and girls that Girl Scouts is a long term goal that’s worth staying in as long as you can. “You have to think about [the benefits of Girl Scouts] long term. It may not seem like an immediate payoff, but the benefits are so much greater if you just have to hang in there, persevere and soak up every opportunity that you can,” Lindsay said.

We are so proud of Lindsay and all that she’s been able to accomplish! What an amazing example of where the skills learned in Girl Scouts and earning the Gold Award can take you. If you have a great Gold Award Alumna story or if you’ve seen Lindsay in action, share in the comments below!