Reaching for the Stars: Girl Scout Destination – Alyssa R.

As a Girl Scout, you learn to shoot for the stars and excel in your passions. Girl Scout Senior, Alyssa R., a 10th grader in Olathe, KS, decided to go for the stars in an exciting Astronomy Destinations experience during the summer of 2019! Alyssa met 9 other Girl Scouts from around the country in Oregon to find out what it means travel like a Girl Scout.

Alyssa began her Girl Scout experience as a Daisy Girl Scout in North Carolina before moving to Kansas City and joining the troop she’s still with as a Junior. “For me, Girl Scouts lets me meet a wide community of people who all think differently,” Alyssa said – something that has helped her see other perspectives throughout her life. One of her favorite things about being a Girl Scout has been the outdoor and STEM experiences she’s been able to have – including a rock climbing camping adventure in Arkansas as part of one of our council trips. That led her to wanting to explore more with Girl Scouts and she soon found that a Destination would be the best option.

The application process was one that Alyssa prepared for and later found out that her preparation and thoughtful answers helped her get accepted. “The staff talked to us about our essays and gave us back what we wrote, then told us that we all put in more than the basics, which helped us get selected. We put in why we wanted to do it, why we were interested in astronomy and a STEM career,” Alyssa said. This experience helped her get a taste of what college applications will be like and now knows she has an edge after hearing about what stood out to the staff.

After being accepted, Alyssa made her way to Oregon and toured the coast, which included a stop at Seaside Beach. The group arrived at Pine Mountain Observatory for STEM activities and camped for 5 days Deschutes National Forest. Over the course of 9 days, in addition to camping, the girls did constellation walks, volunteered at two public observation nights, learned about wavelengths, performed several experiments and even went white water rafting! Overall, the experience let her try new things, meet new friends and get a feel for what a career in astronomy might look like.

During the Destination, she met Girl Scouts from all over the country and they still have a very active group chat. She also walked away with a new appreciation for her passion for astronomy and the confidence of travelling without parents or friends. “A Destination is a great thing to experience at this age since it’s nice to learn to travel without parents or friends to rely on,” Alyssa said.

She would encourage other Girl Scouts to “find a Destination that interests you…and just go for it!” Her biggest tip is “[…]be truthful in what your interests are, express interest [on the application] and proofread your submissions,” said Alyssa. We love those tips and know they’ll help other Girl Scouts rock those Destinations applications – and maybe some college or job applications too!  Thanks, Alyssa, for sharing your awesome Girl Scout Destinations experience!

Are you interested in a Girl Scout destination? Check out some of the awesome places Girl Scouts travel and get ready for the next round of the application process!

Finding Herself in the Wilderness: Autumn’s Girl Scout Destination Story

When you’re an outdoor focused Girl Scout, there’s nothing more exciting than traveling halfway across the country to one of the most beautiful national parks in the world! That’s exactly what Girl Scout Ambassador, Autumn S. from Leawood, Kansas did when she was accepted into the Maine Wilderness Destination during the summer of 2019!

Autumn applied for the Destination after learning about the awesome opportunities Girl Scouts offered for travel. Rather than preparing her answers separately, she sat down and completed the application and essay at once, really thinking about her answers and writing from the heart. “I was just in a writing groove and just did it all at once, I knew what I wanted to say,” Autumn said with a smile.

That passion ended up getting her accepted into the program and she traveled to Maine to meet up with 10 other Girl Scouts from around the country for a 12-day experience she’ll never forget. Over the course of the 12 days the girls camped at Camp Natarswi, a Girl Scout camp in Maine, sitting at the base of Mt. Katahdin. Autumn had two experiences that challenged her in different ways, the easier one being the ice caves that they ventured to. It was a short hike away and she had some great teambuilding experiences with that challenge because the girls had to help each other cross the ice.

The second adventure Autumn experienced was definitely a challenge – summiting Mt. Katahdin. Thanks to great staff leadership the girls were able to conquer the summit, with a fun little chant of “What are we going to do? SUMMIT!” along the way. Those staff members, especially Scrapper and Steve, helped her have a really amazing and empowering experience. “Looking back, I’m able to say, ‘wow, I really did that,’” Autumn said. In addition to those adventures, the group also got to go white water rafting and camp with new friends.

Autumn returned to KC with a new friend group (with an active group chat) and new confidence that has led her to new opportunities. “I applied for the Teen Leadership Circle at the Council and I’m not sure I would have done that if I hadn’t gone on the Destination,” Autumn said. She believes that this Destination experience helped her become a more confident person and encourages other Girl Scouts to give it a shot.

“Girl Scouts has great experiences that it’s hard to get anywhere else. With a Destination, there are so many trips, you can find what’s right for you. Just go and have fun. You never know what you’ll find,” Autumn said. Now that Autumn has had an amazing Destinations experience, her next big Girl Scout adventure is looking toward her Gold Award. She completed a Silver Award by painting chairs for Solace House and using funds she raised for this project. This Girl Scout is certainly going places! Thank you, Autumn, for sharing your amazing journey! Are you interested in a Girl Scout destination? The next application deadline is February 15!

Breaking Boundaries and Busting Barriers

The Boundary Waters account for over 1 million acres and 1,000 lakes of the Superior National Forest in the northeastern most part of Minnesota. With those statistics, it’s no wonder why Girl Scouts from all over the country head to Ely, MN every summer to experience the great outdoors camping, hiking, canoeing, porting and even making their way into Canada! This summer, seven Girl Scout Cadettes and two volunteers made the 10-hour road trip to the State Park with our Outdoor Experiences Excursion program!

Upon their arrival at Girl Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin Lakes & Pines camp, they started learning what to expect over the next five days and four nights! In true Girl Scout fashion, girls packed light using their resources wisely. Each canoe had one Duluth pack that contained clothing, sleeping bags and hygiene items for two girls! Girls took two changes of clothes – one dry set for at night and a wet set for during the day. FYI, getting into wet clothes in the morning can be a little cold!

The groups also had a food pack, weighing about 75lbs that carried all their nutrition and supplies for the 5 days. In the State Park, all food must be packed out or eaten. They would build a fire every morning and evening to cook – making pizza, pancakes, macaroni, brownies, burritos and cheesecake! After each meal, they had to wash dishes and dispose of the water 150 feet from the lake to avoid contamination. For drinking, they gathered water directly from the lake and purified it with iodine through a gravity filter.

One of the volunteers who traveled with our Girl scouts was Girl Scout Alum, Katelyn Clark, who actually went on this very trip herself when she was a young Girl Scout!

“It was amazing to see the girls grow. Most were nervous when going through training and spending the first night at base camp in the woods.  The last day as we were paddling in they were discussing that they can do anything and that they felt that they accomplished a lot,” Katelyn said.

Their trip wasn’t without its challenges. During their R&R day they took a short paddle and hiking trip to get a better view of the lake. On their way back they were met with a thunderstorm and had to pull over and spend time with another group out of the water who felt the need to instructions and guidance. As they disembarked, Girl Scout Cadette Autumn got out and moved the metal canoe all on her own. The other group was impressed and acknowledged that these girls were Girl Scout STRONG!

On their final day, they had to take some long portages (carrying the canoe above their head) to get to the some of the final lakes, going up and downhill for a mile and quarter with all their gear in tow too.  “The girls were so empowered after we finished. It was personally the highlight of my trip to see each one of them so self-confident after we completed them,” Katelyn said.

In total they went about 26 miles, crossing into Canada and have the arm muscles, mosquito bites and wet boots to prove it!

 

At the end of the trip, the girls reflected and had some of the following takeaways:

-You can do anything you mentally put your mind to, your body has few limitations.

-Everyone has their own strengths and you need to accept them and use your team to make everything work.

-It’s good to disconnect from technology and your to do list and just listen to your body every once in a while.

-Everyone has different bodies and different ways of being fit – it is important you listen to yours and find your own ways.

-Camping is fun

-Get to go to school saying they carried a canoe for 1.25 miles, lived in the woods for a week, canoed 26 miles and went to Canada!

-Girl Scouts teaches you how to be a leader through experiences like these. You don’t feel like you are learning but you learn things like teamwork, communication, perseverance and acceptance through trips like these.

“It was such an amazing experience to see the girls go through the same process as I did 20 years ago – nervous, self-doubt, confident and empowered. Paddling back in on the last day and listening to them talk about their takeaways made me tear up because I knew I was sending home 7 ladies that felt like they could conquer the world,” Katelyn said. “At its core this is truly why I volunteer, to help girls have experiences that empower them and inspire them to carry on the values they have learned.”

This is just one Outdoor Experience, of many, that girls can have when they’re a Girl Scout! As she grows, so do her skills. Each experience will prepare her to thrive physically, emotionally and intellectually.

See all the Outdoor Experiences available to Girl Scouts this fall at outdoor.gsksmo.org.

 

Wildlife, Geysers & Mountains: An Unforgettable Adventure between Sisters

Jump aboard for an unforgettable adventure trip shared between two sisters! Miranda and Emily Nitz from Olathe, Kansas recently partook in a life-changing Destination trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park with other Girl Scout sisters from all over the United States.

“Girl Scouts really prepared me for camping; all of my interest for the outdoors started with my troop,” Miranda said.  Emily agreed that the large undertaking of Yellowstone was mostly possible because she felt confident in the outdoors. These Girl Scouts were more than ready to put their risk-taker skills into action!

From resident camps and planning day camps to past family excursions, these Miranda and Emily were looking for something completely out of the ordinary.  Having already been to Yellowstone before, this time around the girls were really able to be one with nature and got to enjoy the challenge of camping for a whole week.

“At the very beginning, we were ready to get rid of our cell phones for a week, being disconnected felt natural, actually, it really helped us enjoy trip,” Miranda said.

Although both sisters admit to being a little nervous at the start because they did not know anyone, after the first night they were ready to start new adventures with new friends.  “I realized that all the girls there were accepting and had the same Girl Scout values.  Even though the other girls came with friends, I felt very welcome,” Emily said.

The Girl Scout Destination trip was guided by the field instructors of Teton Science Schools.  The counselors taught the girls how to practice naturalist skills and give back through service with other Girl Scouts from across the nation.

“The counselors were SO cool!  They were each graduate students that brought forward their knowledge to our camp before they graduated,” the Nitz sisters said.

The nightly programs would help prepare the 25 Girl Scouts about everything they would need to do during their day excursions: packing a hiking bag, setting up camp, and even how to use bear spray!

“I was really nervous I was going to wake up at night and hear a bear next to me, so I was really glad to have bear spray, even though I didn’t have to use it,” Miranda said.

Emily and Miranda were all smiles when reflecting back on their day excursions.  “Every single day was packed with something unique and different, but the counselors made all the activities easy and fun- our hike, for example, was only a mile long, but we felt fully prepared and packed for anything, like, you get dehydrated a lot easier so we had to pack more water that I was used to and we were so glad we brought rain coats!” Miranda noted.

They had half a day of hiking and half a day of canoeing in String Lake.  Then Emily joined in, “it was so cool to see a different landscape than Kansas; there weren’t small hills but large mountains that were much harder to hike and when you canoed, the water was completely clear from the mountain springs, it was cold but worth it!”

The next day the girls set out early for a wildlife day.  Seeing native Yellowstone animals like bison, buffalo, bald eagles, elk and bears were definitely a major highlight for both of them.  Miranda laughed, “It was crazy seeing elk so close to our cabin we’d never been so close before!”

Miranda and Emily had quite a bit of driving to do on their trip to make sure they saw all of the landmarks: Old Faithful, Dragon’s Mouth and mud spots.  Emily remembered that “[The muds spots] smelled like rotten eggs, kind of.  So every day when we smelled eggs for breakfast I remembered that!”

The last day in Yellowstone was dedicated to service.  The girls had the unique experience to give back by making much needed repairs on The Murie Ranch that needed some love!  “what made service project so cool,” Miranda said, “is that the Murie Family founded the Teton Science School, which is who supported a large part of our trip.  We definitely got lucky being able to make such a large impact like fixing a trail!”

The Destinations program most definitely gave these girls the travel bug!  Emily has future plans to visit Savannah, Georgia with her troop.  She is also excited for the 2019 Belize trip.  Miranda is already excited for another trip and loves planning day camp for her service unit.  She is ready to start planning her troop’s trip to Europe soon.

When reflecting, Emily noted that, “the coolest thing about this trip is that all of us girls talk still every day and we really want to plan another Destination trip together!”  Being split up during the trip ended up being one of the biggest learning lessons for them both; making new friends is a corner stone of what Girl Scouts is all about.  This trip allowed these girls to step out of their comfort zone to come together to learn about STEM, and further their outdoor knowledge.  Way to go, girls!

Learn more about Girl Scout Destination travel today to find new ways to enhance your Girl Scout summer!

 

Girl Scouts is the Place for All Girls – Mermaids Included!

Meet Irena, a super-outgoing seven year old Girl Scout Brownie from Service Unit 625. Irena is just like any other Girl Scout her age: she enjoys reading, ziplining at camp, and pretending to be a mermaid gliding through the pool with her magnificent tail. To us, Irena is one of the coolest and most courageous soon-to-be third graders we’ve ever met.

At just a year old, Irena’s father, Chris Johnson, was told she had a medical condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).  SMA is a rare condition that affects parts of the nervous system as it relates to voluntary movement.  Most children with SMA are not able to walk, have trouble breathing, and often are more susceptible to fatal illness.  Our Irena has Type II, so unlike many other cases of SMA, Irena is able to walk on her knees allowing for some lower body movement. Irena is so strong!  She visits specialists all over the country for treatment and surgery to help improve her mobility and work toward a cure.

This summer has been extra special for Irena and her dad!  During Irena’s time at Camp Prairie Schooner for Service Unit 625’s weekend camp-out, Chris was able to come along to assist. This gave dad and daughter a unique experience together.

“Girl Scouts allowing me to stay at camp with Irena meant the world to me to be able to provide her with the care she needs while getting to see her have the ability to do the things other kids do,” Chris said. “Irena isn’t 100% fearless, close though! At Girl Scouts, she is getting the support to take on those new challenges.”

With the expertise and encouragement of her dad and our Outdoor Adventure staff team, Irena took on one of those Girl Scout “challenges of choice” – ziplining. Irena had an awesome cheer squad led by her super enthusiastic (and from Irena) extra LOUD Troop Leader Miss Tiffany and backed up by all her Girl Scout sisters. She flew across that zipline with a big smile on her face and mastered a brand new skill.

Of course for Irena after completing the zipline, she declared it was no big deal. It was just another challenge that she faced and conquered. It was like when she puts on her Mermaid tail and she can glide through the water with ease. For others who watched Irena conquer this challenge, watching her glide across that zipline brought tears of joy.

This is what Girl Scouts is all about. Girls of all abilities are welcome to learn new skills, grow their friendships, take on challenges, fail, try again and succeed in a girl-powered space. And of course, dads who are “Man Enough to be a Girl Scout” are always encouraged!

Irena says her favorite parts of camp were the fun science activities she did, sleeping in a bunk bed- top bunk, and getting to be with her friends.

Chris and Irena can’t wait for the new Aquatics Center at Camp Prairie Schooner to open.  Part of Irena’s physical therapy exercises in making her legs stronger include swimming- with that magnificent mermaid tail!  The motion helps her hips grow strong, and makes it easier for her to be able to walk in water.

So what’s the future hold for this super G.I.R.L.(Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™? Nothing but BIG goals, of course! Irena wants to become a chemist so she can find a cure for SMA and other diseases and be able to help kids just like her. We’re also pretty glad she has several more years to keep conquering those Girl Scout challenges!

Irena is most definitely a G.I.R.L.!  Way to go, Irena!  We love having your bright smile in Girl Scouts!