GSKSMO Goes to the Nation’s Capital

Guest Bloggers: Sara Babcock and Roxie Cody, Girl Scout Ambassadors

Long before any primary or convention, we planned a trip where Girl Scouts could experience history and democracy in action. And, they could have robust conversation, learn from one another and know their voice matters. Last Thursday – Sunday, these 14 Girl Scouts traveled to Washington DC together, united as Girl Scout sisters. Thank you to Sara and Roxie for documenting their incredible experience.

We had the opportunity to witness the Inauguration of the 45th president of the United States through Girl Scouts and EF Tours with 12 other sister Girl Scouts. The trip was not only about the inauguration but about getting to know Girl Scouts from other service units, visit the Smithsonian Museums, monuments and memorials in and around DC. Before the trip Regan gave a very funny speech about group dynamics that had us all laughing and two of the younger girls helped us prepare for safety on the trip as well as airport etiquette.

On Inauguration Day, it took us 4 hours to walk to the National Mall. We were surrounded by tons of people while standing in the security line to enter the National Mall. There were a lot of security and military personnel from all over the US, even some from Alaska!

The audience was a mix of supporters, protesters, and those just wanting to witness history in person as we watched the Inaugural speech of the 45th President of the United States of America on a JumboTron next to the Washington Monument. What we witnessed were many speeches that recognized importance of the peaceful transfer of power to President Trump. It was ironic to be standing next to the Washington Monument, remembering a class lecture where we learned how George Washington shocked the entire world when he peacefully transferred the power of the presidency, starting the tradition we have today.

The next day we visited the Capitol Building; the Mall was so overwhelmed with people that they had closed the Capitol Building and we had the opportunity to see the Women’s March first hand. Everywhere we looked there were people holding signs and supporting the Women’s March. Some were holding signs, but not all. Those that didn’t made us curious as to what they were there support specifically. Everything during this trip was very interesting to see and to experience.

During the trip girls prepared and gave small speeches about the places we were visiting when we arrived, including the Vietnam and Korean War memorials, well as the Lincoln Memorial.

An older girl in our group, Annaleigh, said that her favorite part of the trip was our first day when we visited with Congressman Kevin Yoder. “He was very kind and willing to answer our questions not just briefly, but he gave very descriptive answers”

Overall he was a very kind and accepting person. He took our questions seriously and didn’t talk down to us.

Fellow group members Naomi and Courtney both said that they “liked making new friends and that the trip as a whole was low drama!” We walked a lot every day (11 miles on Inauguration day, alone); so in addition to having a good pair of shoes, having a low drama group was very important. Especially when everyone, was tired, sleepy, and a bit cranky!

When asked why she wanted to come in this trip, one of our group members, Riley said “I wanted to try something new.” Which we personally think exactly describes everything we did on this trip. It was all new and exciting. Some of us had never ridden a plane, the metro (subway), or been to a food truck before.

We were complimented multiple times by our bus driver and the tour director for being attentive and so well behaved. Overall, it was a very engaging and interesting learning experience for all of us involved.

“This trip was important because I got to witness an inauguration, a crucial part of our nation’s politics. The most important thing I got to do on the trip was attend the Women’s March. Dissent is also a very important part of our country; attending the march made me feel like I was part of something bigger.” Lillie said.

Thanks to Girl Scouts and EF Tours we were able to try new things, met new people, and had experiences we will never forget.

All the Reasons to Camp Like a Girl Scout this Summer!

Camping has long been an aspect of Girl Scouting. Girl Scout Camp is where your G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)™ will lead like a Girl Scout.

Because at Girl Scout camp, she will be:

A GO-GETTER: Determined to succeed. Bold. Honest. Fair. Ambitious.

An INNOVATOR: Creative. Will think outside the box. Use resources wisely. Experiment.

A RISK-TAKER: Try new things. Be courageous. Step up. Discover. Embrace the unfamiliar.

A LEADER: Confident. Responsible. Empathetic. Advocate. Empowers others.

Because when she camps like a Girl Scout, she empowers herself for life.

We’re excited to announce that registration for 2017 Summer Camp is now open! We have some new and exciting programs and sessions that we want to make you aware of!

Badges – In most programs, girls will complete steps and earn a badge at resident camp. In all programs, girls will complete steps in additional badges that coincide with girl-led activities!

Teens Only Session – Session 4 (July 6 – 14 & July 9 -14) features programs just for girls going into 6th grade or higher! Teens will rule Camp Daisy and will enjoy connecting with other teens!

Extended Programming – throughout the summer are some extended programs, mostly for teen Girl Scouts, to build skills and friendships that will last a lifetime!

Journeys! – Complete your Sow What Journey (9 – 12 grade) or Breathe Journey (6 – 8 grade) at camp this summer!

Excursions – Learn skills at Camp Daisy, then take them offsite with our resident camp staff and do adventure activities, kayak on a lake (Kayak Kansas), problem solve on a high ropes course (Challenge Accepted) and more!

Mini Camp – for Brownies & Juniors who are new to outdoor experiences and overnights away from home. These two-night experiences will give her a taste of summer camp and leave her wanting more!

We know that choosing to send your Girl Scout to resident camp is a big decision for both you and your girl, so take sure that you both take the Camp Readiness Quiz on page 4 & 5 in our 2017 Summer Camp Digital Guide! If the results indicate that either one of you aren’t quite ready, think about going to camp WITH your Girl Scout!

You & Me: Ladies is for Girl Scouts in K-3 grade and a female caregiver in her life!

You & Me: Gentlemen is for Girl Scouts of all ages and male role model in her life

S’mores & More is for the whole family! Mom, Dad, Brother, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends!

We asked our Resident Camp Director Marley Parsons (aka Ferris) why she is so passionate about camp and why it’s so beneficial for girls to go to Girl Scout Resident Camp. As a lifelong Girl Scout and lover of the outdoors, she passed along some great resources to reference when considering summer camp!

 

More than S’mores – In 2014, Girl Scouts of the USA published a study by the Girl Scout Research Institute called More than S’mores. For this study they talked to nearly 3,000 Girl Scouts in fourth-through-eighth-grade about their outdoor experiences

American Camp Association (ACA)-  Camp Daisy Hindman is accredited by the American Camp Association. The ACA is a community of camp professionals who, for over 100 years, have joined together to share their knowledge and experience and to ensure the quality of camp programs. On their website is a great article called The Case for Camp- Why Kids Need it Now More Than Ever.

So what are you waiting for?! Get your Girl Scout registered for Summer Camp! The first 400 girls who register for any camp program (You & Me, S’mores & More, Mini or Resident Camp) will receive this limited edition Camp Daisy bandana!

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 Girl Scout Gem

Celebrating 60 Years of Hidden Valley Camp

Tucked away in the heart of Lawrence, Kansas sits 40 acres of wildlife terrain where thousands of Girl Scouts have grown as G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-Takers, Leaders)™ for 60 years! Hidden Valley Camp sits in what used to be a secluded part of Lawrence in 1956. Throughout the years, significant city developments have taken place all around the property, but Hidden Valley has remained a wilderness area and semi-primitive campsite, living up to the “hidden” part of its name!

Girl Scouts at Hidden Valley Camp in 1982 on the left, and in 2016 on the right!

Girl Scouts at Hidden Valley Camp in 1982 on the left, and in 2016 on the right!

Hidden Valley is one of the few privately owned and operated camps in the region. The land was purchased and Hidden Valley Camp was established with funds from the estate of the late Alfred Bromelsick who passed away in 1950. Mr. Bromelsick was a longtime advocate of outdoors programs for youth, specifically those of the Girl Scouts, Boys Scouts and 4-H organizations. Today, Hidden Valley Camp is owned and managed by the locally-based Lawrence Hidden Valley Committee (LHVC) Inc., a nonprofit organization comprised of adult Girl Scout members living in the greater Lawrence community.

Many additions and improvements have been made to Hidden Valley in the past 60 years to keep up with the growing needs of Girl Scouts! In 1996, Friends of Hidden Valley was created to keep up with those improvements. This separate committee supports LHVC in programming, maintenance and establishing and meeting the goals of the property today, and for the next 60+ years.

Hidden Valley has seen so much love from many dedicated Girl Scout volunteers over the past six decades. One of those volunteers was the late Mariana Remple. Mariana was a co-founder of Hidden Valley Camp along with Carolyn Blaas, and was active with Girl Scouts of the USA for 50 years! In addition to Mariana’s work with Hidden Valley, she served as troop leader for Troop 660 for over 40 years and as assistant troop leader until her passing.

Carolyn Blaas and Mariana Remple, two of the Co-founders of Hidden Valley Camp.

Carolyn Blaas and Mariana Remple, two of the Co-founders of Hidden Valley Camp.

As a treasured Girl Scouting experience for girls, those who once experience this camp as a young Girl Scout are now coming full circle serving on the LHVC and the Friends of Hidden Valley Board or serving in other capacities as adult Girl Scout members.

Durand Reiber remembers going to a very rainy Day Camp at Hidden Valley with her troop when she was just a Girl Scout Brownie. In 2002 she was hired as Camp Manager – the camp’s first paid employee, a role she still serves in today.

“I was a Girl Scout through my senior year, canoeing and camping away with Mariana Remple’s Mariner Troop 660, which had a profound impact on my life. I continued to travel, camp and canoe, often leading my women friends on trips. My love of all things natural, and my college and career choices are an extension of all those experiences, beginning with that rainy Day Camp at Hidden Valley,” Durand said.

Kyra Flummerfelt was a Girl Scout growing up in Lawrence, living right down the street from Hidden Valley, but didn’t experience it herself until she found herself leading her daughter’s Girl Scout Brownie troop! In 2008 she was asked to join LHVC board and oversee the reservations and equipment checkout process and now she also serves as the zip line and archery facilitator.

“I love getting to meet leaders and help make camping easier by providing them with pretty much everything they need to camp out.  When we decided to add the zip line to camp I signed up to be a facilitator.  I am afraid of heights but chose to overcome it so that I could not only help others experience the wonders of zip line but so I could do it too.  I now love to zip line,” Kyra said!

Today, the wondrous 40 acres of Hidden Valley boasts hiking trails, diverse habitats of the prairie, woods, rocky hillsides, wetlands and streams, a challenge course with two zip lines and archery range. It also has a tree house, Yurt (really big tent) and a cabin with a kitchen making it the perfect place for seasoned campers as well as young troops to experience the great outdoors!

One thing that hasn’t changed about Hidden Valley is that it has a profound impact on those who still visit it today, no matter their age.

“This easy year round access means many troops routinely go there and the girls and adults alike get to know it well, developing a deep love for it over the years…and over time, it just becomes one of those special places in life you always remember,” Durand said.

Girl Scouts celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Hidden Valley Camp at the Fall Frolic.

Girl Scouts celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Hidden Valley Camp at the Fall Frolic.

While Girl Scouts in the greater Lawrence, Kansas area have first priority in reservations, Hidden Valley is open to all Girl Scouts and other groups who wish to take advantage its amenities.

“I can assure you that the experiences Girl Scouts and Hidden Valley offers girls make a difference and gives them a place to practice courage, confidence, and character,” Kyra explained. “Hidden Valley has been a place to make memories for so many people for the last 60 years and hopefully with help from the girls, leaders and community volunteers we can keep it that way for many more to come.”

If you would like to make a reservation at Hidden Valley for your troop, visit their website at www.lhvcamp.org and click on the reservations and equipment tab!

Camp Like a Girl Scout

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Spotlight on CIT II Olivia Aractingi aka “Puffy”

When Girl Scout Ambassador Olivia Aractingi went to summer camp for the first time in 2007, she left feeling empowered.

Empowered to embrace her unique qualities.

Empowered to believe in herself.

Empowered to make friends wherever she went.

“Even at 8 years old I knew. I met tons of different people and I loved the diversity between us. That experience made me who I am,” Olivia said.

Camping has long been an aspect of Girl Scouting. Girl Scout Camp is where every G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)™ will lead like a Girl Scout, like Olivia.

Over the past nine years, she has been to three different camps, participated in a variety of programs and formed countless friendships with campers and counselors. Through her experiences at camp, Olivia has found her passions and challenged herself.

One summer her mom signed her up for a horse program. “I tried something new, realized that I didn’t like to ride horses, but I like to help out with them. The beauty of camp is that its challenge by choice,” she explained. “Camp shows yourself your boundaries. You explore what you do and don’t like – it’s perfect because if you don’t want to do one thing, there’s always something else.”

As Olivia has grown through camp each summer, so have her leadership skills. She’s earned both her Counselor-in-Training (CIT) I & II pins and works to ensure that younger campers have an experience as memorable as her first one was.

“My goal every summer is to get to know everybody at camp – learn one thing about every person. That does great things for building friendships!”

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Olivia knows that her experiences and skills she builds at camp stay with her even when she’s not there. During the school year she her camp experiences and recruits girls of all ages to join Girl Scouts to join her the next summer!

“Going to camp has helped me communicate with people in the real world. It has turned me into a leader and a problem solver,” Olivia said.

Because she camped like a Girl Scout, Olivia is empowered for life.

What program will empower your G.I.R.L. this summer?! Our 2017 Summer Camp Guide is now live and registration opens on January 5, 2017 at 9:00 am!

Taking a Risk and Finding Your Passion

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Evelyn Peat’s Girl Scout Destination to Rock-N-Wilderness

With dozens upon dozens of Girl Scout Destinations to choose from, there is trip for every Girl Scout.

If she wants to be a go-getter, honing her photography skills while hiking through a national park, she can.

If she wants to discover more about herself as a leader while backpacking through Peru with a pack of llamas, she can.

If she wants to be a risk-taker, canoeing through the boundary waters, she can.

Evelyn Peat did.

Evelyn is a Girl Scout Senior and one of five girls in troop 3394 out of Topeka, KS. Just like any other troop, #3394 is girl-led. They choose what activities they will do each year, together. But, one of the great things about being a Girl Scout is that you can also do things outside of your troop that have particular interest to you – like a Girl Scout Destination!

You see, Evelyn loves the outdoors – camping, exploring and taking risks as a Girl Scout. So when her mom told her about a trip called Rock-N-Wilderness that would take her up to Minnesota to canoe through the various lakes that make up the Boundary Waters and through Canada, she was sold.

Through her experiences on Lake Odonata at Camp Daisy Hindman, Evelyn knew that she liked canoeing and that she wanted to do more of it!

Her Destination started out at a Girl Scout Camp in Duluth, MN where she was put into a group with six other Girl Scouts from around the country and two guides. The first two days they did team building exercises and learned the ins and outs of canoeing. They also did a small kayaking expedition, something Evelyn had never done before!

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For the next seven days, Evelyn and her group canoed over 50 miles through Minnesota into Canada and back, camping and cooking their meals along the way. During those seven days Evelyn learned more about herself as a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk taker and leader.)™

“I really liked the since of accomplishment I felt each day. I learned that I can always push myself to go farther; even if I think I can’t,” Evelyn said.

 

Throughout the trip their guides were constantly monitoring the weather, determining the best time for the group to be out on the water, completing their trek. This meant that some days they canoed in the early mornings, some in the afternoons and once, during the night! They were prepared for whatever they might encounter and had supplies and food packed for those seven days in the wilderness.

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There are three roles in a canoe – the bow (front), the stern (back) and princess (middle). The guides quickly realized that Evelyn was an excellent bow and often looked to her to navigate the choppy waters, not only for her own canoe, but for the entire group.

While out on the Boundary Waters, something really special happened to Evelyn. She crossed paths with her brother who happened to be on a Boy Scout expedition himself!

At the conclusion of her destination, Evelyn met back up with her family for a mini-vacation in Minnesota while they waited for her brother’s expedition to conclude. During that time she convinced her family to go kayaking out on Lake Superior!

Since she has returned, her passion for canoeing and kayaking has remained steady. The Peat family has been out to Eisenhower State Park where they can rent canoes and kayaks by the hour. Other families have joined in on these outings and Evelyn has been teaching others how to properly and safely be out on the water!

She’s even taught her 10-year old brother how to canoe!

Melissa Peat, Evelyn’s mom, sees a difference in Evelyn since she’s returned. “I’ve realized how much more confidence she has and she is communicating better,” Melissa explained. “When we have gone out kayaking and canoeing with friends, she is a leader and teaches people what to do!”

Thanks to Girl Scouts, Evelyn took risks and discovered a new passion that she is now sharing with those all around her!

November 15 is the first application deadline for 2017 Girl Scout Destinations! Where will you travel as a G.I.R.L (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?

Going Gold with STEM

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Introducing Senior Girl Scout Jolly Patro’s Take Action Project

When most girls have a Friday off from school they’re ready to spend time with friends or spend the day relaxing. For Jolly Patro, an aspiring Gold Award Girl Scout, it’s a day to do something she loves – service. On this particular Friday in September, Jolly spent her day off at Children’s Mercy Hospital handing out her first STEM kits for her Gold Award project. This awesome Girl Scout Senior from Troop 107 in Olathe, KS is on her path to Gold by combining her love of helping kids, STEM and education.

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Jolly Patro is a sophomore at Olathe North high school and a girl of many talents. She’s involved in Science Olympiad, works at Kumon, plays the viola, is an officer in her school service club, a member of student council and volunteers at Children’s Mercy! Talk about a go-getter! Yet no matter how busy she is, she always finds time for Girl Scouts and most recently, for her Gold Award project.

She began working on her Gold Award after going to Inspire a Girl in April 2015. “One of my friends got her Gold Award at Inspire a Girl, so I started mine after that ceremony. I thought ‘this is something I can do’ after talking with the other recipients that day,” Jolly said. Seeing the other projects and having earned her Bronze & Silver Awards, Jolly knew it was something she wanted to earn.

While Jolly’s path is STEM focused now, her favorite things to do as a younger Girl Scout involved camping and her friends. “My favorite part [of Girl Scouts] was camping because I got to spend the night with my best friends and camp in cool places like the Zoo or Timberlake,” Jolly said. As she got older she became interested in careers where she could help people and turned her sights to medicine.  “I want to be a pediatrician […] and I want to work with kids,” Jolly said.

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Her Gold Award project consists of creating STEM kits for the children at Children’s Mercy. They include activities that require common components (string, aluminum foil and tape), so they can easily be reused in the future. For Jolly, it was the perfect combination for her interests. “I started my Gold Award project and knew I wanted to do something with science, medicine and kids. So I thought of Children’s Mercy and we worked together to come up with the idea for STEM kits for the kids,” Jolly said.

These kits not only give the kids something to do while they spend time at the hospital, they inspire them to learn about a variety of STEM-focused areas. “The kits we currently have are a robotic hand kit, parachute challenge kit, zipline challenge kit, structure challenge kit and an adventure kit,” Jolly said. It’s truly engaging the children of the future. Jolly even talked about the power of STEM, Girl Scouts and her project at the GEHA Golf Tournament in September where $100K was donated to Girl Scouts! Jolly’s inspiring story as a driven Girl Scout had the audience on their feet, applauding her success.

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Just as her Gold Award project is hoping to inspire kids to learn more about STEM, she believes that giving to Girl Scouts does the same thing – creates a better next generation. “Girl Scouts tackle all topics, not just one area, like STEM. Girl Scouts conquer everything. You know that you’re shaping the women of tomorrow [by supporting Girl Scouts]. If someone donates, they’re helping girls for a better tomorrow, a better next generation,” said Jolly. “You’re helping the next generation when you give to Girl Scouts, that’s the most important thing,” Jolly said.

This inspiring young woman plans to stay active in Girl Scouts because of the bonds she has with her Girl Scout sisters and the unique opportunities that Girl Scouts offers. “By sticking with your troop, you get to stay with girls you’ve been with for years, you meet new girls and you all bond over Girl Scouts. With busy schedules you don’t always have time to see each other, but when you’re in Girl Scouts, you always have that one time you’re together during Girl Scouts. It also gives you so many opportunities. That’s why I stay with Girl Scouts,” Jolly said. “Without Girl Scouts, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Her biggest piece of advice to other girls planning to do their Gold Award is to pick something you’re really passionate about. “Pick something you’re passionate about because that’s the only thing you’ll be willing to spend that much time doing,” Jolly said. She found her passion and is thrilled to be sharing it.

What an inspiring young woman! We thank Jolly for all her amazing work and for being an inspiring young woman. Know another awesome Girl Scout working toward Gold?  Share her story in the comments below!

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Leadership in the Andes

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Girl Scout Senior Amanda M. is no stranger to travel. As a freshman in high school, her passport already dons more stamps than many grown adults. This summer, she added Peru to that stamp collection when she traveled with Girl Scout destinations on a Leadership in the Andes trip!

For 12 days, Amanda was fully immersed in the Peruvian culture with 15 other Girl Scouts from all over the United States.

The leadership skill building aspect of this trip is what really caught her attention – and the fact that it was in the mountains of a foreign country. “I knew I wanted to do another destination [after Space Camp last year]. I wanted to expand my boundaries and further myself,” Amanda explained. “I thought this would be a cool experience; you’re out of the county and you have to lead yourself and other girls!”

And what a cool experience Amanda had.

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Her and the group toured cathedrals, an alpaca farm, salt mines, Sacred Valley, volunteered at an orphanage and visited Machu Picchu; but, the bulk of the trip was a four-day, 20 mile backpacking trek through the Andes Mountains.

To prepare herself for the physical aspects of her destination, Amanda speed hiked with 15 lbs. in her backpack in her neighborhood every day. Her mom, Terri jokes that the neighbors started to wonder if she was practicing running away!

Amanda and the group hiked the Lares Trek, a more difficult path than the famous Inca trail. Each girl was responsible for carrying a day pack that held items they wanted immediately available to them, while over 20 llamas carried all their camping gear! They camped at various sites each night and had guides that would setup the campsites and cook dinner for the group. “We had a lot of freedom to search and explore,” Amanda said. Over the course of four days, they climbed from 9,000 feet to over 15,000 and even got a clear view of the Milky Way one night.

“It was hard work but it was so worth it!” Amanda said.

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A lot of the leadership development for the Girl Scouts happened during the trek. “I learned that while that I’m a very rough and tough person, that I’m not really that rough and tough,” Amanda explained. “I have limits and I have to accept that. It’s hard to be able to ask for help and say that you need a break, when you think you’re putting your pride on the line but you have to see your limits, accept them and love yourself for who you are.”

The pinnacle of the trip for Amanda was her visit to Machu Picchu. The group spent nearly six hours touring the ancient ruins and soaking up every bit of information the guides gave them.  One of the things they learned was that unfortunately Machu Picchu won’t last forever. First, because its sits on a fault line and second because of all the foot traffic. While there is some regulation of visitors, they’re not always followed or enforced.

Amanda was particularly fascinated with the tourism industry in Peru and had the opportunity to speak Spanish and converse with older girls at the orphanage they visited about it.

“The positive is that tourism improves their economy, the negative is that they’re losing some of their culture because of the tourism,” Amanda said.

Their guides taught them about sustainable tourism and what to look for in items they were purchasing. She learned how to tell the difference between foreign items and those which were locally sourced and produced in Peru. Amanda made it her mission to only purchase these sustainable items and came home with sweaters, socks, ponchos and more for her family!

She even bought every girl on the trip a friendship bracelet and wrote them a letter at the end of the trip. “I had a personal bond with every single girl in the group, even the leaders; I thought that was so cool.”

Every Girl Scout on the destination wrote a word that described Amanda on her flag.

Every Girl Scout on the destination wrote a word that described Amanda on her flag.

Amanda’s experience in Peru expanded her horizons and she realized that a major part of being a leader has to do with being true to yourself. “The leadership development they did with us was a lot more on the emotional side of things and how you feel.  You have to love yourself to ultimately lead others.”

Is your Girl Scout interested in an experience like Amanda’s? The first deadline to apply for a Girl Scout destination trip is Nov. 15! Domestic trips begin at the Junior level and international travel opportunities are available to Girl Scout Cadettes and older – find out more!

A trip of a Girl Scout Lifetime

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Troop 110 Experiences Costa Rica

Do you remember watching your group of wee little Daisies navigate Girl Scouts their first year? The tiny vests, loving demeanor, imagination as big as the universe? That was Troop 110…12 years ago.

This group of five Girl Scout Ambassadors from Olathe, KS has been together since elementary school. Growing together and becoming girls women of courage, confidence and character. Led by longtime volunteers Chris Hrdy and Marcia Woodard, Troop 110 kicked off their final year of Girl Scouting with a trip that has been 12 years in the making – a nine day adventure throughout Costa Rica.

For Danni Park, Ann Marie Hrdy, Rachel Woodard, Clar Groff and Kimberly Fenton this was the pinnacle of their Girl Scout experience; something that they have been working together to earn for the past 12 years.

Each year they would participate in product sales programs, spending 70% of their proceeds on activities for that year, donating 10% and saving 20% to take a big trip when they were older. In the beginning, they had their sights set on a trip to Disney World (every little girl’s dream), but as they grew, so did their vision for their trip. They next thought about a sightseeing tour of Europe but then realized that they were girls who like to do things and were back to the drawing board. “Were not a sightseeing kind of troop, we’re into activities,” Danni said.

Then, Costa Rica was brought up. A place that Ann Marie’s older sister (and Girl Scout alumnae) had been and loved. The research was done and they made a unanimous decision – they were bound for Costa Rica June 10 – 18, 2016 with EF Tours, Girl Scouts’ leading travel partner!

Those nine days were jam packed with adventure, just what they all wanted. Troop 110 traveled throughout the country of Costa Rica, never staying more than two nights in any town. They went on day and night hikes through the rain forest, traveled up and down volcanoes, visited coffee and cacao plantations, kayaked on Arenal lake, ziplined through the canopies of the rain forest, visited La Fortuna waterfall, swam in the hot springs, experienced all the wildlife, had fresh strawberry shakes in the strawberry fields, went horseback riding in Monteverde, and the list goes on.

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They also totally submerged themselves in the Costa Rican culture. The country’s traditional dish was available to them at nearly every single meal – rice and beans. Most of the places they stayed were small family owned inns; very different from the typical hotel experience that they were accustomed to in the states. This allowed them to get to know the owners personally and really appreciate and truly enjoy the places in which they were staying.

They spent one afternoon at a local elementary school, a one-room schoolhouse in Monte Verde and played soccer with the kids. This school, in particular, relies on assistance from local farmers and donations from individuals to stay operating. Each year they receive less government funding and are trying to provide meals to every student on less than $8 a day. Troop 110 came with supplies and donations to support the efforts of the school.

During their afternoon with the students is when the learned about some of Costa Rican ways of life. “You get a skirt when you’re young and keep that skirt for your entire life. They just add ruffles at the bottom as they grow up so they don’t have to buy another skirt,” Ann Marie explained!

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While all of these adventures and experiences were amazing, their tour guides and leaders put together the ultimate surprise experience for them – an evening with a fellow Costa Rican scout troop. Scouting in Costa Rica is part of the Asociación de Guías y Scouts de and is a co-ed program.  “You don’t say ‘you guys’ to them because there are girls too,” Rachel explained.

They spent the evening sharing their scouting experience with each other; the scouts from Costa Rica speaking in Spanish, Troop 110 in English, with Rachel translating for both groups. One of the many similarities they discovered was their shared love for the infamous s’more.

The Costa Rican troop built a large bonfire and provided the girls with small skewers to roast their marshmallows…they never quite got the hang of the Costa Rican way of roasting the mallow while not roasting their arms as well!

“We’re from different worlds, but the one thing we have in common is our curiosity,” Danni said.

At the conclusion of their time together, they exchanged friendship bracelets, knots and patches and each group sang a closing goodnight song to the other. “I’ve never cried more in my life than I did that night,” Danni said.

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All in all, their experience exceeded their wildest dreams from when they first envisioned taking this trip together when they were wee little Daisies.

“We would have had fun anywhere, but we loved Costa Rica. It was ‘Troop 110-style,’ we went out with a bang,” Danni said!

To round out their final Girl Scout year together, they are doing a series of flashbacks – repeating their favorite activities from the past 12 years of Girl Scouting! This month they hiked around their old campsite at Timberlake and are headed to Build-a-Bear next month! Next year they’re all headed off to different colleges, but have committed to reuniting after they all finish undergrad to do a “Troop 110 Legacy Trip” together.

They credit their tenure in Girl Scouting to their leaders. “100% it has been Miss Chris and Marcia. They have gone out of their way to find things to keep us interested. They cared about what we wanted to do and facilitated those activities for us,” Danni explained.

Troop 110 is the epitome of what Girl Scouting is all about. To hear these girls and their leaders talk about their trip and Girl Scouting experience as a whole will likely bring a tear to your eye.

“I have seen over the past 12 years excited little girls grow into confident women who can express themselves and have become great leaders. Girl Scouts has allowed them to be themselves while trying things they might not have otherwise tried,” Chris said.

A trip like theirs is doable for any troop! You just have to set goals and work your way towards achieving them – in true Girl Scout fashion. Ann Marie encourages all troops to dream of having an experience like theirs. “Work hard because it’s so worth it in the end.”

To learn more about trips coordinated specially for Girl Scouts, visit the EF Tour website.

Tell us the dreams your troop has in the comments below!

 

Welcome Back to Girl Scouts!

The Start of Something Great – Girl Scouts 2016-2017

Troop meetings, friends, traditions and sisterhood – everyone is ready for this time of year! It’s the start of a new Girl Scout year and we couldn’t be more excited! Joining Girl Scouts means that the entire family is helping their Girl Scout become a woman of courage, confidence and character. You’re also joining a global movement to make sure girls have a voice and the ability to do anything she wants. From teambuilding in troop meetings, the leadership that develops as girls try new skills to the courage that builds when girls go outdoors, being a Girl Scout is an adventure waiting to happen!

As your troop looks for new Girl Scout sisters and everyone is re-registering, here are 7 things every troop should do to get you excited about the year!

 

  1. Meet at least 10 times per year

Girl Scout troop meetings are one of the best things about the beginning of the new GS year. Girls get to work together on badges, service projects and set goals as a team. Troops like 1552 from Eudora, KS work on projects like their ENERGY STEM project last year, Troop 890 from Overland Park, KS will startup their new troop executive board that runs their meetings and Troop 1945 from Kansas City, MO will likely start planning their next awesome service project or trip! New troop leader? Here are some tips to help get you started. We can’t wait to see what great ideas will spring up as girls get together and work to change the world!

Troop Meetings

Girl Scout Troop 1552 says the promise before a troop meeting, spring 2016.

 

  1. Complete at least one activity plan from each skill-building area

Oh the things a Girl Scout can do! Trying new things and doing skill-building activities are at the heart of Girl Scouts. Older Girl Scouts can help younger Girl Scouts pick out the types of skills they want to learn and plan activities. Check out the online Badge Explorer with your Girl Scout to pick some of the badges she’d like to earn.

 

  1. Deliver badges to girls when they earn them

Girls love to showing off everything they’ve accomplished and badges are a great way to do that. Sewing on the patches themselves (or with help if they’re a Daisy or Brownie) can add another skill – sewing! Need badges? Get them at our store! Retiring a vest? Check out our past blog post on creative ways to preserve GS memories.

 

A Daisy Girl Scout shows off all her badges at a World Thinking Day in 2016.

A Daisy Girl Scout shows off all her badges & patches at a World Thinking Day in 2016.

 

  1. Participate in the Cookie Program

The sweet feeling of success! Introducing girls to business and financial literacy skills early on is a great way to help them be in control of their financial future. The Girl Scout Cookie Program gives girls the opportunity to run their own business, raise funds for troop activities and develop public speaking skills. Participation in the program is one of the best ways to get your Girl Scout – and family – involved. 2017 will introduce a BRAND NEW cookie too – read the GSUSA blog post here!

 

  1. Attend or hold a family celebration event

Girl Scouts really is a family affair, so we should celebrate together! Invite families to celebrate the successes of their Girl Scouts together. Many troops say that their troop families are their extended family, so make sure to get to know yours.

Gold Award Girl Scout Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff proudly poses for a photo with her family at the Inspire a Girl ceremony in April 2016.

Gold Award Girl Scout Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff proudly poses for a photo with her family at the Inspire a Girl ceremony in April 2016.

 

  1. Participate in at least one summer outdoor experience

When the weather is hot, so are the opportunities to explore the great outdoors through Girl Scouts! Whether your troop loves camping, wants to take on an adventure program, or just ready to cook some s’mores at one of the Council properties, there are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors.

 

  1. Learn Girl Scout Traditions

Speaking of s’mores and camping – Girl Scouts is full of rich traditions that we want every Girl Scout to share in. Ceremonies, the Promise, making SWAPS, eating S’mores and joining in a Friendship Circle are all ways to be part of the rich history that is Girl Scouts. If you’re a new troop leader, you can learn more about ceremonies in the Volunteer Essentials Handbook!

SWAPS

Girl Scouts from Service Unit 639 show off the SWAPS they got from other Girl Scouts at Day Camp in July 2016.

 

 Want to go the extra mile and be a LEAD Troop? Learn about the Ten Essential Elements of a Girl Scout troop and get the checklist here! This program helps recognize awesome troops who do everything they can to create an amazing experience for girls.

These are just 7 suggested things for Girl Scouts to do – but there’s a whole WORLD of opportunity open to girls. There really is no better time to be a Girl Scout. If you register by 10:59p on Sept. 28, 2016, you’ll be eligible to purchase this year’s ON TIME T-shirt! Already have a registered Girl Scout? Consider donating or joining Daisy’s Circle to help provide other girls with the opportunity to be Girl Scouts or sign-up to be a Girl Scout volunteer! Together, we’re going to have the best year of Girl Scouts EVER!

Comment below with what you’re MOST EXCITED for with the new Girl Scout year!

 

Registration