Have Backpack, Will Travel

By Jaime Estes

Carrying everything they needed for the week (clothes, food, stoves, and sleeping bags) on their backs, ten Girl Scouts, one volunteer, and one Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida staff member boarded a plane to Baltimore. A week later they came back with stories, experiences, and new friendships they could have made no other way. Thank you to Outward Bound of Baltimore Chesapeake Bay for providing this platform for our girls to serve the Baltimore community, achieve their potential, and develop the leadership skills needed to care for the world around them.

20431774_10211856376662420_1105326531098993782_nUrban backpacking, by definition, if a form of travel focusing on flexibility and low cost, usually sleeping in hostels and other budget accommodations. Talk about expanding your comfort zone! From budgeting to mapping out directions, this was a true girl-led adventure. Jeanni C. of Troop 600 was the morning hair-braider. Not having access to showers meant the girls had to adapt their hygiene habits. Braided hair and extra socks were practically mandatory to stay comfortable.

The adventure began by enjoying a delicious outdoor lunch at Leakin Park. Meal-prep duty was rotated between the girls, each girl depending on one another. The crew’s first sleep site was at the Maryland Zoo; each night the girls slept in a different indoor community location. The girls would wake up to work on their first service project together. With shovels, pick axes, gloves, and lot of energy the girls set forth on removing a dead tree and replanting new, healthy trees and bushes at the zoo. Even stubborn tree roots couldn’t stop these girls.

 

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The group was led by Joey and Becs, professional Outward Bound instructors. Throughout the trip they instructed team-building exercises and taught the girls urban survival skills, such as preparing food outdoors, cleaning their bowls without soap, navigating with a map and compass, and using public transportation. They also crafted a series of challenges for the girls to complete as they navigated Baltimore. Some of the challenges were finding places, like the Baltimore Museum of Art or hunting for an Old Bay Seasoning sign.

The third night the group settled in to sleep at the Clifton Park Mansion House. For a breathtaking view, the girls climbed 177 steps to the top of the tower to watch the sunrise. Each night the girls were responsible for redistributing supplies (based on weight) for the following day. Trekking miles and miles with a 40-pound pack is no easy task. Volunteer Kim Poinsett couldn’t have said it any better, “On to the next adventure…feet and hearts are the transportation.”

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Determined to make the Baltimore community a better place, the girls tackled service project number two – renovating and beautifying Darley Park to make it a safe and welcoming place for local families. The girls built a tether ball court from the ground up, mowed the lawn, whacked weeds, watered the plants, and picked up trash. The final result was incredible. This service project was organized by the 6th Branch, an organization of veterans whose focus is community service.

 

20476350_10211862751101777_3787415938467395907_nJournaling was an important part of the girls’ experience. Writing down thoughts, actions, and emotions each day is the act of reflection. While the girls can’t stay in Baltimore forever, they can keep their journals forever, which serves as a constant reminder of the leadership and compassion they showed on their journey. It always feels good to give back, something these girls hold near and dear to their hearts. At Our Daily Bread, a housing and homeless shelter, the girls prepared and served lunch to their patrons, and washed all the dishes, pots, and pans.

One of the group’s favorite resting spots was The Boathouse, overlooking the Middle Branch Patapsco River. The girls had the opportunity to canoe on the river, an activity Girl Scouts were born to do.

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As if the girls hadn’t already had the experience of a lifetime, they also got to meet Mayor Catherine Pugh at Baltimore City Hall. Mayor Pugh went well over her allotted time to answer each of the girl’s questions about leadership and explained how each city has its own unique challenges and advantages. Mayor Pugh summed up the girls’ experience when asked her definition of leadership: “I am a servant to the citizens of Baltimore city and then to the state of Maryland. Leadership is serving others.” It was in that moment that everything clicked. Everything that the girls had done that week – planting trees at the zoo, improving a local park, and feeding the homeless – was serving others, the purest act of true leadership.

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To top off the adventure, the girls faced a final challenge to plan a trip to Washington, 20476477_10211878146006640_7662195360675110793_nD.C. The girls visited the Washington Monument, National Mall, Memorial Park, Jefferson Memorial, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial. But the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was, by far, the most moving. The girls spoke openly about how with more female go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders, tragedies like the Holocaust could have been prevented.

It’s hard to believe all of these experiences, service projects, outdoor meals, team-bonding moments, visits to historical landmarks, activities, moments of realization, and laughter could all fit into one week. But if anyone could do it, of course, it would be our Girl Scouts.

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Mints for the Military

By Catelyn Holcomb, Troop 176

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I’m told all of the time that I’m not a typical nine-year-old.  I’m an old soul and have always been more interested in doing things for others instead of myself. My name is Catelyn Holcomb and I’m in troop 176.

When I was a Daisy I learned about the Mints for the Military* program and have set my personal cookie goals around donations instead of actual boxes.  For the 2017 season, I focused on helping others even more than in the years before. I collected more than 1,425 boxes for our troops, which is a personal record.  When a customer said they couldn’t have sugar or didn’t need to eat cookies, I always made the suggestion for a donation and had great success.  I never gave up and learned many important lessons in sales from one booth to another.

Many people walking out of Publix said that they didn’t support our sales because other Girl Scouts haven’t asked if they would like cookies.  Even more said they didn’t know about the Mints for the Military program.  The best advice I can share with other girls is to ask!  The worst someone can say is “no” but without the question, you’ll never have an answer.

This is a fantastic program that helps our greater community nationwide where all Girl Scouts can work together.  For all the troops do for us worldwide, this is the least we can do for them.  I hope that come next cookie season, all Girl Scouts will remember to simply ask for their customers’ support.  And who can say no to a Girl Scout asking to support the troops that keep us free every day?

*Mints for the Military is Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s Girl Scout Cookie service project.  Mints for the Military gives cookie customers the opportunity to purchase cookies that are later donated to our active military servicemen and women as well as veterans.

To learn more about the Girl Scout Cookie program please visit http://www.gsgcf.org/en/cookies/about-girl-scout-cookies.html.

The Story Behind the Dress

By Jaime Estes

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Little Black Dress: Salute the Runway was this summer’s hottest event, but it was so much more than just a fashion show. In the months leading up to the big day, Girl Scouts (who are part of the Media Marvel* program) and local US women veterans joined forces. Together, they conquered the low ropes course and sharpened their archery skills at Girl Scout Camp Honi Hanta. They also interviewed one another and learned that although they may walk different lives, Girl Scouts and veterans may not be so different.

 

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Veterans and Girl Scouts both wear their uniforms proudly, work toward achievements, overcome obstacles, and collaborate with their team. Not to mention, they’re both in troops! Kari K. of troop 592 participated in the series from beginning to end and had this to say after the day at camp with the veterans: “We are learning teamwork and leadership building, and it is so much fun being with [the veterans] and hearing their stories. It’s inspiring.”

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But it wasn’t just the veterans inspiring the girls.  As each veteran had the opportunity to be interviewed by a Media Marvel one-on-one, they consistently sang their praises and were genuinely impressed by the girls’ confidence, curiosity, and energy. When given the right tools, Girl Scouts time and time again prove that the future of our country is in quite capable hands.

 

 

In true Media Marvel fashion (no pun intended), the ten Girl Scouts at Little Black Dress: Salute the Runway stole the show. While the veterans may have been the ones strutting down the runway (in their Goodwill-inspired fashions, our partner throughout the series), the crowd’s focus was definitely on the girls. Between their stage presence, public speaking skills, press interviews, photo shoots, and overall etiquette, guests couldn’t help but notice these girls are not your ordinary girls – they are Girl Scouts.

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So as you can see, this event was so much bigger than just a fashion show. Girls are learning the significance of patriotism, veterans are being inspired by our next generation of leaders, and the community is understanding that when we work together, the possibilities are endless.

*Media Marvels is a program series for Girl Scouts in grades 6-10. If you are interested in learning more or would like to attend the next Media Marvel program, please email mediamarvels@gsgcf.org.

Manatee County Girl Scout Helps Girls Stress Less

Manatee County resident and Manatee High School student Courtney Zoller has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project titled, Stress Less.

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Zoller took note of the increasing academic and social pressures girls in grades 4 through 8 are experiencing. To combat these pressures, she developed a workshop for girls to learn techniques for preventing and overcoming stress.

In her workshops, Zoller gives advice on planning ahead, maintaining a calendar, staying active, and getting enough sleep, among other topics. She also encourages the participants to enjoy relaxing activities like yoga, crocheting, and listening to music.

Zoller created an Instagram account as part of her Gold Award project to offer positive, productive ways to deal with stress.

“Because of my project, I will have the leadership and organizational skills to help me succeed and feel confident in taking on more opportunities in college and beyond,” Zoller said.

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The Girl Scout Gold Award, open to high school Girl Scouts, recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through take-action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. The Gold Award is so prestigious that some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements.

Congratulations Courtney!

Courtney Zoller HEADSHOT PRINT

Lee County Girl Scout Turns Plastic Caps into Playgrounds

Lee County resident and South Fort Myers High School student Cynthia Young has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project titled, Caps 4 Kids.

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Young noticed a lack of playground equipment in her community and sought a way to address that need. She learned cost is the most common barrier to creating safe, outdoor play spaces. Through her research, Young found a program in which plastic screw-on caps are collected and used to manufacture playground equipment.

Young got together a group of volunteers to promote the project, establish multiple cap collection sites, and deliver the caps to the sponsoring organization.

She hopes to inspire other girls like her with autism to set big goals and overcome their unique challenges to achieve those goals.

“This project gave me the determination to branch out to others,” Young said. “I learned that if I put my mind to something, I can accomplish anything that comes my way.”

Cynthia Photo 1

The Girl Scout Gold Award, open to high school Girl Scouts, recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through take-action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. The Gold Award is so prestigious that some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements.

Congratulations Cynthia!

Cynthia Young HEADSHOT PRINT reduced

Sarasota Girl Scout Celebrates Cultural Diversity

Sarasota resident and Out-of-Door Academy student Kiarra Womack has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project titled, SPECTRUM: Diversity Leadership Club.

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Kiarra has a passion for promoting the understanding and celebration of diverse cultures and lifestyles. After she attended the National Student Leadership Diversity Conference, she was inspired to organize the SPECTRUM: Diversity Leadership Club at her school.

Club members meet weekly for discussion-based meetings and they sponsor events to introduce students to a variety of cultures and diversity-related topics. One event the club put on was Heritage Day where club members set up booths representing different cultures. Students attending enjoyed a variety of cultural food and music while learning about different cultures of students at the school.

The goal of Womack’s club is to create a more inclusionary environment within the school, decreasing cultural disparities and encouraging empathy and acceptance.

“My unique experience and newfound passion for philanthropy, combined with my dedication to learning about diversity, are what have fueled my drive and focus in accomplishing my project goal,” Womack said.

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The Girl Scout Gold Award, open to high school Girl Scouts, recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through take-action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. The Gold Award is so prestigious that some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements.

Congratulations Kiarra!

Kierra Womack HEADSHOT PRINT

Sarasota Girl Scout Raises Awareness by Raising Livestock

Sarasota resident and Craven College student Samantha Shaughnessy has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project titled The Moo Point.

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An active participant in Future Farmers of America and 4-H, Shaughnessy earned money by raising and selling a dairy calf. She used this experience as the starting point for her Gold Award project.

Shaughnessy shared her story of raising a dairy calf with younger Girl Scouts and 4-H members and taught them how they, too, can participate in the dairy industry. She developed and presented a workshop that introduced participants to the reproductive cycle of dairy cows and the resources that go into producing milk.

For students interested in following in her footsteps, Shaughnessy worked directly with them to teach them about the expenses associated with raising a dairy calf. Her goal is to inspire more young people to become involved in livestock projects.

“Because of this project, I am more outspoken than I was before,” Shaughnessy said. “I will take this experience and move on to college knowing I can make a difference in my world one day at a time.”

Samantha Photo 2

The Girl Scout Gold Award, open to high school Girl Scouts, recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through take-action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. The Gold Award is so prestigious that some universities and colleges offer scholarships unique to Gold Award recipients, and girls who enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces may receive advanced rank in recognition of their achievements.

Congratulations Samantha!

Shaughnessy head shot