by Cathy Brown, guest blogger
Mandi K. is one of the GSGCF Shop’s newest Junior Sales Specialists (JSS). While she lives in Lee County, she has become an integral part of our traveling shop team and participates in many shop functions held at council headquarters. During our traveling shop this past November, I was able to spend time with Mandi and ask her about her experiences as a Girl Scout.
I was impressed by her responses and her sense of humor. She was very shy at the beginning of her JSS training, but by the end, she was right in the thick of things. When I asked why she liked being a Girl Scout, she responded, “I like being a Girl Scout because there are a lot of opportunities for girls, like me, to be heard and find a place to be welcomed for who I am.”
When asked how Girl Scouting has impacted her life she was quick to reply: “I have always been really shy around people. I think it is because I like to hang back and watch instead of being right in the middle of things… until I’m comfortable. But, in Girl Scouts, the girls and leaders will actually wait for me to BE comfortable.”
Mandi with her Girl Scout sisters, Troop 673.
“That doesn’t happen in other groups or activities I’ve been involved in,” she continued. “A lot of times people expect me to feel or be a certain way. But Girl Scouts has actually let me be me. That makes it easier to open up and try new things on my own. Girl Scouts has given me that.”
Hands down, Mandi’s favorite thing she has done as a Girl Scout is lead as a Counselor in Training (CIT) during the Cadette Leadership Weekend. “I wanted to be a CIT since meeting Ms. Gina [Sauer]. It felt great, going through the program to learn how and then actually doing it! I was a little afraid that the girls in my group wouldn’t listen, but they were great!”
Some of Mandi’s many accolades are in part the result of her involvement in a variety of extracurricular, community, faith-based, and Girl Scout activities. She feels “really lucky to be involved with different groups and learn different things.” “I am active in my church and youth group, school, animals, and community causes as well as being in Girl Scouts,” Mandi said.
“In 4th grade, I became a full-time home school student. This has given me so many opportunities! I was accepted into Disney/Pixar’s program for arts and development. I have [increased my] global awareness through a group called Girl Rising, furthering education for girls around the world. I have also been able to take classes from several universities around the country through edX.”
Mandi with her proud mom, Tracylee.
“I created and have run my own not-for-profit charity #MandisBackpack that provides different items (based on time of the year) to those in need throughout the country…for right around four years now.” This includes back-to-school items in the late summer/early fall, pantry donations to food banks in late fall/early winter, toys during the holidays as well as care packages to our service men and women serving our country overseas, and shoes in the spring. The program operates on a voluntary basis with donations from the community.
“I also branched out to add #MandisBookbag to donate books to children that are in the hospital that could use a ‘staycation’ through reading a book,” said Mandi. “Taking both #MandisBackpack and #MandisBookbag to social media has made it possible for those across the country to get involved! You can find my CEO page on Facebook and Twitter.”
But Mandi hasn’t stopped there. “I have also been able to give back to my community by joining the Junior League to donate my time. I make ‘bags of hope’ to give to our homeless population. They contain anything from a toothbrush/toothpaste to a voucher for a free meal. I remain involved with our local animal shelters as well. I want to be a large cat vet in South Africa. I’m always looking for activities that get me closer to animals. I have been invited to submit my application to become a MobSTIR for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and am biting my nails to see if I’ll be accepted. If so, Africa may not be too far off!”
Mandi has earned a number of formal Girl Scout recognitions. “Over the course of my Girl Scout years, I’ve completed both my Bronze and Silver Award; earned [my] PA pin, CIT II pin, Cadette Safety Cross, Cadette service bars, Silver Torch Award, and Summit Award; [and received] numerous accolades for cookie sales and magazine/fall fundraisers.”
Mandi firmly believes Girl Scouts prepares girl leaders. “I belong to a handful of groups that encourage girls to be leaders. But, Girl Scouts gives girls tools to help make them successful and become leaders. I also think Girl Scouts encourages girls to break through stereotypes.”
Mandi knows that Girl Scouts is about more than just cookies and camping.
Mandi would definitely recommend Girl Scouts to other girls. “It is harder when girls are older. But, I’m the first one to say ‘So, yeah, I sell cookies. And I go camping. But I also learn how to kayak, paddle board, zip line, rock climb, do marathons, prepare business Powerpoint presentations, and a ton of other stuff.’”
Mandi has accomplished so much, and she is quick to remind me that she is only thirteen. I am amazed! Mandi is “so looking forward to the future,” and based on all she has accomplished, truly the sky is the limit for her.
~Cathy Brown is the Shop Manager for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.