Ask a Girl Scout: Mandi K.

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.”

fb_img_1463351467082

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.”

mandimom-matchymatch

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-snorkel

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.

Giving Challenge 2016:​ Will You “Be the One?”

Fall is perhaps our favorite time of year at Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. School is back in session, new Girl Scout troops are forming, continuing troops reunite after the summer break, and the annual Giving Challenge kicks off.

What is the Giving Challenge? During a 24-hour period from noon – noon Sept. 20 – 21, donations up to $100 made to Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida through the Giving Challenge website may be doubled, or even tripled, thanks to the generous support of The Patterson Foundation. That means, if you donated to Girl Scouts during the 2015 Giving Challenge, your 2016 gift of $25 – $100 will be matched 1:1. If you didn’t donate to us during the 2015 Giving Challenge, your gift of $25 – $100 this year will be matched 2:1. How else can your triple your investment with the click of a button?

When you think about, the Giving “Challenge” is a relatively easy one. On the other hand, girls face difficult challenges every day. They must navigate a world filled with negative peer pressure and mixed messages about what it means to be a girl and where their place is in society. Through Girl Scouting, girls learn that their place is anywhere they want it to be: in the home, at the office, in the lab, at the drafting table, in uniform… the possibilities are endless. As a donor, YOU make this possible! Thank you!

20160725_143552 (1)

Last year, dollars raised through the Giving Challenge helped support girls in a variety of STEAM-related programs and outdoor activities across our council. (STEAM refers to activities related to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Math). From one-day events to week-long day camps, girls had the opportunity to explore the world of STEAM, as a fun topic of study today and potential career path in the future. In addition, outdoor education activities helped girls gain physical strength and confidence while building an appreciation for the environment and an understanding of their role in protecting it. As a 2015 donor, YOU made this possible! Thank you!

DSC07655

This year, we will focus funds on helping girls take on leadership roles in their schools and communities. Whether they serve as media representatives for the council through the Media Marvels program, work together in groups on community service projects to earn the Girl Scout Bronze or Silver Award, or spearhead a more comprehensive, sustainable take-action project for the prestigious Gold Award, we will be here to support them every step of the way. As a 2016 donor, YOU will Be the One who makes this possible! Thank you!

Girl Scouting is for EVERY girl. No girl is ever turned away, regardless of her family’s financial situation. We are proud to offer need-based scholarships to cover registration and program fees. The more funding we receive from the community, the more girls we can serve across our entire ten-county service area.

For more than 100 years, Girl Scouts have been facing challenges head-on with courage, confidence, and character. Now it’s your turn. Will you Be the One who: encourages her to reach new heights?  Feeds her ambition?  Shows her there are no limits? Piques her interest in science, technology, engineering, and math? Shows her that she matters? Helps her change the world? Please considering making a personally meaningful gift to Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida during the 24-hour Giving Challenge, Sept. 20 – 21. Click here to get started. And again, thank you!

GC16 Logo Green

The 2016 Giving Challenge is made possible by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County and The Patterson Foundation with support from the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Manatee Community Foundation, and the Herald-Tribune Media Group.

 

 

 

 

Going for the (Girl Scout) Silver

A new year means new groups of girls are setting their sights on Girl Scouting’s highest awards. For Cadettes embarking on the Silver Award, this means beginning to step outside Girl Scouts and looking for ways to serve their greater communities.

IMG_5577

Though the Silver Award process, girls learn how to make connections and listen to others’ perspectives, perhaps incorporating these new ideas into their project. The Silver Award allows Cadettes to design their own community project and understand how they impact their community as a leader, learning from the trials and tribulations they may experience.

Girls may work with a small group of other Girl Scouts or lead a project themselves. Two examples of Silver Award projects recognized in 2016 include The Selfie Project (boosting girls’ self-esteem), and Cat Cause (supporting local animal welfare organizations). There are so many worthy causes and much-needed projects – the possibilities are endless!

IMG_7043

The first step toward earning the Silver Award is for the Cadette and her project advisor to participate in a workshop hosted by the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida. Dates for online workshops are being finalized with more to come as we prepare for the new school year. To date, workshops are scheduled for Sunday, September 18 and 25 at 5:30 p.m.

If you have any questions or have a Girl Scout who is eager to begin prior to these workshops, please contact Shannon French (shannonf@gsgcf.org or 800-232-4475 ext. 326) to ensure all guidelines are followed, and any necessary forms are completed. Girls may also request an in-person workshop at council headquarters.

–Shannon French is a Program Specialist for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

Grants in Action: Community Troops

Since 2011, Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida has reached out to girls living in under-served areas through fully funded Community Troops. Five years after its official launch, the Community Troop program is stronger than ever, thanks to generous community supporters and volunteers.

Troop 1042 Palmetto Elementary

The Wilson-Wood Foundation was one of the first to support Community Troops in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Their 2015-16 grant of $15,000 has made possible a variety of programs and experiences for Community Troops from Gocio and Tuttle Elementary Schools, Booker Elementary and Middle Schools, Greater Hurst AME Chapel, and the Laurel Civic Association, as well as Palmetto Elementary School and the DeSoto Boys and Girls Club.

Garden Party 4

So, what does a Community Troop do? Everything! From field trips in the community to outdoor programs, service projects, earning badges, and more, girls in Community Troops enjoy all that Girl Scouting has to offer. A few highlights from this year include visits with the Sarasota Garden Club and Sarasota Police Department, a special camp day at Honi Hanta, and end-of-year troop celebrations.

K9 Unit 4

The Community Troop program is also thriving in Lee and Collier Counties. All told, there are 32 Community Troops with 532 girls council-wide. Support for Community Troops in 2015-16 has come from a variety of sources, including The Wilson-Wood Foundation, Schulze Family Foundation, Suncoast Credit Union, Jerome and Mildred Paddock Foundation, the League Club, Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key, Collier County Bar Foundation, and United Ways of Suncoast, South Sarasota, Collier County, and Lee/Hendry/Glades Counties.

Community Troop Camp 5-21-16 023

~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

Sarasota Girl Scout Develops Turtle Protection Program

Sarasota resident and Pine View School student Mikaelyn Pavlisin has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project entitled, Totally Turtle Protection Program.

6) Classroom2 reduced.jpg

Pavlisin turned her passion for sea turtles into a hands-on, interactive curriculum for students in grades 2 – 5. Totally Turtle Protection Program teaches children about the various species of sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico, why they are endangered, and what can be done to help protect them.  She partnered with Mote Marine, Longboat Key Turtle Watch, and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch to develop the program and materials.

The curriculum has been shared with local schools and libraries, and turtle watch volunteers are available to help present the program as needed. Pavlisin hopes that, over time, the program will result in cleaner coastlines, increased involvement in beach cleanups, and more participation in turtle watch programs and conservation efforts.

28) Comm.EventPresent reduced.jpg

“I have always enjoyed giving back to my community,” said Pavlisin.  “Growing up, I was frequently told I could make a difference. This project helped me see that I really can.”

The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Open only to girls in high school, this prestigious award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable Take-Action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Be inspired and learn more about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s other 2016 Gold Award recipients.

~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

Englewood Girl Scout Helps New Moms Find Serenity

Englewood resident and Lemon Bay High School student Kaylee Ferrell has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project entitled, Serenity for SOLVE.

20160110_120439[1] reduced.jpgSOLVE Maternity Home in Englewood provides housing and support services to pregnant women in need. After reading studies that show flowers have an immediate impact on happiness and a long-term positive effect on mood, Kaylee was inspired to establish a serenity garden for the residents.

The residents of SOLVE will maintain the garden as part of their regular responsibilities at the shelter. Kaylee’s hope is that the garden will also help raise community awareness of the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of the women at SOLVE.

FB_IMG_1457817119964[1] reduced.jpg

“Having a beautiful flower garden will help the women have a better sense of well-being,” said Kaylee.

The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Open only to girls in high school, this prestigious award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable Take-Action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Be inspired and learn more about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s other 2016 Gold Award recipients.

~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

Sarasota Girl Scout Brings Hope to Homeless Moms

Sarasota resident and Nova Southeastern University student Emily Sisk has earned Girl Scouting’s highest honor – the Gold Award – with her project entitled, It’s Not the End.

SHOWER STUFF reduced.jpg

Sisk’s goal was to provide hope and support to residents of Our Mother’s House in Venice, a transitional housing program for homeless moms with young children. She organized a “baby shower” to collect diapers, clothing, and gift cards for families at Our Mother’s House.

She also gave a presentation and created an educational brochure to help the moms recognize the signs of an unhealthy, abusive relationship; resources where they can seek help; and ways to help their children through times of trouble.

Sisk GA project 1 redcued.jpg

“The moms seemed to be truly happy to have new knowledge that can help them in the future,” said Sisk.

Each resident of Our Mother’s House received a photo frame with an inspirational message, assuring them that no matter how difficult their situation, there is hope, and “it’s not the end” of their journey.

The Girl Scout Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Open only to girls in high school, this prestigious award recognizes girls who demonstrate extraordinary leadership through remarkable Take-Action projects with sustainable impact in their communities. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scout Gold Award.

Be inspired and learn more about Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida’s other 2016 Gold Award recipients.

~Lori Tomlinson is the Manager of Communications and Marketing for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.