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.”


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.

Girl Scouts Ensure a Happy Birthday for Local Foster Children

Birthday parties can be easily taken for granted. Most of us can count on family and friends to come together with gifts, balloons, decorations, and of course, a birthday cake complete with candles! But for children in the foster care system, a traditional birthday party isn’t always a given.

Thanks to the generosity of Girl Scouts in the Manatee 4 Service Unit, a number of local children will have everything they need to celebrate their next birthday. The girls collected and donated supplies to create “birthday kits” to be distributed to children in Manatee, DeSoto, and Sarasota Counties via the Safe Children Coalition.


The birthday kits include such items as cake mix, frosting, and candles; baking pans; party hats, decorations, and favors; plates, cups, and plastic utensils; goody bags; party invitations; gift wrap; and gifts.

Girl Scout troop leader Karey Papin, who works as a Registered Nurse Case Manager for the Safe Children Coalition, said that there are currently about 1,450 children in foster care or living with a relative caregiver or in facility care. “We unfortunately had a severe spike in [the number of] children this year,” she explained.


With so many children and families in need, the birthday kits couldn’t have come at a better time. When the project was completed, approximately 45 kits were ready to go. That’s a lot of celebrating!

“Every single person can impact the joy of children going through this experience,” Papin added. “We need and welcome more outreach projects on every level to support these families and children.” If your troop would like to learn more about the many ways they can help, contact the Safe Children Coalition at 866-661-5656.

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

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.


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!


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 ( 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.

Reaching for the Gold: An Inspirational Weekend at Camp Honi Hanta

Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida recently hosted the inaugural “Reaching for the Gold” weekend at Camp Honi Hanta. The program, organized by Manager of Community Troops and Outreach Eboni Curry, was designed around the GIRLtopia and BLISS Live it! Give it! Journeys. The goal: inspire girls to explore the possibilities for completing the Girl Scout Gold Award, which represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.

Gold Weekend Honi Hanta 3-11 - 3-12-16 168 cropThe small group of eight participants consisted of both new and existing Girl Scouts, ranging in age from 14 – 17. Some were excited about the experience. Others were a little skeptical.

Dimi is a perfect example. A junior at Booker High School, Dimi participated in Reaching for the Gold because her school guidance counselor thought it would be an excellent opportunity for her.  It was Dimi’s first experience with Girl Scouts, and she was unsure what to expect.

“I thought the weekend was going to be kind of boring, and I wasn’t sure if I was going to know anyone.  I had also injured my knee the previous day during track and field practice and was in a lot of pain. But something kept telling me I should go.”

Dimi dream boardAs a result of her injury, Dimi arrived at camp with a bulky brace on her leg.  As she hobbled into the Manatee House, she was surprised to discover she already knew all of the other girls. Dimi was not able to participate in the canoeing activity, but she stood by to encourage the other girls as they entered the river.  She contributed to all of the other activities with remarkably insightful responses and demonstrated leadership qualities as she inspired other girls to share their thoughts and ideas.

My favorite part of the weekend,” Dimi said, “was going into the lodge and doing our dream boards.” Dimi’s dream board reflects her passion for basketball and her determination to achieve academic success. “It was my favorite part because we stepped away from our phones and had the opportunity to be creative and think outside of the box. For me, it truly opened my eyes and made me think.

The result? Dimi is now inspired to work on her Gold Award.  She wants to focus on homelessness in Sarasota, which has been a perennial and controversial topic within the community.

I really appreciate Ms. Eboni and her team for putting together the weekend and for giving us young girls the opportunity. It helped me in a way that I can’t explain.” And that is what Girl Scouting is all about.

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


Rebecca of Sarasota Goes Gold

Gold Award Project: Self-Esteem~ An Outdoor Adventure

 See the Video Interview here:

[4539]headshotRebecca is a Senior at Sarasota High School and has been in Girl Scouts since she was a Daisy. She just won first place in environmental science at the state science fair.

As a Girl Scout, Rebecca has a great perspective of the opportunities afforded through camp environmental activities and the positive self-worth developed. Her project aims to provide mentorship and insight to girls in underserved lower socio-economic communities.  Rebecca created an outdoor adventure program for middle school girls participating in Girl Scouting through community supported troops.  Encompassing activities most girls participating have not had an opportunity to experience such as kayaking, rock climbing, orienteering, and camping, these young women are developing courage, confidence and character. Traits that will improve their self-esteem and their participation in positive actions in the community. Rebecca states, “by showing girls to do what they never thought capable, they gained belief in their ability to succeed which can be translated to all aspects of their lives.”

“Girl Scout Gold Award recipients are our future workforce, elected officials, and heads of civic and educational organizations. They are inspiring new generations of girls and families”, shares Sue Stewart, Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

The Girl Scout 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 Rebecca!

Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award:


Cameron of Naples Goes Gold

Gold Award Project: The Taming of the Bard

 See the Video Interview here:

Cameron Buxton is a senior at Seascrest Country Day School. She is preparing for college, applying at distinct schools such as Yale, Dartmouth, and Columbia to study paleontology. At her school, she is the stage manager of the drama department, the captain of several academic teams, the founder of The Scholar Bowl, part of Youth Leadership Collier, and has been in Girl Scouts for 11 years.

IMG_5411When she and her peers first were introduced to Shakespeare, her peers weren’t interested and thought it was hard. Cameron decided that she would introduce 40 students at her school to Shakespeare in a fun, non-intimidating way. Cameron wanted to teach students about important works of literature to enhance the already strong arts and music program at the school, so she educated and inspired.

Cameron is proud of the leadership skills she gained; “I think that my leadership skills will grow in the future because I have now gained the confidence to teach others about what I was passionate about. Leading people through artistic vision is something that I had never thought of doing before and definitely changes how I look at theater and my potential roles in it in the future.”

Peggy Arndt, Cameron’s Gold Award Advisor and Theatre Director at Seacrest Country Day School said, “Over the course of many weeks, Cameron succeeded in not just presenting Shakespeare, but in making his writing accessible to her students. Cameron had not only become a teacher, but a remarkably good, and inspiring one, at that.”

The Girl Scout 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. Cameron will be recognized for this achievement in May 2015, at Girl Scouts Young Women of Distinction ceremony. Congratulations Cameron!

Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award:


Amanda of Bradenton Goes Gold

Gold Award Project: The Peaceful Place

 See the Video Interview here:

Amanda is a freshman at State College of Florida, majoring in hospital administration and marketing. She was in Girl Scouts for over seven years. For her Gold Award project, she built a meditation garden for Peace Presbyterian Church in Bradenton. She says, “It’s a place for people to feel comfortable and get away; to think and be at peace.”

IMG_5381Amanda learned lifelong skills. She learned time management skills, how to lead several people in the management of a project, and she knows now she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to. Amanda knows she has made a difference in her church community. She feels that with the fast paced world, this garden can be a peaceful place for people to sit back and think. She says, “Maybe some of the world’s most inspiring thoughts are here. We don’t know?”

Sue Stewart, Cheif Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc., stated, “Nationwide only 5.4% of qualifying Girl Scouts earn the Girl Scout Gold Award. As Amanda enters those ranks, she has distinguished herself by standing up for what she believes and taking action to make her community better.”

The Girl Scout 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. Amanda will be recognized for this achievement in May 2015, at Girl Scouts Young Women of Distinction ceremony. Congratulations Amanda!

Learn more about the Girl Scout Gold Award: