Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hear it From a Girl Scout, Destinations Are The Ultimate Adventure

Kianna H. a 17 year old Girl Scout from San Jacinto Council tells us all about the life-changing Destination that took her to Spain.

What Destination did you participate in?
I participated in Experience Spain in July 2015, sponsored by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains.

Can you share a brief summary of the trip?
We arrived in Malaga, Spain, and explored the beach before making our way by charter bus to Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba, and Madrid. We shopped in markets, had a scavenger hunt, visited an olive oil farm, and toured cathedrals and palaces. We had student exchange day, took salsa lessons, went to a flamenco show, ate various Spanish dishes, and enjoyed free time in the cities together. For our final stop we rode the country’s high-speed “AVE” train from Madrid to Barcelona, before returning home to the U.S.

I had such a great time! I was very nervous at first. It was my first time traveling outside the United States by myself. After four years of studying international baccalaureate (IB) Spanish, having the opportunity to speak the language, meet the people, and explore the history I’d learned about was priceless. I made some really good friends who I keep up with on social media; I will never forget them! I keep looking at my photos and videos and just want to revisit the experience all over again! The time went by so fast.

In thinking about the future, how has the Destinations program inspired you?

I would like to travel to more Spanish-speaking countries to improve my Spanish and continue to learn about the many facets of Spanish culture. I am also now considering adding a minor in international business to my business marketing career path.

As an experienced traveler, care  to share any insider tips?
Even if you don’t know the native language very well, learn a few key words to help you communicate. The people will have more respect for you and be more willing to help you because of your effort.

What advice would you give Girls Scouts who are thinking about going on a Destination?

GO, GO, GO! Don’t hesitate because you’re scared. Don’t hesitate because you can’t convince other friends to go with you. Don’t be afraid to explore unfamiliar territory. Don’t worry about not making any friends. Just do it. You won’t regret it! [On my trip], all of us came from different parts of the country and all of us were nervous. I’m glad we didn’t go with people we knew beforehand because it made it necessary for us to get to know one another!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Interview with Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chàvez

Anna Maria Chàvez, the national CEO of Girl Scouts (or “Eagle1,” as a group of Brownies named her after visiting her “treehouse” office in a tall building) came to town to have a meet and greet with local Girl Scouts and volunteers. Media Girl Zella M.  (that’s me!) had the opportunity to interview Girl Scouts’ top dog.

Media Girls: What’s your favorite animal?
Anna Maria Chàvez: I’m allergic to both cats and dogs. Kind of a bummer, right? I know, to my chagrin I had a cat my entire life, and now I know why I had such bad allergies! But my son, Michael Christopher, has been wanting a dog for five years. About three months ago, I lost a very dear friend—a member of our national board of directors passed away from pancreatic cancer, and I came home that night and I said, you know, life is too short. And I said to my son, “You can have a dog.” I think he didn’t believe me, because he kept asking me, “What did you say?” And within two weeks we had a Labradoodle in our house. His name is Cody; I call him Codylicious. He’s the cutest dog, I’m a little biased. I love dogs now.

MG: What was GS like when you were a kid? What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Chàvez: We have electricity now. [Laughs.] I lived in a very small farm town – this town is bigger than my town. We had a library and that was about it. There wasn't a lot to do with [other] girls, but there was one troop of Girl Scouts. … I had two pesky brothers, so anything outside the house without them was great. My troop took me camping for the first time, and camping, for me, was huge. I came from a family where I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere without family. We really didn’t camp, because my family were migrant farmers so the dirt was what we did for work, so to think about going and camping in it, was like, “Why would we do that? We’re going backwards.” But Girl Scouts think about camping and the environment very differently. It taught me to think about what I could do, even at the age of 12, to change the world, and because of that … I decided to become a lawyer at the age of 12, which kind of changed my life.
I think what’s different is that you guys live in a digital world; growing up I didn’t have technology like that. But now, the world is your backyard. And that’s what’s changed. So Girl Scouts has to keep up with that, because now you’re global citizens.

MG: How does it feel to lead Girl Scouts after being in it as a child?

Chàvez:To have the honor of representing you, whether it’s in the Oval Office or in the Vatican meeting the Pope, is such a blessing, and for me it’s not only a mission, it is my way of giving back to this great country that gave my family so much. And we’ve got to keep this organization strong for another generation of girls.

Friday, September 25, 2015

All About Abigail: How one Girl Scout is overcoming the odds with love from her GS family

Admiration for Abby
“She’s really excited about this,” Franchon Rasco tells me the day I call to talk to her daughter, Abigail. Listening to her mother talk about Abigail’s involvement in Girl Scouts, it quickly becomes clear that she doesn’t just love her daughter—she admires her.

Abigail has cerebral palsy, which affects movement, muscle tone, and posture, and on the surface, this seems like something that would make her experiences as a Girl Scout different from that of her Girl Scout sisters—but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Like any Girl Scout, Abigail loves to help others. She tells me about how she enjoys giving manicures to residents at the nursing homes that she and her troop visit. Doing activities with the patients at Dell Children’s Medical Center is among her favorite Girl Scout pastimes. And then there’s camping, of course. I can almost hear her smiling over the phone as she describes kicking back with her troop at Camp Champions.

Love for Girl Scouts 
The fun that Abigail has been having since joining Girl Scouts as a Brownie didn’t seem likely at one time. Franchon wanted Abigail to be involved in something outside of school, but says she was too young to participate in Special Olympics, and other youth organizations weren’t able to accommodate Abigail’s needs. She figured they would give Girl Scouts of Central Texas a shot. “It’s been like one, big extended family,” said Franchon.  “All the moms always ask about Abby and the girls always include her and make her feel like she’s welcomed. The girls are always a big help.”

Excited for the new year
When I ask what Abigail is looking forward to most this year, she doesn’t hesitate. “Community service,” she says. “I like Girl Scouts because you get to help other people and make them feel like you care. It makes you feel good inside once you get to help others.” When we talked she’d already begun brainstorming some community service ideas and couldn’t wait to share them with her troop. The troop is also thinking about taking a trip; both Abigail and Franchon are excited about planning and fundraising. Fighting back tears, Franchon tells me toward the end of our conversation why she is also looking forward to another of Abby’s Girl Scouting Experience. For Franchon, it all comes down to one simple, yet powerful fact: Abby loves the girls, and the girls love Abby.

Toward the end of my interview with Abigail, I check to see if there’s anything else she’d like to share about herself or if she has a message to share with other girls. She thinks for a moment and says, “I’d just tell them no matter what condition you’re in, you can still have fun. It doesn’t matter who you are. You deserve to have fun and live a normal life.” I tell her goodbye, hang up the phone … and the light bulb goes on. I understand why the moms always ask about her, why the girls want her around, why her name sounds like pure happiness and joy whenever Franchon says it. She’s a remarkable girl worthy of admiration. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Gold Girl Spotlight: How Isaree P. Went From Green Thumb to Gold Award

Natural Choice
I have always loved nature and the outdoors, and I still remember the day I received my first flower press at Learning Express – one of the prized possessions of my childhood. Another striking memory from my elementary school days is a school assembly where we were taught the power of recycling, and I remember feeling amazed that I, too had a part to play in environmental conservation. I hoped to recreate this wonder for nature, awareness of the environment and empowering sense of duty in others by holding a flower press workshop – teaching others how to construct their own reusable wooden flower press, and discussing environmental concerns and practices. I also hoped to provide an opportunity for others to enjoy the outdoors by building an arbor bench at the Adelphi Acre Community Garden.
 Building Skills 
Before starting my project, I had a shaky understanding of the woodworking, creating a curriculum, advertising, and using a website. However, with the help of a construction adviser, a teacher, IT technician, and many others guiding me through the learning process, I was able to gain the knowledge and skills I needed to complete my project.

Lessons Learned
The most important thing I learned was to never be ashamed to reach out to others and ask for help, whether for guidance or for gathering a team of helpers, as I did when constructing the arbor bench. And with a team of helpers, the best thing that can happen is when my team sees my goal as their own, so that we’re all on the same page trying to reach the same goal. That’s when things happen.



Thursday, September 10, 2015

Travel Thursday: Part 3- Logistics

Happy Thursday, Blogger friends! 
We're continuing this week with the final part of a three-part series just for parents about the joys (and concerns) of Girl Scouts traveling the country (and the world!) Today's we're talking about logistics and general travel questions. 

For the series, we interviewed Beth Abel, who is a member of the Council’s Travel Interest Group and a Girl Scout adult volunteer in CTGSC since 1992, during which time she was a troop leader and the founder of the teen Girl Scout outdoor program, High Adventure Team. Ten Girl Scouts received their Gold Awards under her leadership. She has been a sponsor on international trips for GSUSA and continues to enjoy a forty year career counseling with adolescents and their families.

Q: Can my Girl Scout take her cell phone so we can be in touch in case of emergencies? 
A: Yes, she will be allowed to take her cell phone. However, each trip has a cell phone policy that the girls and adults agree to ahead of the trip occurring. If the girl does not have her cell phone it will be in possession of the trip lead as a part of the agreed plan about cell phones. Adult chaperones are not responsible for lost or stolen phones or electronics on the trip.

Q: Do you worry about discipline on these trips? 
A: Discipline is rarely a problem because the girls and adult volunteers have worked together for a common goal that has a purpose of fun for everyone. However, both girls and parents will be signing a behavior contract before leaving for the trip. If the girl does not adhere to the contract and is being asked to leave the trip it will be at the expense of the girl and her family.

Q: Is there financial assistance available? 
A: Yes, you can apply for financial assistance using the financial partnership application form found on and note on your form the council trip you are applying for.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Travel Thursday: Part 2- What will my Girl Scout get out of a trip?

Happy Thursday, Blogger friends! 
We're continuing this week with Part 2 of a three-part series just for parents about the joys (and concerns) of Girl Scouts traveling the country (and the world!) 

For the series, we interviewed Beth Abel, who is a member of the Council’s Travel Interest Group and a Girl Scout adult volunteer in CTGSC since 1992, during which time she was a troop leader and the founder of the teen Girl Scout outdoor program, High Adventure Team. Ten Girl Scouts received their Gold Awards under her leadership. She has been a sponsor on international trips for GSUSA and continues to enjoy a forty year career counseling with adolescents and their families.

Q: Will my daughter be meeting strange people on this trip? 
A: That is the beauty of traveling, meeting new and interesting people. So much personal growth happens for a girl when she experiences herself successfully handling a new situation and a new culture. All of the activities that were planned by the girls will be supervised by the adult chaperones and they make sure that the girls’ safety is the number one priority. They will have the chance to make new friends and talk with different people.

Q: Will I get a detailed itinerary of the trip? 
Yes, every trip as it gets closer to the event will have a detailed itinerary as well as phone numbers of places the girls are staying and chaperone cell phones in case of an emergency. Remember these are girl planned trips, so the girls make the decisions on the activities and lodging so if the group hasn’t talked about it yet, there is no information to give.

Q: You talk about independence and leadership on these trips. How will my Girl Scout gain that on this trip? 
A: Leadership growth and development happens from the beginning as the girls talk on conference calls and plan out the details of the trips. They experience their unique contribution to the team of girls working together. Girls will learn to navigate in the new city they are visiting, maybe a new language and money management. These are just some of the few independent skills girls will be taking away from council trips.

Q: Will my Girl Scout learn anything on this trip? 
A: What won’t your Girl Scout learn on this trip? How to work in a group, money management, teamwork, navigation and map skills, use of public transportation, manners and etiquette (for those fancy nights out!) and if she is going abroad, a new language!

Have a question about Girl Scout travel that you'd like answered? Email! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Troop Tuesday: Summer Trip

Here are some highlights from Troop 211's Summer Trip

We did paddle boarding, wake boarding, where all 11 girls and 3 adults graduated to "the big lake" next time we go! 

We saw the Ft Worth Zoo, Stockyards, Water Gardens, and Nature Center. 

The troop toured the Dr Pepper Museum, learned to line dance, and hit Burger's Lake, which is a phenomenal lake-turned-water park. 

10 of our girls even jumped off the 10-meter high dive--which I must say looks much higher from the top--but I did it too!  The girls had a great time, and since they'll all be in school together this fall for the first time, we saw some friendships getting stronger between girls who haven't been very close in the past. 

These girls have big plans for next year as Cadettes and are fired up for the coming GS year! -Amy Kastner

 Did your troop do something great this summer? Send your Troop Tuesday pics to with an explanation of what's happening!