Thursday, December 18, 2014

Giving Confidence for the Holidays

A gift can say a lot of things, but what we usually want it to say is "I care." When you have a Girl Scout in your life, you look for every opportunity to give her new experiences that'll let her see how amazing she is and all the potential she has. We can't say enough about how camp is the the best embodiment of Girl Scouting. But don't let us do all the talking! Here is a post written by our Camp Texlake counselor, PJ, about why giving a Girl Scout camp for Christmas (or Hannukah, or Kwanzaa or just because!) is the gift the keeps on giving.

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I’m really excited that our summer camp guide debuted Tuesday, December 9 so that you have the chance to actually start planning what’s coming up this summer, just in time for the holidays! I know what you may be thinking, “Who in the world wants to talk summer camp around the holidays?” Well, I’d like to invite you to think about Giving the Gift of camp this holiday season to a young lady in your life. Here are just a few reasons why:

Recent studies show that the satisfaction of having a fun experience far longer, especially with children, than the instant gratification of getting stuff.
Less clutter in your house (hey, whatever keeps the house clean!)
Physical health benefits – The most obvious is getting exercise, but did you know the large amount of time spent outdoors at camp raises levels of Vitamin D, helping protect children from future bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other health issues? Kids spending time outside has even shown, in clinical research, to help improve distance vision and lowers the chance of nearsightedness!
Mental health benefits- Learning leadership skills, building confidence and discovering independence are just the tip of the ice berg for what girls learn at Girl Scout Camp. Camp experiences help kids learn life skills and even become more resilient to life pressures and stress 

This post would be days long if I listed all of the benefits camp has to offer, so I suggest you check out my favorite list for yourself. 

Now I know getting a piece of paper isn’t as much fun for kids to unwrap, so I polled a few Girl Scouts and here are some suggestions from actual Texlake campers for getting camp as a gift this year:
Give a stuffed toy along with a homemade gift certificate for camp. If your girl picks a horse camp, for example, give her a stuffed horse. Bonus, she can take the stuffed animal to camp when summer comes!
Let your camper choose the camp. One girl I spoke with wanted to get a “gift card, a camp [guide] and how much money I can spend” so she could pick her own camp!
Give a journal (for older girls) with some fun pens. One camper told me “I want to write down all the things I want to do at camp and check off the list.” 
Give a camera along with the camp registration so she can start thinking about capturing memories. Disposable cameras don’t cost too much and digital cameras from almost any budget are available for girls who are ready for those kinds of electronics. 

What holiday gift suggestions do you have for giving the gift of camp confidence this holiday season? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Seniors Go Tech! - Helping Every Age Stay Connected

This month's featured Gold Girl Scout is Rachel Freeman who focused her efforts on helping senior citizens learn how to use technology to stay connected and active with their communities. Congratulations on becoming a Gold Girl Scout, Rachel!
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My Gold Girl Scout Project, 'Seniors Go Tech!', was designed to provide senior citizens the knowledge and hands-on practice with technology so they would be empowered to maintain and expand their connections with family, friends and their community.  Medical studies have shown seniors who remain socially connected live happier and healthier lives which benefit everyone around.  Technology is one way to help senior citizens can stay connected but many do not know how to use a computer, the Internet or smart phones.  

Although the retirement centers I worked with provided free internet access, only one offered access to community computers and none provided any type of technological support or education to their residents. I created lesson plans and held classes, as well as individual tutoring sessions on several topics including Introduction to the Internet, Introduction to GoogleUsing Facebook, iPads, iPhones, Email and Kindle for two local retirement centers.  As part of my project I created 'how-to' handbooks for the senior centers and local community groups so others could continue presenting the technology classes I created and possibly expand on the topics.

The 78 senior citizens who attended Seniors Go Tech! classes and tutoring sessions are now able to use their technology much more effectively. In the long-term they will become more connected with their families, friends and communities.  At one Seniors Go Tech! class I met Muriel. Muriel told me she was invited to meet some friends for lunch but she wasn’t going to go. When I asked why not she said she didn’t know where the restaurant was. I told her we could find the address and directions on the internet using her iPhone but she replied she couldn’t read maps very well any more. When I explained to her we could have Google Maps give her verbal directions on her iPhone she was so excited.  We found the address online, programmed the address into her phone and she drove off to meet her friends. I am happy I was able to help her learn how technology can work for her. In the future Muriel will be able to meet her friends for lunch, dinner and movies. She can share what she’s learned with her friends and they will all maintain their connections with families and friends and their community.

Seeing my new friends successfully using technology—some for the first time—was very rewarding. Seniors Go Tech! helped them learn to retrieve voicemail messages, send pictures, texts, emails and “surf the web” with confidence.  I was thrilled to help all of them learn how technology can help them in their daily lives and keep their social connections strong.




Monday, December 15, 2014

Meet the Team: STEM Programs Manager, Mitchell Whittier

Hey Scouts! I’m Mitchell Whittier the STEM Programs Manager at Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I’ve been a part of the Programs team since July 2014 and am super excited to be working here. “How did you get to be in this position with Girl Scouts?” I get this question a lot (probably because I’m a guy), so let’s get to that first. Thankfully, guys can be Girl Scouts too!


I earned a B.S. in Physics from the University of Denver. And, I earned a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Washington where I developed a love for experiential education. A year of my program was at a magical place called IslandWood, a school in the woods. At IslandWood, I was able to teach science on the shores of the Puget Sound, in the forest, up in a tree-house, and on a suspension bridge. I've also had the amazing experience of teaching science in the heart of the Rocky Mountains at the Keystone Science School. There, I had the opportunity to teach ecology, geology, and astronomy while hiking in the mountains, cross-country skiing through a forest, and breaking the rocks of the Rocky Mountains. 

I have also taught Math and Science in classroom settings at Jesuit College Prep in Dallas and Kirby Hall School in Austin. And, I have been a high-dosage tutor at Martin Middle School, Burnet Middle School and LBJ Early College High School here in Austin as well. Most recently, I taught MCAT Physics courses for students wanting to apply to medical school.

Okay, enough of the boring stuff. Let me tell you more about me, the person. I am an outdoor enthusiast. I love doing anything active and fun outside. My newest favorite pastime is Ultimate Frisbee, but I also really enjoy riding my bike, hiking the greenbelt, swimming in Central Texas’ amazing swimming holes, and especially camping and backpacking. I have an eight-year-old German Shepherd Mix, B-Dog, who likes going on adventures with me. But, he’s slowing down in his middle-age and can’t go on the big adventures anymore.

As far as downtime, I enjoy a good board game with friends and family--no, not Monopoly! Newer more awesome games like "Settlers of Catan" (not that new anymore) and "Dominion". I love reading science fiction; my favorite novel is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card (I know, I know…the movie wasn't very good).

In my youth, I was an active boy scout. Earning the Eagle Scout award gave me some amazing experiences and I highly value the role scouting has had in my life. I’m so excited to be a part of the GSCTX family. Thanks for allowing me to share my passions for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Scouting with you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Roxanne Flores "By empowering [girls], I empowered myself"

Roxanne Flores - Killeen Sister Cities Service Unit


I was a girl scout from first grade to sixth grade. I actually earned my Bronze award and loved the process. My family moved from Germany to Louisiana which put an end of my Girl Scouting years. There was not an active Service Unit in my small town in Louisiana, so my Girl Scouting came to an end at that point. I picked it back up when my daughter was in the first grade. I was not a leader then, just a parent volunteer and I loved it. My daughter's troop disbanded during that year and my daughter was placed on the waiting list. I was told the list was over a year long and the only way my daughter would get in a troop immediately would be for me to become a Troop Leader. I honestly was scared at the time because I didn't think I could fit it in my schedule. Thankfully, I was wrong and this was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

 As a troop leader my goal was for the girls to try new things and make new friends. The first rule we set for our troop was that our girls be from different schools. We wanted them to make new friends and step out of their comfort zone. In hindsight, I am happy I made this rule; I think of the friendships that I now have because of Girl Scouts. Melissa and Tobi are some of my closest friends and we would have never known each other if not for Girl Scouting.

Girl Scouts has affected my life completely—personally and professionally. On a professional level, I work as Volunteer Services Youth Coordinator. I was able to use my experience as a Troop leader when I applied for this job. I had the administrative experience but being a Girl Scout leader prepared me for events as well as working with volunteers. During my time with the service team, I was an event coordinator and that taught me event planning. Now I plan many events over a year. When I first started my job I relied heavily on the experience and trainings I had with the Service Unit.

On a personal level, my life has changed drastically since I became a Troop Leader. The first part was leaving an abusive marriage. It is funny to me that I was so wrapped up in the situation, that I did not see how bad it was till I started stepping away and educating myself through activities built the girls’ self-esteem. By empowering them, I empowered myself. I asked myself one time , " How can I be a great role model and show them a strong woman when I am in this bad situation?" I left the marriage and have never looked back. I completed my education and received my degree.   To this day, the girls don't know how much they helped me! I am in awe when we go somewhere and the girls immediately pick up or clean an area because they learned a Girl Scout always leaves a place better than it was before. I see the confidence these girls have when they speak in public and how they try different things because change is good. I see the girls following the Girl Scout law on a daily basis. Girl Scouting is not an activity they do once a week but instead a standard of how the live their lives.


I am the mother of three children; Devon is 18 years old, Olivia is 13 years old, and Shiloh is 1. My son has had cancer twice in his lifetime and I admire his zest for life. I never hear him complain and whenever I feel like complaining, I think of everything he has faced or is facing on a daily basis. I am engaged to be married this month and look forward to the day. I received my Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Texas Women's University. I am actively involved with the Special Olympics as a volunteer and am also a proud parent of an athlete. I am a board member of Killeen Sister Cities Osan Korea, Killeen Chamber of Commerce Public Education Committee, and Friends of the Killeen Library, Keep Killeen Beautiful, and Relay for Life. I have been a Girl Scout Troop Leader for 7 years, and this is my fifth year on the Service Team. I have held several positions with the service team: Event Coordinator, Area Delegate, Secretary, FOGS Chairperson, and Media Communications Chair. I work full time with the City of Killeen and I will hit the twenty year mark in October. I enjoy my job tremendously and love coming to work and love the spirit of Team Killeen.

Sensory Mural Station: Helping Children with Severe Disabilities

Gold Scouts

The following entry was written by Elizabeth Geisinger, and covers her Gold Award Project "Sensory Mural Station." Learn all about why she chose this project, the challenges she faces and the satisfaction she gained from it! Amazing work, Elizabeth!
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A thousand words could not describe the Gold Award and the journey it takes to get to it. I recently received my Gold Award for a Sensory Mural Station I created for Rosedale School, which helps students with severe disabilities.  I began my journey towards the Gold a little over 2 years ago. When I first came up with my idea, to paint murals on the portables at Rosedale, I was elated.  I got my proposal approved and immediately began planning and researching what to do. By the end of year though, I had to change my project because it was expected the portables would be removed so I decided to build a mobile sensory station. I was still excited and researched Adaptive Learning and eventually built the station.  However the school year came and I began procrastinating my project. I lost motivation to finish my project and couldn't convince myself to do it. However this past year, with the encouragement of leaders in my Service Unit, I pushed myself to complete my project. I painted the various mural scenes and attached the sensory objects. I finished it and turned my paperwork in by the end of September. While the journey will have bumps in the road, it is all worth it to finish your project and feel an overwhelming amount of joy when the letter comes and says “congratulations”.




Meet the Team: SISTERS Program Specialist, Candice Stump

Hello wonderful Girl Scouts!  My name is Candice Stump and I’m a Program Specialist and my main focus is our "Stay in School to Enjoy Real Success" (SISTERS) at  Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I’ve been working with the Girl Scouts since March of 2014.  Before that, I worked as an Adoption Specialist and Child Welfare Case Manager for 8 years.  Prior to my time in child welfare, I was a Disaster Crisis Counselor for hurricane Katrina evacuees.  I hold a BA in Psychology from the University of Central Florida.  I have a lot of experience working with children from many different backgrounds and I truly love it!

I grew up in Florida where I loved spending time at the beach, swimming, snorkeling, and SCUBA diving.  I moved to Texas in January of 2014 when my husband, Greg, was stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo. I have been married to my amazing husband for over 5 years.  We have 4 children and two Yorkshire terriers that keep us very busy.  I love to travel the world, SCUBA dive, sail, camp, backpack, and hike.  

One thing that most people notice about me is that I almost always have a smile on my face. Most people don’t know that there are two reasons that I’m always smiling.  One is because when I was in the 2nd grade I came home from school one day and told my mom that my school bus driver was grumpy.  My mom suggested that the next time I see my bus driver to try smiling at her.  Well it worked! Every morning and afternoon my bus driver and I shared great big smiles with one another.  I know it always brightened my day and I like to think it brightened hers a little too. The second reason is because of my ballet teacher.  She taught us to keep smile during performances no matter what.  Even if you don’t know all the moves or fall flat on your face just get right back up, keep smiling, and chances are no one will notice. So when you see me with a smile on my face I hope it brightens your day and, on tough days, I hope it gives you the courage to get up and try again.  

I am so excited to be working for the Girl Scouts of Central Texas. I love seeing the exciting things the girls are experiencing and achieving through the Girls Scouts.  I am constantly amazed at what the girls are up to.  I am also honored to bring Girl Scout experiences to girls that might not otherwise have this opportunity through the SISTERS program.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

"Girl Scouting is a Part of Me" by Lisa Deweese

Throughout the month of November, we've been urging everyone who volunteers with GSCTX to Invite a Friend and get them involved with Girl Scouts. There are so many reasons and  girls waiting to embark on the adventure of a lifetime, but they need YOU to guide them. Here is the story of Lisa Deweese, who has seen the benefits of Girl Scouting and volunteering many times over. 

Read about how it has influenced her life positively.Then Invite a Friend to start a troop and embark on the most exciting ride of your lives together!



"Girl Scouting is a part of me.  I have been involved for 45+ years, including 11 as a girl.  My blood may be a bit green.  

Girl Scouting has given me opportunities I probably would have never been offered. It allowed me to take on leadership roles that stretched my comfort zones, both as a girl, as a leader, and also a trainer.  The confidence I developed in Girl Scouting carried over into my professional life, allowing me to tackle bigger projects and positions.

Volunteering as an adult allowed me to make many contacts in the community which I normally would not have made.  It allowed me to get involved in the various communities I lived in as I moved throughout my career.   I started out to "help pay back" the time given to me by the leaders I had growing up.  Once I got involved as an adult, it kept me excited about the future.  Since I didn't have children, it allowed a path for me to still be involved with girls and their schools as well.

Early in my career, volunteering with Girl Scouts was considered good community involvement.  It probably played a role in promotions throughout my career, and put me in position to assume other roles, such as being the local Campaign Coordinator for my agencies involvement in the United Way  and service with the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW.  I always said that Girl Scouting showed me how to be "flexible and adaptable" and that there was always more than one way to complete a project or tackle a challenge." 

- Lisa Deweese

Central Bell Service Unit