Monday, December 16, 2013

What Girl Scout Cookies Mean to Me

We love our volunteers--their hard work and effort is part of what makes this organization great and our programs so successful. Most of all, it allows girls to experience so much. 

The following entry is by Karen Stewart, Mariner Volunteer Coordinator. Her motto is "Keep the OUT in scOUTing." We couldn't agree more!

What Girl Scout Cookies Mean to Me

Growing up in West Texas, Girl Scout cookies meant I could go to camp.  If I sold my 96 boxes, I would get a scholarship to camp.We attended Camp Booth Oaks outside of Sweetwater, TX.

We only sold cookies for 2 weeks. If I didn't get out there and sell my cookies, other girls got there first, and I couldn't go to camp.    I had a list of my customers' phone numbers, and I called and got their orders.  I was the only girl in town that went to camp.  I would have lived at camp if I could have, but we couldn't afford it.  Those of you who know me… know I would still live at camp!

As a teenager, I recorded a spot for the radio selling Girl Scout cookies in my southern drawl--I was nervous for some reason.  Back then, we went around selling cookies by ourselves, went into stranger’s houses…  I tell people, "our parents never knew where we were."  I probably even took cookies on my bicycle, but I can’t think how.  Boy, I miss those boxes with the handles!  Snyder, Texas has oil millionaires and an assortment of people.  One house we all raced to was a large “mansion.”  The man that lived there was a hunter and hunted in Africa.  We all thought it was so cool that he had a stool made of an elephant’s foot.  Now that makes me sick, but as a 9 or 10 year old…that was something!

We had Thin Mints, Chocolate and Vanilla Sandwich, Peanut Butter Sandwich, my favorite, and of course Shortbreads.  The Thin Mint box was covered in paper and opened like frozen spinach does now. I don’t know why the Sandwich cookies sold.  You could buy those anywhere.  Everyone says… I remember when cookies were….­­­____ (fill in the blank) a box!  I remember $1.50, but not sure when that was.

Many years later as a mom, my oldest and I would sell cookies. She hated it. I finally convinced her to approach a man, and he ignored her!  Many years later, she was selling lawnmowers at a big box store.  I told her all those cookies paid off!

I wish parents realized the value of selling cookies  (I sold various other things as a child as well). Watching the girls grow in their confidence, watching year by year as their money counting and math skills improve.  My daughter was recovering from an illness one year, and we said "just sit there to sell cookies."  She said "no, that’s not how you sell cookies. You need to be standing up greeting your customers!"

Few other situations are offered to kids to learn such skills.  Selling cookies is one of the largest components of building girls with confidence. Selling cookies is a historical event!  It is the largest girl owned business in the world.  By giving regular troop finance reports, everyone knows how much money the troop has.  With planning, the girls know how much it will take to do the activities they want to do.  

Not every girl wants to go to camp, but how will they know if they don’t go at least once?  Staying at home watching TV doesn't benefit anyone.  Girl Scouts is more than cookies, camp, and crafts, but they are strong building blocks for strong, lifelong skills.

What did Girl Scout cookies do for me?  I became a girl/adult with “courage, confidence, and character.”

-Karen Stewart

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Spanish-Themed Mystery Dinner Event Serves Up Dares and Laughter

On a recent November evening, 40 Girl Scouts from ten troops, grades six through ten, attended a mystery dinner organized for them by a trio of troop leaders.

Upon arrival at the Leander VFW Hall, Girls were assigned a Spanish alias, a secret mission, and a prop. Props included butterfly wings, cowgirl hats, Hawaiian leis, boas, and tiaras. The girls were presented with menus that were intentionally impossible to decipher, and required to choose items for each of three courses.

While the Girls waited for their first course to arrive, they began their secret missions. The girls with the butterfly wings fluttered around the table every time they heard the words "Good luck".  The girls with cowgirl props shouted "Yahoo" when they received a new plate.  And the girls with the Hawaiian leis stood up and did a hula dance whenever the person to their right was served.

The first course arrived and the cryptic menu did not disappoint. Girls were served beans without forks, ice cream without spoons, taco meat without taco shells, and conversely, taco shells without taco meat.  The resourceful Girl Scouts used straws to pierce beans, chips to scoop cold desserts, and makeshift straw-chopsticks to eat taco meat.

The room was filled with happy chatter and laughter as girls continued to fulfill their secret missions and found innovative ways to eat their dinner without proper utensils. After dinner, plates were cleared and the girls played games, took group photos, and closed the event with a friendship spiral. “The girls left with smiles and laughter, happy for having been stars of the show, and happy for having fun with other Girl Scouts,” said Bobbe Walker, Monarch Service Unit Director.

Photo: Girls in photo are Lindsey W., Claudia E., Aroa O., Sarah A.​ from Troop 2293.

Friday, December 6, 2013

How Getting My Gold Award Changed My Life

Hi, my name is Mandy Jústiz.  I am 17 years old and have been a Girl Scout for 10 years.  As a Girl Scout, I have always loved community service, whether it be wrapping gifts for Blue Santa or collecting blankets for an animal shelter.  It was not until about half way through my Girl Scout career that I learned about the Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards, but once I did, I knew I had to complete them. 

The summer before my sophomore year, I learned about National Young Women of Distinction, an award which is annually given to ten Girl Scouts who showed exemplary leadership, innovation, and problem solving skills in their Gold Award.  I applied for the award and, a few months later, learned that I would be one of the 2013 recipients.  Soon after, I was informed that I was also one of five National Young Women of Distinction chosen to represent Girl Scouts at a brunch with Congress in Washington DC where female Congress members were inducted into Troupe Capitol Hill. My trip to DC was incredible and the brunch was beyond words!  I had the opportunity to talk with several members of Congress as well as Anna Maria Chávez, the CEO of Girl Scouts.  A month later, I flew to Phoenix, Arizona to receive my award. There, I was interviewed by Justine Magazine and Girl Scouts of the USA.  I also participated in a panel for Girl Scouts who were interested in completing their Gold Awards.
 The award ceremony was amazing.  The room, filled with Girl Scout CEOs and COOs from councils across the country, was charged with an amazingly high energy.  I was terribly nervous to give my thank you speech; I had never made a speech before, although this one became my first of many.  At the ceremony award winners recieved a $4,500 scholarship from Kappa Delta and were given our National Young Women of Distinction and life time membership pins.  

 I started thinking about my Gold Award the summer before freshman year. I have always been very interested in marine biology and knew I wanted to incorporate my hobby into my Gold Award.  After bouncing several ideas off of my father, I decided that I should build a fish tank for an elementary school.  I figured that it would be an effective, fun way to introduce children to the aquatic world.  I contacted the University of Texas Elementary School and got approval to build a tank in their main office.  However, after some thinking, I decided that I was not content with just building an aquarium.  I again started talking with my dad and finally decided that, in addition to the aquarium, I would create a 3-day module, which could be incorporated into an elementary school curriculum, which I could use to teach children about aquatic ecology and conservation. 

The elementary school put me in contact with a 5th grade science teacher, who welcomed my idea and offered her help should I need it. With my plan completed, I started to design and build the aquarium. For the next several months, the 60 gallon aquarium was my baby. I checked on it often, ran tests on the water, and added various chemicals and bacteria at least once a week. I couldn't wait for the water to be stable enough to add fish.  When it was finally ready, we went to the pet store and picked out the fish.  The fish I chose were cherry barbs, Mickey Mouse platies, black mollies, otocinclus, powder blue gourami, and ghost shrimp. The array of fish allowed me to teach children about how different lifestyles and habitats affect the fish and its adaptations.  Once the fish were added to the aquarium, I started creating the module.  I played around with the organization of the material, did a lot of research, and tried desperately to find ways of teaching that would not bore the children. I decided the best way of doing so would be to keep a healthy balance between anatomical, physiological, conservation, and environmental information mixed with fun facts and pictures.  I continued to update the module whenever I learned something new, but I always tried to maintain the balance.  My first time teaching the 5th graders was a life changing moment.  Experiencing the student’s energy and excitement, and hearing their insightful questions made me realize my love for teaching. 

  When I was a Brownie, I never imagined the impact that Girl Scouts would have on my life.  It has led me to discover myself, my passions, and my dreams.  Because of this wonderful organization, I have become the confident leader I am today.