Monday, February 23, 2015

Meet the Staff: Debbe Tipping, Tech Girls Program Coordinator

I joined Girl Scouts in Fort Collins, Colorado when I was in first grade— the youngest you could join at the time. When I moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin I wanted to join again but there were no Girl Scouts for my second grade year. I joined again in third grade. When my family moved to Cottage Grove, Wisconsin, I moved to a troop in that area. In fact, my mom and my dad were my troop leaders. I continued to register as a Girl Scout through twelfth grade and several years beyond.

The most important part of Girl Scouts for me was camp. In my case that was Camp Black Hawk in northern Wisconsin. Being the child of divorce and joint custody, camp was the only place I could be me and not accidentally say something about Mom at Dad’s or viceversa. I attended camp six years in a row thanks to Financial Partnerships. I attended two years as a Junior Explorer for one week camps then jumped to the two week camps. I learned to canoe in Canoe Post, sail in Windjammers, develop black and white negatives and photos in Shutterbug, and how to windsurf and kayak in Solo Craft Challengers. I was able to attend camp two years as an adult for Women’s Week. There I perfected my windsurfing. I finally figured out how to turn the windsurf board. It was getting a little old sailing across the lake, jumping off, turning the board, then doing it all over again. I never did figure out how to do an Eskimo roll with a kayak, though. I always ended up upside down underwater and had to pull the skirt so I could swim up and breathe.

I accidentally became my high school’s first female photographer for the school newspaper and yearbook when I learned how to develop black and white film at camp.  I didn't think anything of volunteering to take pictures my freshman year. After I started taking pictures at sporting events and school functions everyone treated me really strangely. It was the mid-1980's. Being a female in a non-traditional role should not be so strange. I felt like I time warped back to the 50's!

I came back to Girl Scouts in 2001 as an adult without a daughter. I had just moved to Denton, Texas and was looking for something to do. I called the local council in February and offered to volunteer. I could practically hear the person I talked to doing cartwheels down the hallway because she was so happy to have a volunteer. This was a small council. Girl Scouts started in the 1950s in Denton and there were very few leaders who had been Girl Scouts as girls. I was a third generation Girl Scout leader with my parents and grandma being leaders for their daughters. I was an oddity. Because I started Girl Scouts at a strange time of the year, the assistant CEO went through my initial training with me one-on-one! I started my troop with girls from the neighborhood I lived in and we met in my house while the troop was small.

My training as an adult was eye opening. The Girl Scout Promise had changed slightly from the time I said it as a girl. I attended outdoor training and learned it was OK to use paper plates instead of washing so many dishes. Also, no one knew that a dribble bucket was for washing hands; studio 2B was new. The badges were similar as badges when I was a girl. I saw how parts of Girl Scouts ware new but most of it was the same as it had been when I was a girl. The new parts didn't bother me—they were geared toward what girls like now, rather than what they liked years ago. 

When I moved to Round Rock, I again joined Girl Scouts as a volunteer. I took over a troop that had been dormant for eight months. Two years later I was asked to become a service unit director. Two years after that I accepted a position as a Membership Development Executive at Girl Scouts of Central Texas. At GSCTX I have also been the Programs Department Administrative Assistant, and began a program called Tech Girls.

I continue as the Tech Girls Program Coordinator. Tech Girls is a customized program that serves girls from 6th-12th grade in low-income schools in the greater Austin area as grant funding permits. Tech Girls gives the girls opportunities to have hands-on experiences with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and learn about STEM careers. The very best part about Tech Girls is that is uses Girl Scouts and STEM, my two loves, to give girls confidence in school. Anytime a girl can gain confidence in school only great things happen in her community! This fall I started teaching the Lego Robotics program and Coder Girls Explorers in the Edge in Austin to help our very busy STEM Program Manager, Mitchell Whittier, provide great STEM experiences to girls.

As a volunteer, I met a shop volunteer who had an 80 on her membership tab. I hope I can remain a part of Girl Scouts until I reach my 80th year as a Girl Scout. Imagine what great things girls will be doing then!

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