Girl Scouts: A Family Tradition

Girl Scouts: A Family Tradition

Girl Scouting is a time-honored tradition in many families and Linda Scaggs’ family is no different.

This summer, Scaggs and her two daughters, Katie, a 10-year-old Girl Scout Junior, and Elizabeth, a 7-year-old Girl Scout Brownie, made the trek from Southern Maryland to Chicago to visit Scaggs’ parents, Elaine and Walter J. Valters, and learn more about their family’s history in Girl Scouts. With her parents in tow, the family made its way to Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s Friendship Center in Country Club Hills, Illinois to revisit the past.

“I wanted my girls to get a better understanding of why they’re Girl Scouts,” Scaggs said. “The trip stirred up so many memories. I think everyone should have the opportunity to do that.”

At the Friendship Center, the family had the chance to see pictures of and uniforms worn by Gertrude Gerken Valters, Scagg’s grandmother and Walter J. Valters’ mother. Elizabeth and Katie even got to try on parts of their great-grandmother’s uniform!

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From left to right: Katie Scaggs, Elaine Valters, Linda Scaggs, Elizabeth Scaggs and Walter J. Valters

“When my grandparents passed away, we cleaned out their house. We had all of my grandmother’s Girl Scouting stuff and my aunts donated her items,” explained Scaggs. “We knew it was all on display somewhere and I wanted my daughters, who are fifth-generation Girl Scouts, to see it. I encourage everyone who has family history in Girl Scouting and Boy Scouting to reach out and learn more about it. You never know what you’re going to turn up.”

Longtime Girl Scouts and volunteer council historians, Carol Macola and Pat Walenga, showed the family all of the artifacts on site that belonged to Gertrude Gerken Valters, who was born in 1912 (the same year Girl Scouts was founded).

“I’d never seen some of the pictures from when my grandmother was an actual Girl Scout,” Scaggs said. “It was so moving. I can understand why my family members are the way they are – it all comes from my grandmother being influential with her can-do attitude. I didn’t realize how many awards she’d won. The whole experience was very eye-opening. I really enjoyed it.”

Gertrude Gerken Valters joined Troop 1 in Chicago’s Norwood Park in 1924 and was the troop leader from 1933 until she passed away in 1981.

Because of the troop’s proximity to O’Hare International Airport, the troop operated as a Wing Scout troop, Walenga said. These troops were popular during World War II for girls who were interested in flying, according to Girl Scouts of the USA.

“It was very cool to see the connection,” Walenga said of the family’s visit. “It’s the magic thread of Girl Scouting. It’s those shared values that bond us all together. But it’s not a thread, it’s more like a giant, throbbing anaconda. We’re looped together much more closely than I imagine a thread could ever do.”

Scaggs was also grateful for the opportunity to share her family’s history and love of Girl Scouting with her daughters.

“Girl Scouts taught me so many lessons,” she said. “You’re a part of a team. At the meetings, you all work on things together. You look out for each other. There’s a sense of community. It’s like a family reunion. Girl Scouts is a second family.”

Camp CEO: Mentoring with a Side of S’mores

Camp CEO: Mentoring with a Side of S’mores

Last week, I participated in what will surely be remembered as one of the highlights of my summer–camping with the Girl Scouts! In it’s tenth year, Camp CEO is a premier leadership camp for teen girls and high-level professionals held at Camp Butternut Springs in Valparaiso, Indiana. I was invited to attend as one of the 25 female “CEOs” along with 40 high-achieving Girl Scouts selected from the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana council who applied and wrote essays to participate. I had not been camping since my days as a leader with my daughter’s troop 20 years ago, and it was incredible fun to be hiking, swimming, and singing songs around the campfire once again.

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Village President of Long Grove Angie Underwood and her mentee, Trinity, at Camp CEO.

In addition to these traditional camp activities, what made Camp CEO so special was the opportunity to mentor the girls one-on-one and share stories, life experiences, advice and inspiration. I was fortunate to be paired with Trinity, an impressively smart and sweet girl from Chicago who aspires to be a doctor. I really enjoyed spending time with my mentee as well as all the girls at camp and I was continually amazed by the thoughtful questions the girls asked. They were truly focused on learning and absorbing as much as possible from their time with the adult mentors. Women were present from a wide variety of professions such as science, technology, law, government, finance, communications, entrepreneurs, and more. I was asked to lead a workshop on networking and social etiquette in politics, which challenged me to step out of my box a bit to design a seminar. But I had a ball doing it, and the girls really seemed to enjoy discussing the role of women in elected office particularly in light of the history being made this year in our U. S. presidential race.

One activity that seemed to really resonate with adults and girls alike was the “Dreaming Your Future” tradition. A couple of times each day, everyone would gather around the fireplace or campfire, and listen as three or four of the CEOs took center stage and shared their own life story and pathway to leadership. As usual, the girls had intriguing questions to ask. I found it so interesting that every woman’s story showcased the fact that most of us are not doing what we thought our careers would be when we were in high school or college–in most cases our journey has taken twists and turns to lead us to a place we never dreamed possible. I know that I never planned on becoming a Village President when I was majoring in foods-nutrition/dietetics during my college days!

Camp CEO was an all-around wonderful experience. I’m grateful that we have organizations such as Girl Scouts to provide opportunities like this, which bond women and girls together to inspire the next generation of leaders. But the inspiration works both ways, because I came home uplifted by Trinity and all the other young women I now know who give me hope for a bright future for us all.

This post was written by Angie Underwood, village president of Long Grove. To learn more about Angie, please visit her blog, LifeinLongGrove.com.

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

With a plethora of construction paper, scissors, glue and fun facts spread before me and my Girl Scout troop, we began the riveting task of creating the world’s best table display for World Thinking Day.

As a wide-eyed Girl Scout Junior, Thinking Day granted me the opportunity to taste new food, meet new people and explore a world of possibilities. It was there, at that glue-covered table, that I discovered my passion for other cultures and travel.

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Growing up, my troop and I would sing camp songs in Cherokee, make music with Lummi sticks, eat Irish soda bread and dream of traveling to the Girl Scout World Centers. We were courageous in spirit, compassionate by action and eager to meet everyone. Little did I know just how much the lessons I learned with my troop would impact the course of my life.

As I got older, I realized that not everyone was as compassionate toward other people and cultures as my troop and I were. So, in my final year as a Girl Scout Ambassador, I combined my passion for culture and the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Millennium Goal of achieving world peace to create the framework for my Gold Award Project.

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Through my project, I educated local students and my Sister Girl Scouts about the lives of people in other countries, especially children in war zones. As part of my project, I conducted a toy and school supply drive with the packaged donations being shipped overseas to military personnel so that they could give the donations to children in the surrounding area in order to promote goodwill between the community and our soldiers.

Additionally, I created a permanent “mailbox to the troops” so that much deserved, handwritten letters of appreciation can always reach our soldiers. By educating the community and encouraging participants to donate a toy or a book, I desired to spread the concept of being compassionate to the next generation and convey to the community that they have the power to make a difference in the world by spreading joy and world peace one toy at a time.

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With such a passion for culture and exploration burning inside, it seems only logical that I would travel abroad and at age 19, I embraced my first opportunity to do so. Through my university, I was able to spend two months studying at the Center For International Learning in Muscat, Oman. During my summer abroad in the Sultanate of Oman, I was able to see the world’s second largest chandelier, walked the worn streets of a nearly 500-year-old city and spend one crazy day exploring London, England.

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From making Diwali candles as a Girl Scout Junior to studying abroad in Oman, the passion for culture and exploration that I discovered and fostered through Girl Scouts continues to shape my life and take me on spectacular journeysNow, as a permanent Girl Scout at heart and world traveler, I hope to educate and inspire others to embrace life with open arms and a compassionate heart.

Megan Ramirez is a recent Gold Award honoree and rising sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.

Five Fun, Easy Ways to Appreciate Girl Scout Volunteers

Five Fun, Easy Ways to Appreciate Girl Scout Volunteers

As summer winds down and children head back to school, we’re gearing up for another exciting year of Girl Scouting! But we can’t do it without our hard working, enthusiastic team of adult volunteers. Whether they’re chaperoning a troop at summer camp or leading troop meetings, these dedicated men and women are committed to empowering the next generation of women leaders.

At Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, we have a few fun ways you can show your appreciation for the countless volunteers who work tirelessly to make every Girl Scout’s experience a memorable and life-changing one.

1. Send a thank-you note or card. When’s the last time you received a handwritten thank-you note? This simple, sincere gesture can go a long way in letting your volunteer know how much you value their time and admire their leadership.

2. Join our “Just Say Thanks” initiative. Did you know that our council’s CEO, Nancy Wright, will send a personal note to special Girl Scout volunteers? Anyone can submit a request through our website to receive this very special token of appreciation. Click here to get started.

3. Get crafty. Visit our council’s Pinterest page for creative handmade crafts and gifts to thank your troop leader.

4. Deliver a certificate of appreciation. Say thanks the Girl Scout way with a personalized certificate of appreciation. Get started here.

5. Nominate them for a Girl Scout award. Show the volunteers in your life how much you appreciate them by nominating them for council awards, such as Hidden Heroine and New Found Treasure, or Girl Scouts of the USA national awards, such as the Appreciation Pin and the Thanks Badge. For more information about the awards and to nominate your favorite volunteer, click here.

What are some ways you show love to the volunteers you know? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Girl Scouts Celebrate National S’mores Day with New Cookie

Girl Scouts Celebrate National S’mores Day with New Cookie

In celebration of 100 years of Girl Scouts selling cookies, we’re excited to announce a commemorative Girl Scout S’mores™ cookie today, National S’mores Day.

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana will offer a s’mores-inspired crunchy graham sandwich cookie with creamy chocolate and marshmallowy filling. The last new Girl Scout Cookies®, including the gluten-free Toffee-tastic, were introduced in 2015.

“Some of my favorite Girl Scout memories took place outdoors, roasting S’mores at summer camp,” said Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana and a former Girl Scout. “This new cookie brings an exciting and delicious way for our customers to help our girls learn five important life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.”

This s’mores-inspired cookie made with specialty ingredients was created with emerging consumer trends in mind. It contains no artificial flavors or colors, high fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. This newly introduced cookie is the first of its kind for Girl Scouts. Cookies sold by Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana are $5 per box.

Every penny of net proceeds earned from the sale of Girl Scout Cookies is reinvested into exceptional programming and activities for girls. At the troop level, girls manage the decision-making process for how to spend their troop cookie money and often reinvest it in their neighborhoods through service projects and learning experiences, including travel. Customers who purchase Girl Scout Cookies are not only getting a delicious treat—they are also investing in their communities and girls.

The tradition of making and enjoying s’mores in the outdoors was popularized by Girl Scouts as early as the 1920s. The organization was one of the first to publish the iconic recipe under the name “Some More” in a 1925 issue of Girl Scout Leader magazine and, then, as “somemores” in an official 1927 Girl Scout publication. The popular s’mores recipe is just one component of Girl Scouts’ longstanding commitment to the outdoors, a cornerstone of the organization that plays a vital role in girls’ leadership development.

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) More Than S’mores report, there is a clear connection between outdoor experiences and girls’ understanding of their leadership potential. Girls who spend time outdoors through Girl Scouts eclipse their peers in environmental stewardship, more readily seek challenges, and are better problem solvers, all of which are traits needed for twenty-first-century leadership. When consumers purchase a box of Girl Scout S’mores cookies or any other variety of Girl Scout Cookies, they are investing in a girl’s future and can feel good that their Girl Scout Cookie purchase powers amazing experiences for girls.

To learn more about Girl Scout Cookies, visit girlscoutcookies.org.

Local Foundation Awards College Scholarships to Gold Award Girl Scouts

Local Foundation Awards College Scholarships to Gold Award Girl Scouts

Four Gold Award honorees from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana have received college scholarships from the Corinne Jeannine Schillings Foundation in Frankfort, Illinois.

Alexandria Basset of Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Jaina Chu of Hoffman Estates, Illinois; Shannon Layng of Riverside, Illinois; and Jessica Zarik of Crown Point, Indiana were among 12 students who were awarded scholarships to study a foreign language. Six students were also selected to receive scholarships to study abroad.

The Corinne Jeannine Schillings Foundation was established to honor the memory of Corinne Jeannine Schillings, a former Girl Scout who was an avid traveler and believed strongly in higher education for all women. Corinne lost her life in the Baltimore Water Taxi accident in 2004.

“My husband, Denny, and I are extremely proud of how the scholarship recipients represent Girl Scouting and also Corinne’s legacy,” said Corinne’s mom, Karen M. Schillings, who is co-founder of the foundation and a longtime Girl Scout volunteer and historian. “Corinne was such a giving person, and I feel that the girls we ultimately choose have that same sort of characteristic. They’re able to give of themselves and really that’s what Girl Scouts teaches our girls.”

Bassett is attending North Central College where she is majoring in German/secondary education and minoring in English. Chu is attending Brandeis University where she is majoring in biology/Hispanic studies and minoring in health: science, society and policy. Layng is attending University of Chicago where she’s majoring in biological sciences and minoring in Latin/classics. Zarik is attending Aquinas College where she’s majoring in community leadership and minoring in Spanish.

Their submissions were among 115 applications from 24 states and were selected based on a rigorous rubric that included their transcript, a recommendation from a Girl Scout volunteer or staff member and a personal essay.

“It’s such a difficult decision selecting the girls because they’ve accomplished so much already,” said Schillings. “Every time we award a scholarship, it’s really heartwarming to see the girls write back and share how much it means to them. They’re carrying on Corinne’s legacy, sharing their aspirations and how they’re going to change the world.”

Since 2005, the foundation has awarded scholarships to more than 200 Girl Scouts who’ve obtained their Silver and/or Gold Award, which are the highest awards a Girl Scout can earn. To learn more about the foundation and the scholarship requirements, visit www.cjsfoundation.org.

Making Lasting Memories at Girl Scout Camp CEO

Making Lasting Memories at Girl Scout Camp CEO

Since its inception 10 years ago, Girl Scouts have made powerful connections and long-lasting memories at Camp CEO. Hosted by Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, Camp CEO pairs teenage girls with some of the top women business executives in the Chicagoland area. Often, these relationships extend beyond the week-long summer camp, as evident by Anita Tang and Alisha Welles’ ten-year friendship.

At the first Camp CEO in 2007, Tang, the managing director for Royal Roots Inc., her own firm specializing in U.S.-China business strategy, was paired with Welles, who was a Girl Scout Ambassador at the time.

“After graduating high school, I realized that I needed more guidance on how to discern between opportunities,” Welles said of her decision to apply for Camp CEO. “The opportunity to meet with mentors that have successfully made their way in life was encouraging and inspiring.”

During Camp CEO, girls and mentors participate in various workshops, have candid conversations and engage in outdoor leadership activities.

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Alisha (left) and Anita (right) at Camp CEO in 2006.

“Participating with Anita at the archery range and learning how to aim and shoot to hit a target was a wonderful memory,” said Welles, who is currently a business analyst at Peapod. “Learning about the lives of our mentors through the “Dreaming Your Future” workshop was my favorite part of Camp CEO. All of the mentors started in different places with different background and made it to a leading role in a company they joined or built.”

And the mentees weren’t the only ones who learned valuable lessons during Camp CEO.

“That knowledge and experience at Camp CEO did not flow one way from the adult campers,” shared Tang. “We could learn many things from the girls, too. And we got to be young again! To learn from and share with our peers and the girls – for sure, the interactions benefit all parties.”

One piece of advice Tang shared with Welles was how body language can be interpreted differently across cultures, which came in handy when the pair later met up in Beijing during Welles’ internship in Hong Kong and China.

“We had a great time!” exclaimed Tang.

“I also learned about the importance of etiquette and dress,” said Welles. “That appearance and behavior play a role in how you move around the world as well as leveraging your mind and heart.”

Welles also describes Camp CEO as a “great space to learn how to network, grow and connect with women and other girls that can understand your journey and care about whether your succeed.”

And Tang agreed.

“Everyone should participate in Camp CEO to gain some exposure that they may not get every day and to get a taste of people who are different and whose experiences are also different,” she said.

To learn more about Camp CEO, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org/campceo.