Lessons Learned While Roaming Italy

Lessons Learned While Roaming Italy

While visiting Italy over the summer, our tour guide pointed our the difference in cultures in the various cities. Even Italian constants such as pasta differed from region to region! For example, Bologna was famous for inventing lasagna and tortellini, while I learned how to make ravioli in Rome.

Many of these cities also have different histories. Before Italy was a unified country, it was a collection of states — each with their own way of operating and separate governments. To this day, the different regions and cities boast their own history.


In Rome, the residents celebrate the Roman Empire and the days when all roads lead to Rome. In Florence, they show off all of the important works of art that originated there and the crucial role their country played in the Italian Renaissance. Meanwhile, Venice teaches tourists about the days when the doge, or chief magistrate, ruled and their world-class glass blowing. Despite all of this, every region comes together to share in the collective history of Italy.

Seeing all of the cultural differences in Italy made me think of how we view culture in America. For the most part, we celebrate our own culture, and cherish different familial traditions. Many Americans hold tightly to where their ancestors came from and what their heritage means to them. All of the different cultures in America contribute to a mixture of different traditions, which is expected since America is a nation of immigrants.

However, there is still hostility towards cultures that certain Americans view as different and wrong. Instead of celebrating our differences and how the influx of immigrants has always brought prosperity and growth to America, some of us tear each other down. In Italy, the difference between regions is melded together to create a united country. While regions do compete with each other, it is always friendly and many choose to focus on similarities rather than differences.


I think that Americans should learn to see different religions and cultures in a friendlier way, and we should celebrate the things that make America wonderful. Heritage is important to all of us, and we should still work hard to preserve our history and our culture. Many of the social problems that America is currently facing stems from the fact that we don’t respect each other ‘s differences. I believe that if we can learn to see each other as contributing something special and unique to the “American Melting Pot” culture, then we will have a much more accepting America. Italy showed me what it meant to truly love thy neighbor.

Nina Grotta is a Girl Scout Ambassador from Hinsdale, Illinois.

For more information about other Girl Scout Destinations, including  Our Cabaña in Cuernavaca, Mexico next year, click here.

Go Nuts with Fall Product

Go Nuts with Fall Product

Craving candies, chocolates and nuts? Want to raise money for your troop’s programs and field trips? Then you’re in luck! There’s still time to participate in Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s fall product program.

Like the Girl Scout Cookie Program, our council’s fall product program empowers Girl Scouts to learn five important leadership skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.

In addition to classic favorites such as Mint Chocolate Penguins, Peanut Butter Bears and Dulce de Leche Owls, girls and customers can enjoy three new products this year: Snowman Tin of Caramel Treasures, Honey Roasted Mixed Nuts with Peanuts, and Girl Scout Camp Pack Tin of Mint Treasures.

“I love fall product,” said Selena Randecker, a regional volunteer for product program. “What I’ve learned is that every family has a different ability to participate in our programs – whether that is earning badges or our product program. Some have great Fall Product goals while others excelled at [Girl Scout] Cookies. It was all about giving them choices and offering them the ability to contribute to the success of the troop in their own way.”

As the manager for Service Unit 406, Randecker coordinates and hosts an annual fall product kickoff rally for the troops in her service unit.

“You get to set goals right away at the beginning of the year and fall product gives you money to get started as a troop,” she explained. “The fall product items also make great gifts for coworkers, teachers and hostesses.”

Kyra Bennett, a 10-year-old Girl Scout Junior, agreed.

“We love the nuts and candy and my Dad also renews his magazines through Girl Scouts each year. But also because the fall product program allows our troop to start the year out with funds to do all sorts of fun activities and outings,” said Kyra, who was one of the top sellers for fall product last year. “My Girl Scout troop always has a full year of outings and events planned based on reaching our fundraising goals.”

In previous years, Kyra’s troop has used fall product proceeds to pay for uniforms and for programs such as horseback riding, Dozin’ with the Dinos at The Field Museum and glamping at the Wisconsin Dells. They’ve also used fall product funds to purchase fabric to make blankets for people in need and create Build-a-Bears for patients at the children’s hospital.

“This year, our sales goal is to fund another glamping outing in January,” she said. “We also donate our leftover fall product to the food pantry so other families can enjoy the nuts and candy, too.”

You can also support women and men in the military by supporting our Gift of Caring program with the purchase of a product or magazine voucher for just $5. The women and men of the armed forces receive these vouchers and can use them as payment toward their favorite magazines.

All fall product items can be ordered, paid for and directly shipped to a home or business. But hurry, the program ends Oct. 23, 2016! For more information or to participate, click here.

Girl Scouts Welcome Community at Mosque Open House

Girl Scouts Welcome Community at Mosque Open House

Morton Grove resident Jenny Montgomery said a young Muslim boy in her fourth grade classroom asked her repeatedly to come to a recent open house at the mosque where the boy and his family worship.

Montgomery, a teacher with Chicago Public Schools, kept her promise to the boy and attended the event held Sunday afternoon at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove.

Amid a turbulent election cycle that’s featured anti-Muslim rhetoric, Montgomery said children in her classroom unfortunately are not immune to the things they hear spoken on the national political stage.

It’s one of the reasons she decided to support her student at the open house event.

“I see him struggling with feeling accepted,” Montgomery said. “I think he feels like he’s being singled out, and maybe is a little unsure and a little frightened about what people see when they at look at him.”

Nazim Mangera, Imam for the Muslim Community Center in Chicago, said the election season has led to many misconceptions and misunderstandings about Muslims.

Some politicians feel that if they demonize a minority group, the majority of Americans will vote for them, he said.

Welcoming the community into the mosque is an antidote for that kind of hateful speech, Mangera said.

“When people get to know each other, that’s when people are aware of each other’s beliefs and values,” he said. “It’s a good way of spreading love within the community.”

The open house at the Muslim Education Center in Morton Grove was a part of the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago, a free regional event that opens buildings with architectural significance to the community for tours.

It was the second year the Muslim Community Center and its associated school participated. The event also was sponsored by the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago.

Zara Usman, a 10-year-old student at the Morton Grove center and a Chicago resident, said she’s been personally affected by people who don’t understand her religion.

“When I’m wearing my hijab outside of school, some people look at me with a face as if I’m going to do something,” she said.

Usman, a Girl Scout, said that having non-Muslims visit her school and her house of worship is a heartening gesture.

It also was an opportunity to dismantle common misconceptions and stereotypes about her religion and the people who practice it, she said.

“Seeing them take the time to come in and listen to our speakers makes me pretty happy,” Usman said.

The open house featured tours of the Morton Grove mosque, calligraphy demonstrations, henna tattooing, a group of Muslim Girl Scouts eager to speak with visitors, as well as falafel and pita snacks.

To read the full story, please visit chicagotribune.com.

Chicago Girl Scout Delivers Powerful Speech at the United Nations

Chicago Girl Scout Delivers Powerful Speech at the United Nations

Eva Lewis is back home now after sharing her compelling message about empowering black girls at the United Nations International Day of the Girl event earlier this week in New York.

The 17-year-old South Shore resident was invited to speak at the event after gaining media attention from a July rally at Millennium Park she helped organize with three other teens.

It was her second time in New York City. Eva participated in the United Nations’ 60th Annual Commission on the Status of Women in March, but this time it was much different, she said.

“This was a much bigger event, with a lot of people watching all over the world,” she said, adding that at least 1,000 people were in the audience.

Eva, who attends Walter Payton College Prep, opened up the event with a spoken word performance.

“I really thought it set the mood for the event and the tone in the sense that we weren’t kidding and our voices should be validated,” she said. “I felt like it definitely got everyone’s attention.”

Eva also spoke at the event.

The marginalization of women, especially black women, is an issue close to her heart. There hasn’t been a shift in the conversation to truly address the inequalities that black women and girls experience, Eva said.

Issues like hypersexualization, human trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence disproportionately affect black women, she said, but the main people speaking up about those issues are black women.

Her mother, Valerie Andrews-Lewis, and grandmother sat in the audience.

“I am very proud of Eva,” her mother said. “She really believes in what she’s doing and she did an excellent job of bringing awareness to the plight of black girls.”

Andrews-Lewis said she hopes some policy changes will occur from the message her daughter is spreading.

Eva has been a member of the Girl Scouts since she was 7 years old and the organization has really helped her create a platform and spread her message on a larger scale, she said.

“It has definitely cultivated me and my voice,” Eva said. “They’ve been so supportive of all my initiatives and political viewpoints, as well as helping me reach out to different media outlets.”

Without Girl Scouts, Eva said she probably wouldn’t have been invited to speak at the United Nations.

To read the full story, please visit DNAinfo.com.

Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Kaitlyn Kropp knows what it takes to be a leader.

On Monday, October 10, 2016, the 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador received the Elena of Avalor Scepter of Light Award in honor of her ability to lead through everyday challenges  with the same attributes that define Disney’s Elena of Avalor.

Diane Ikemiyashiro, director of original programming for Disney Junior, presented Kaitlyn with the award on ABC7 and said it symbolizes the “true meaning of leadership.”

Earlier this year, Kaitlyn created an impressive sensory room at The Academy of Forest View in Arlington Heights as her Gold Award project to give those with autism the ability to minimize their stress before returning to class.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout between the ages of 14 and 17 can earn. The leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment required to complete the process set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.

Reactions to Kaitlyn’s Gold Award project have been so positive that other schools have contacted her about creating similar spaces in their schools. Click here to see Kaitlyn in action.

A BIG thank you to Roz Varon ABC7, Girl Scout alum and former troop leader, for having us on!

Girl Scouts Help Team Win ComEd Icebox Derby

Girl Scouts Help Team Win ComEd Icebox Derby

What does it mean to take the lead like a Girl Scout? Two girls from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana found out firsthand after winning the 2016 ComEd Icebox Derby as part of Team Radiant Flames.

“I was so excited and so happy that we’d won,” said Therese Jager, a 14-year-old Girl Scout Senior. “We were all jumping around and giving each other high-fives.”

One of Therese’s teammates and Sister Girl Scout, Athena Zheng, said she was speechless when she realized they’d earned first place.

“The whole event, both the build days and especially race day, was filled with thrill and excitement,” said Athena, a 14-year-old Girl Scout Senior. “I really enjoyed the part during race day when I drove because I felt proud that I had contributed toward building this amazing car. I felt a sense of exhilaration course through me as I hopped into the car, put the seat belt on and pressed the pedal to start driving!”

Girl Scout Therese Jaeger drives her team’s icebox car

Last month, 30 girls between the ages of 14 and 18 from the Chicagoland area competed in the third annual ComEd Icebox Derby where STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) advocate and ABC’s blackish star Yara Shahidi served as emcee of the event. Teams of six worked for weeks to make solar-powered race cars out of old refrigerators. In addition to Therese and Athena, Team Radiant Flames also included Morgan Jones, Taylor Clark and Tawashae Garrett, in addition to their ComEd mentors.

ABC’s “blackish” star Yara Shahidi emceed the 2016 ComEd Icebox Derby

“The Icebox Derby is a special once-in-a-lifetime experience because it isn’t an everyday thing that girls get to construct racecars out of old, recycled refrigerators,” Athena explained. “Additionally, we gained new STEM-related skills and experiences. This included solving science problems during race day, learning what gear ratio is and creating series and parallel circuits.”

In addition to the technical skills, Athena said she also learned the power of teamwork.

“I did not know any of my teammates or mentors before Icebox Derby, but we developed a strong bond of friendship over the build days,” she said. “I believe that teamwork contributed to our win because I would have felt less confident without my teammates’ encouragement and support.”

Members of Team Radiant Flames celebrate their victory

Meanwhile, Therese was excited to learn about circuits, use power tools and connect solar panels to the car. Both girls stressed the importance of getting girls involved in STEM at a young age.

“Because of Girl Scouts, I have had so many opportunities that I would not have otherwise had, such as participating in the Icebox Derby and First LEGO League robotics, meeting powerful women at the Executive Club luncheon and meeting with local politicians and government officials over the years through my work on various projects,” said Therese.

“I am truly grateful to ComEd for having this Icebox Derby program and I am so fortunate to have had this experience,” she continued. “I want to be an aerospace engineer someday, but I may have never known about this field or considered engineering as a career if I had not been exposed to it.”

To learn more abut the ComEd Icebox Derby, click here. For more information about our STEM programs, please visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org

Girl Scouts Enjoy Juliette Day Out

Girl Scouts Enjoy Juliette Day Out

There are many ways to get involved in Girl Scouts. If a traditional troop doesn’t fit your needs, you can always register as an individual Girl Scout, also known as a Juliette (in honor of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low).

Last month, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) hosted its first Juliette Day Out at Camp Greene Wood in Woodridge, Illinois. The fun-filled day began with a traditional investiture and re-dedication ceremony, which highlighted the attributes that create the basis for the Girl Scout Promise and Law.

Afterward, the Juliettes had a chance to express gratitude toward their parents and mentors by giving them a single daisy, which symbolized the first level of being a Girl Scout and was also Juliette Gordon Low’s nickname.

Next up, the parents had a chance to connect with their daughters by pinning them with their Girl Scout level tab, WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) and Girl Scout pin provided by GSGCNWI’s Innovation and Inclusion Department.


Following the ceremony, everyone took pictures and enjoyed refreshments before continuing with a day filled with old-fashioned Girl Scout fun, such as making S’mores and participating in art and crafts. The Juliettes and their families were also able to make SWAPS (Special Whatchamacallits Affectionately Pinned Somewhere), take a mystery hike, and have a chance to learn more about Girl Scout opportunities, such as the Highest Awards.

Recent Gold Award honoree Annie Vitti told the girls about her project, which involved building a habitat for chimney swifts, a protected bird species, and inspired many Juliettes to pursue their own Highest Awards.


Many thanks to everyone who helped make the Juliette Day Out a success! For more information or to register for Girl Scouts, please visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.