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

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

Girl Scouts Embark on a Swiss Adventure

Girl Scouts Embark on a Swiss Adventure

Nearly a dozen girls from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana traveled to Switzerland this summer on a council-sponsored trip. Accompanied by five adults, the group arrived in Zurich after an eight-hour plane journey from the States. Once there, they hit the ground running on a walking tour of Altstadt, or Old Town, in the Swiss city of Zurich.

The next day, the Girl Scouts went to the Swiss National Museum and the Zurich Zoo, where they happened to see Beyoncé! Next up was Bern, the capital of Switzerland. The group enjoyed many free sites here, such as a bear pit, rose garden and botanical garden.

Girl Scouts in Bern, Switzerland

The following day, everyone participated in a walking tour of Bern and was luck enough to see Le Tour de France as the cyclists biked through the town.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the nine days the girls got to spend at Our Chalet, which is an international Girl Guide/Girl Scout centre and one of five World Centres of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, or WAGGS. While there, the girls met other groups from the U.S. and Canada, including their pen pals from Canada.

Girl Scouts white-water rafting at Our Chalet

While at Our Chalet, the girls also went zip-lining, abseiling into a gorge, white-water rafting, met a woodcarver and did a lot of hiking. The views of the country were phenomenal. Finishing up the trip was a day in Lauterbrunnen where the participants saw Trummelbach Falls, the only waterfalls in Europe you can see inside of a mountain.

This trip was a culmination of a year’s worth of planning. Once the girls applied in June 2015, they began discussing their itinerary. They also attended a panel with people who had either worked at Our Chalet or visited there to get a better sense of what to expect.

Girl Scouts at Trummelbach Falls in Switzerland

At the end of the trip, the girls agreed that Switzerland was one of the most beautiful places they had ever seen and they returned to the States with bags of cheese and chocolate for souvenirs.

To learn more about council-sponsored travel opportunities, click here. For more information about traveling as a Girl Scout, please email our senior program manager of arts, cultural awareness and travel programs at

Girl Scouts Visit Mackinac Island

Girl Scouts Visit Mackinac Island

Curious about travel, but not ready to commit to a week away from home? Then Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s trip to Mackinac Island, Michigan may be the perfect fit for you.

Recently, 23 Girl Scouts and their moms or grandmothers boarded a coach bus to the ferry. After a 40-minute smooth sail, the participants landed on Mackinac – an island with no cars and lots of fudge!

Island pano

Together, the Girl Scouts and their favorite female family members went on a horse-drawn carriage ride, explored the Butterfly Conservatory at the Wings of Mackinac, and explored Fort Mackinac.

Amanda Esposito

After some group fun, the girls and their moms and grandmas split up to spend some bonding time together. Some girls went horseback riding.

LoreAnn Sprouse

While others opted to rent bikes and pedal the 8.2 miles around the island.

“My experience encouraged me to ride my bike more instead of riding a car, which prevents pollution,” said Girl Scout Lore Ann Sprouse. “I was encouraged because my destination didn’t have any motorized vehicles and the air felt so clean. I now ride my bike more because I want where I live to feel that clean, too, for myself and others.”

A few of the girls even got dressed up to have a fancy meal at the Grand Hotel. The Girl Scouts also went hiking, shopping and made new friends in the process.

Karch 2

If you’re interested in how you can join next year’s trip, please email Ashley Christensen at If you’re ready to sign up for your next adventure, you can register here. Space is limited, so sign up soon!

Mentoring Variations are Essential

Mentoring Variations are Essential

Happy to finally get a chance to write about my mentoring experiences this summer. We often overlook the value in telling our story about being mentored or mentoring someone else. I’ve learned from hearing from friends and colleagues that the variations in mentoring relationships aren’t as widely known or used just by default of the stories going untold. So, here’s my part!

The last time I served as a consistent mentor was with Chicago Women in Philanthropy’s Women’s Leadership Mentoring Program. I served as a mentor for two full years to two different early career women. One worked in communications the other in resource development. Both very dynamic and very successful in their fields as well as the artful balance of everything else in life. I learned a lot, specifically about what I didn’t know that I could teach! How ironic. I assumed when I accepted this role that there would be a formula to follow, a set of questions to check off during the year, a number of people to introduce and get out of the way. Not so. Through sharing our work and life experiences I think the mutually beneficial relationship grew and things that I didn’t know my mentee could use came out during discussion, invitations to random events I attended and sidebar conversations about how my lack of sleep (or ability to wake up at 3 am and be productive for about an hour and go right back to bed with no problems) was embedded into my lifestyle so much so that it no longer bothered me! At the end of my mentoring time when competing priorities adjusted I still have two people who are doing wonderful things in this world that I learned a lot from and I hope was able to share a lot that they can use in their daily lives.

The last time I served as a one day mentor was earlier this summer with the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Camp CEO. I was able to spend 24 hours at Camp Butternut Springs in Valparaiso, IN with 40 young women and a host of other CEOs, the wonderful staff and board members of GSCNWI. I was assigned two mentees, Anna and Emma. Anna a incoming sophomore certain of her desire to teach and Emma and incoming senior understanding her artistic abilities, hopeful to choose a good liberal arts college wanting to make good use of those. Both having siblings, very dedicated to their families and ready to take on the world. I could not have asked to get to know better campers this year or for a better experience and opportunity to share my path to CEO leadership. The theme of this years camp was: Following Our Hearts In Pursuit of Opportunity , which occupied a huge banner in the meeting hall. How poignant and timely. I was greatly inspired by the questions the ladies asked and their goals!!! I’m accordance with the 3 C’s of Girl Scouting; Courage, Confidence and Character filled the camp site. I arrived on Wednesday and, along with other new arrival CEOs, was greeted with a fabulous welcome song. After hearing it a few times it never leaves your brain. I’ve been tempted to sing and record on my phone so I never forget. Our day consisted of workshops on purposely expressing your character and exposing yourself to the world beyond your immediate community. The highlight of our day came after lunch with shark tank pitches. The group was challenged to invent something that solves a modern day issue. Their ideas were amazing. One particular idea about food insecurity access bracelets deserves a pitch to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. During this event I watched the campers withstand some of the toughest questions about their products. These are skills they will need when presenting their ideas to teachers, professors, future bosses and community members.

At the end of the day I got to share my leadership journey-one I’ve always downplayed but fully accepted as my purpose in life. I’ve just never stood from the mountaintops and yelled my story to the masses. My journey to CEO at Evanston Community Foundation was one of my challenges as a teenager, purpose as a young adult and accepting of an opportunity to use the full scope of my skills and talents. Our day included lots of other great things and luckily I got to stick around for S’mores and songs by the campfire. If you’ve never tried a Reece’s cup S’more, you’re missing out on a world of goodness. I assured the group that any increase in pricing of the cookies was alright with me!

The next morning when it was time to depart I got a chance to record the goodbye song, which I will cherish forever. The experience of being with the group for only 24 hours was great. I was headed back to my day to day and with the understanding that this time I mentored simply by allowing campers to ask me questions that are important to them. Questions like-how do you make tough decisions and when you were in high school did you think you’d be where you are today in your career? Questions like-If you want to be a model do you have to be this tall or this small? All very important self confidence questions. I hope my answers were helpful.

If you know me, you know my husband and I parent a very dedicated to life 5 year old. When she heard I was going to Camp CEO…all she heard was camp. My daughter has no clue what CEO means nor does she care. It didn’t matter why I was going to camp. And when she heard Girl Scouts, she certainly would not let that go. So, luckily her school will be hosting a daisy troop this year and she can join. I was never a girl scout, but I have to believe there is a girl scout in me and I was happy to be among them even for only 24 hours.

So, there you have it. My two most recent instances of extreme vs very loose mentoring. Both very rewarding for me and hopefully for my mentees. All in all, I know that mentoring is defined by what you need and what you can give. There isn’t a hard and fast rule to getting it right. If you are able to be a mentor, know your limitations with that role and be able to express them.If you are seeking a mentor, know your needs with that role and be able to express them. Find your circles of influence that may offer informal instances of mentoring. You’ll find that what fits you best is a variation that gels well with the life you live, the time you have to give and the outcomes you’re trying to reach!

This post was written by Monique Brunson Jones, the CEO of Evanston Community Foundation. To learn more about Monique, please visit her blog

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!

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.

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,