At Girl Scouts, we know that one girl can make a difference. And when there’s a group of girls banding together to make a change — watch out, world!
Recently, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana inducted the newest class of Girl Representatives to the Board of Directors. As Girl Reps, this select group of older girls will have an opportunity to influence the council’s governance process and impact the way Girl Scouting reaches our communities and members.
Plus, they’ll gain real-life leadership experience that prepares them for success in future academic- and career-related endeavors.
To learn more about what they’re looking forward to this year, check out the video below and click here to learn more about the application process. And who knows, maybe we’ll see YOU here next year!
This year’s recipients are Amber Adams-Holecek, a sophomore at Central Michigan University from Chicago; Karyn N. Baldwin, a senior at Illinois State University from Hoffman Estates; Alecia Bell, a freshman at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaignfrom Hillside; Rachel Bennett, a junior at Culver-Stockton College from Hazel Crest; Brianna McCormick, a freshman at Roosevelt University from Oak Park; and Gloria Elizabeth Tabaczyk, a junior at Michigan State University from Hinsdale.
“The Girl Scout Gold Award provides a hands-on experience for young women to take action and provide a solution for a problem in their communities,” said CEO of GSGCNWI Nancy Wright. “By establishing this scholarship, we’re investing in the next generation of women leaders and creating opportunities for them to flourish in college, their careers and life.”
The Girl Scout Gold Award, which is celebrating its centennial this year, is the highest award that a Girl Scout aged 14-18 may earn. Commitment to earning the Gold Award develops skills related to leadership, time management, and community awareness, which set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more of a significant service project that fulfills a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global), creates change and is sustainable.
More than 20 recent Gold Award honorees applied for the inaugural GSGCNWI Gold Award scholarship, which was made possible by generous endowments to the council. High school seniors who received their Gold Award as a Girl Scout Senior or Ambassador in GSGCNWI are eligible to apply. Applications for next year’s scholarship will open March 15, 2017.
As awareness of the Girl Scout Gold Award continues to grow, so does its prestige. An increasing number of colleges are offering financial incentives to those who earn Girl Scout Gold Awards and admissions counselors view it as a sign of an individual girl’s ability to lead. To learn more about the scholarships available to Gold Award honorees or to donate to the GSGCNWI Gold Award scholarship fund, please visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org.
According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s report, The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life, Girl Scout Gold Award recipients receive greater lifetime benefits than their peers with regard to positive sense of self, life satisfaction, leadership, life success, community service and civic engagement as a result of their experience in Girl Scouting, including earning their Gold Award.
Girls have earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s highest awards since 1916, just four years after the organization’s founding in 1912. These awards include the Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, First Class and the current Girl Scout Gold Award which was introduced in 1980. Over the course of the last century, millions of Girl Scout alumnae have positively impacted their communities and the world with their creative, impactful and sustainable community service, or Take Action, projects.
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana impacts the lives of more than 52,000 girls and nearly 20,000 adult members in 245 communities in six Illinois counties (Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kankakee, Lake, and Will) and four Indiana counties (Jasper, Lake, Newton, and Porter). Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. For more information, visit www.girlscoutsgcnwi.org.
Of course it’s always important to remember to take a step back and really think about your actions before acting on them and your words before you say them. Kaitlyn Kropp knows what it’s like to need a minute to cool down. “I have mood swings and so sometimes I’d feel overwhelmed and just kind of lose it,” she says. “It was hard on me, and I know it was hard for other people, too. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, though, and I wanted to not have those problems. I didn’t like that my feelings of sadness or fear could take over like that.”
So, like a true leader, this 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador set out to problem solve and help herself and other kids facing similar problems. And it turns out many teens are living with these types of issues. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, three out of every fifty teens aged 13-18 are grappling with severe anxiety disorder.
“We used to have something called a ‘processing room’ at school, where kids could go and talk through their feelings with a teacher or a counselor, or write them down. But that’s not what everyone needs—in fact, if you’re freaking out, having to talk or to write something that makes sense can add even more pressure. That was the case with me, and I knew a few other kids who felt the same,” Kaitlyn says. “All I really wanted was an enclosed space where I could be by myself and chill for a few minutes so I could calm down and get back to my school work without having a bad incident.”
At her Chicago elementary school, students beg to be her buddy and her Girl Scout troop meetings are no different.
“Can I sit next to Ally at dinner?” one of her Sister Girl Scouts asks Ally’s mom during a recent field trip. Another one rushes to be her partner during a group activity.
To say the 10-year-old Girl Scout Junior is popular is an understatement, but her family and friends consider her more so a blessing.
Ally was born with Type 1 Spinal Muscular Atrophy, or SMA. The disease is the leading genetic cause of death for infants and is caused by a mutation in the survival motor neuron, according to curesma.org.
SMA impairs the nerves that control voluntary muscle movement, such as crawling, walking, head and neck control, and swallowing. As a result, Ally drives a power wheelchair and communicates with her eyes.
“Her life expectancy was less than two years and I want to give her as many experiences as possible. She teaches us all life lessons,” Ally’s mother, Tina Krajewski, explained. “The troop does so much for her emotionally.”
And the feeling is mutual as Ally is a valuable member of Troop 20149, according to her leader, Tracy Baldwin.
“She helps the girls learn how to accept all girls and shares her story when we go to larger group events, like World Thinking Day,” said Tracy Baldwin. “She helps us all to be more accepting of other people and be more empathetic.”
This summer, Ally went overnight camping for the first time and she was able to help educate other Girl Scout troops about her condition.
“It was the first time she had attended a sleepover,” Krajewski said. “It was phenomenal. It was the best ‘normal’ childhood experience she’s ever had.”
As a former Girl Scout, Krajewski wanted her daughter to have a traditional troop experience as well.
“Every time we go to a Girl Scout meeting, her eyes light up,” Krajewski said. “She enjoys being with her friends.”
And they enjoy being with her as well. Maya Wagner-Tyree, an 11-year-old Girl Scout Junior, said Ally is one of the reasons she enjoys Girl Scouts so much.
“I like coloring with her and hanging out with her,” she said. “We learn to work together and help each other if someone doesn’t know how to do something and we help Ally, too.”
Bella Alvarez, who’s also a 10-year-old Girl Scout Junior, agreed.
“We interact with each other because sometimes people don’t interact with each other because they’re different,” she explained. “You should be kind to everyone.”
It’s a motto that the girls have wholeheartedly embraced since they welcomed Ally into their troop about two years ago after she transferred schools.
“She’s resilient and she’s made us better people,” said Baldwin. “Girl Scouts is for every girl. We’re all learning so much from her. She’s definitely made our Girl Scout experience richer.”
Through exciting G.I.R.L.-led experiences, Girl Scouts prepares girls to empower themselves for the big and small moments when they overcome failure, face their fears, try new things, and make their dreams a reality.
Are you ready to take the lead like a Girl Scout? No matter your age, gender, or background, Girl Scouts has opportunities for you to take the lead and make amazing things happen in your community and around the world.
Check out our latest public service announcement, featuring our brand-new “Watch Me Shine” Girl Scout anthem and learn more about what it means to be a G.I.R.L.!
For the second year in a row, a local Girl Scout troop helped wrap gift bags for clients at a women’s rehab center on Chicago’s Near West side.
On Dec. 1 at the Chicago offices of international law firm McDermott, Will & Emery, River Forest Girl Scout Troop 40066 assisted in the organizing and wrapping of gift bags for women at The Women’s Treatment Center. The agency is a center for detox and rehabilitation that serves women and their young children.
Troop member Sadie Beck, whose twin sister, Ellie, also is in the troop, said taking part in that type of work serves as a good reminder to the group, especially during the holidays, that the same opportunities aren’t afforded to everyone.
“We really enjoy doing service in general because it makes us feel like we’re helping others,” Beck said. “We like to try to spread some of the resources we have.”
Mary Kay Martire, a partner with McDermott, Will & Emery and one of the troop’s leaders, said most of the girls — now high school freshmen — have been members of the troop since kindergarten, so it’s a close-knit group.
The troop often engages in acts of service like collecting hats and mittens or helping at the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, Martire said.
“We try to have a service-minded troop,” Martire said. “There is a lot of need in our community.”
When Mairead Skelton, a 17-year-old Girl Scout from Chicago, learned about the devastating flood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana earlier this year, she knew she had to do something about it.
“My daughter did something similar years ago when [Hurricane] Katrina hit and Mairead was one of the girls who helped her,” said Bernadette Colletti, Mairead’s Girl Scout troop leader. “On the second day of the flood [in Baton Rouge], Mairead asked if she could do something for the kids down there. So I contacted the diocese to see if there was a need and obtained a list of schools.”
With the help of her troop leader, Sister Girl Scouts, friends, family, classmates and local politicans, Mairead collected more than 6,000 school supply items for students and teachers in Baton Rouge.
“We sent messages to the surrounding communities and churches asking for donations and my parish allowed me to put donation boxes in the back of the church,” Mariead said. “I asked my principal if this was something we could do and we organized a school supply drive. I also reached out to elected officials who represented my neighborhood and they made monetary donations.”
In addition to the school supplies, Mairead and her Sister Girl Scouts made prayer cards for the schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge and decorated the bags with either an outline of the state of Louisiana or the state’s symbol, the fleur de lis. In October, Colleti and Mairead drove to Baton Rouge to personally deliver the items during a Mass at St. John the Evangelist Church in Praireville, Louisiana.
“I can’t describe the feeling because it was so amazing and life-changing to meet some of the families affected by the flood,” said Mairead. “My troop leader and the whole congregation stood up and started clapping for me during the Mass. I started crying, I was so overwhelmed.”
After the Mass, about 30 people came up to Mairead to express their gratitude and the principal of St. John’s Primary School, Kim Naquien, presented her with a big poster board signed by the entire third-grade class as a thank-you gift.
“She may have been inspired by us, but truly she is an inspiration to us to serve one another,” Naquin told the congregation, according to The Catholic Commentator.
And Mairead was truly touched by the gesture.
“It was such an inspiration to me,” Mairead said. “My favorite was a little kid who gave me a thumbs-up as he was walking out.”
And Mairead’s desire to give back didn’t stop there. With encouragement from her troop leader, Mairead decided to turn the school supply drive into her Gold Award project and host emergency preparedness sessions at the Chicago Park District.
“That way, if something like the flood were to happen, people would be prepared,” explained Mairead.
The Gold Award is the highest award that a Girl Scout ages 14-18 may earn and recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more, dedicated toward their service project.
“I’ve made so many friends over the last 10 years I’ve been a Girl Scouts,” Mairead said, “and there are so many skills I’ve learned — from being a people person when selling Girl Scout Cookies to not being afraid to speak up when people are talking about an issue or doing a project like this to help others in my community and all over.”
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