All of my friends were doing it. Admittedly, that isn’t a great reason for choosing something you would spend the next decade or so doing, but it is the reason I joined Girl Scouts as a kindergartner. That, and I really wanted to do all of the craft projects.

While the allure of plaster of paris and friendship bracelets was enough to get me involved, it was the different badges that kept me interested. Each badge opened up something completely new to me. Learning canoeing and archery at summer camps. Participating in World Thinking Day. Attending a ballet for the first time. Running a cookie booth at our town’s annual holiday parade. Restoration projects at the Dunes.

Being a Girl Scout allowed me to have so many different experiences, some that I may have never tried on my own. Each badge and project we pursued was our choice. Each of us had a voice and our opinions mattered. Our troop leaders guided us and facilitated the projects, all while making us feel like the ones leading.

On #GivingTuesday, my inbox was filled with appeals from worthy causes, but the Girl Scouts email stuck out to me. I hadn’t thought about my time as a Girl Scout for a while (beyond my annual cookie order). Reading the email, I was reminded of what I loved about Girl Scouts: friendship, opportunity, empowerment. Girl Scouts has helped so many girls become leaders in our world today, including myself. Though my donation was not large, I know it is still meaningful. Even a small donation can have a huge impact on a girl’s life.

And that is why I’m giving back to Girl Scouts. So other girls can explore the world. So they can discover something new about themselves. So they can feel free to be curious. So they can become the leaders they are meant to be. And because of how much Girl Scouts gave me.

Hayley Trezzo is a Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana alumnae and Gold Award recipient.

To join or become a volunteer, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

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