#BecauseOfGirlScouts

#BecauseOfGirlScouts

When I sat down to write about all that Girl Scouts has meant to me, I was surprised at how hard it was to start. It didn’t seem possible to filter through all that I had done and choose just a few important events. Every picture I looked at brought with it a swarm of memories. Every patch that I’d earned had a novel’s worth of stories to tell.

Girl Scouts has given me so much more than just patches and memories. It has given me more than skills, camping trips, and cookies. More than all these things, Girl Scouts has given me confidence in who I am and all that I can accomplish.

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Throughout my years as a Daisy, Brownie, and Junior, Girl Scouts taught me to explore new things. Each meeting we would earn a new patch or go on a field trip and learn something new. Thanks to Girl Scouts, I discovered my interests in music, cooking, and exploring the outdoors. Girl Scouts provided me a place to try new things, learn skills, and discover who I am.

As I grew, my Girl Scout experience grew with me. We started to talk less about what we could do in Girl Scouts and more what we could do as Girl Scouts. Somewhere along the way, my Sisters and I had found a sense of empowerment, and that sense of empowerment changed everything.

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Rather than being told what to do like at school, Girl Scouts gave us the opportunity to take control. We decided as a troop what badges to earn and how to earn them, organized our own service and Take Action projects, and planned our own outings and camping trips. Girl Scouts provided me a place where I could be accountable for my learning and experiences.

I became empowered to speak up about what mattered. Girl Scouts was a place where I knew what I said would be heard and wouldn’t be taken lightly. I found a place where I could express my opinions and ideas and not be dismissed as a kid. Having even one place where I trusted that my voice mattered taught me to keep speaking up and to never back down from what I believed in.

GS friendship circle

It gave me faith that someday my voice would be heard in the rest of the world. Just as important, I learned how to listen to others and to value their opinions and beliefs no matter how greatly they may have differed from my own. In speaking up, I learned the power of acceptance. In listening, I found the importance of being heard.

Even more than giving me a place to be in control or to express myself, Girl Scouts gave me a place to just simply be. After a long week at school, I couldn’t wait to unwind with my Sisters at our Sunday night meetings.

GS Niles Board meeting

Being in an all-female environment I never felt the pressure to “perform” or to be anything other than myself. Our meetings were a place where we could talk about anything from sexism to s’mores and from Take Action Projects to tough times at school. It was at these meetings that I learned to be confident, for it was at Girl Scouts that I always felt accepted for just being me.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Girl Scouts taught me to be a person of integrity, confidence, honesty, and character. Yes, I learned how to sew and babysit, but I also learned how to change oil, pitch a tent, and save a life. Thanks to Girl Scouts, I learned how to change the world in big and small ways and to believe that I could accomplish anything. Because of Girl Scouts, I am a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker and leader) , and thanks to Girl Scouts, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Katie Daehler has been a Girl Scout for the past 13 years and is now a lifetime member. She is a Freshman at Northwestern University, and is working on starting a Daisy troop to continue her Girl Scout experience as a volunteer. 

To learn more about Girl Scouts, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

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Get to Know…Your Friendly Senior Manager of Travel Programs: Ashley Christensen

Get to Know…Your Friendly Senior Manager of Travel Programs: Ashley Christensen

When I stepped off the plane in Beijing in May 2004, during my sophomore year of college, I knew that I was destined to live in China someday. That month-long study abroad throughout China and Hong Kong changed my life forever.

Not only did it inspire me to be more globally aware and a worldwide, lifelong traveler, it was the catalyst to me living in Hong Kong. Two college degrees, two elementary teaching positions, and six years later, I stepped off another plane, this time in Hong Kong.

I was carrying a bundle of nerves along with my three giant suitcases. Of course I was nervous about living in this strange world, but I was doing it all alone which increased my worry tenfold. Even though I got lost on innumerable occasions, had a hard time making friends at first, and missed my friends and family back home like crazy, this was an adventure that I had chosen and was excited about.

It took me many months to find my confidence. One month to go to a coffee shop and actually eat there by myself, not just take it and run back to the safety of my tiny apartment. Two months to go a movie alone. Three months to make my first real friend outside of the school where I taught. Four months to stop crying to my parents every week on our weekly Skype dates (this was before smartphones, mind you!).

And yet I found my confidence. For that, I am really grateful. Not only did I survive those first few hard months, I flourished for my nearly two years there. Hong Kong helped me to become a published writer, a certified yoga instructor, a world traveler (country #28 was ticked off in September!), and a confident, brave woman.

At first, I was honestly so worried about doing any single thing alone. “How in the world will I ever meet a friend if I can’t even leave the house?” I often asked myself. Then one day, I grew the gumption. I was gonna do it! I went by myself, of course, to see one of my now all-time favorite sites: Ten Thousand Buddhas. I’d been putting it out into the universe that I wanted to make a new friend, and lo and behold on this day that I’d shoved myself outside of my apartment, I met a friend.

I titled my blog post that day “Ten Thousand Buddhas and One New Friend.” From there, my social life skyrocketed. I have been in a friend from Hong Kong’s wedding, traveled to several countries with others after moving back to Illinois, and have Whatsapped for hours on end. In fact, one friend is even visiting Chicago as I type this!

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Ten Thousand Buddhas, Hong Kong

Not only was I changed during those two years, I often look back at my time in Hong Kong and the difference I made with my students. By profession, I’m an elementary school teacher, so I was able to teach third grade at an American school. When I went back to Hong Kong in 2016 to visit, I went to my school and saw some of my former students.

I wish I had a video camera recording their faces the day when they realized who I was; their faces of surprise and excitement were priceless. It still makes me teary-eyed thinking about the kids whose lives I impacted. On my birthday in September, I received an email from a former student wishing me a “Happy Birthday” from Hong Kong! I hadn’t seen this girl in five years!

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Visiting my students in Hong Kong, December 2016

Some of my fondest memories of my time in Hong Kong are with my students, first in our tiny, dripping classroom, and then to the new school. Though I am no longer a teacher, I still hope that in my current position at the Girl Scouts planning travel opportunities, I am able to make a difference in the lives of the girls.

I hope that through this work I can inspire these girls to be more globally aware and worldwide, lifelong travelers. Maybe, someday, these girls, too, will take that first step off the plane and just know, “Someday, I’m gonna live here!”

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With Girl Scouts in Mexico, August 2017

Learn more about the travel programs Ashley plans at girlscoutsgcnwi.org

Help Girl Scouts Break a World Record

Help Girl Scouts Break a World Record

Join Girl Scouts, the Chicago Wolves and your community for a family-friendly event with Girl Scout Cookies and hockey activities at Allstate Arena.

Do you want to set a world record? This is your chance! We know every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risktaker, Leader)TM is amazing, and we can make it official. Like, Guinness World Record official.

3…2…1…DUNK! Be officially amazing.

We need YOU! Help us attempt to collectively dunk more cookies in milk than ever before. We’ll take the lead to break a Guinness World Record and kick off an amazing 2018 Girl Scout Cookie Program!

The day includes interactive cookie activities; hockey activities for the whole family; meet-and-greet with Chicago Wolves mascot Skates; skate on the ice (skate rental is not provided); and performances by Carly and Martina, plus much more!

To learn more and buy your tickets, click here!

15 Ways to Start the New Year with Service and Community

15 Ways to Start the New Year with Service and Community

It’s the New Year’s resolution to end all New Year’s resolutions, and it’s so, so Girl Scouts! This year, do things a little differently, and resolve to give back to yourself by giving back to others. That’s right. We’re calling for a resolution of service! Because when you help others, you just can’t begin to imagine how much good it actually does for your own soul. It’s really the best kind of win-win.

And it doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact, it’s really the accumulation of all the small ways we can be of service to others every day that can make our lives significantly brighter and more meaningful, while helping us feel more connected within our communities. In 2018, what do you say we all resolve to make the world a better place, together, by committing to practice these powerful and simple acts of service to others as often as possible?

  1. Be kind, particularly to those who are not exactly your cup of tea, so to speak. It might be hard, but it will be meaningful.
  2. Be gentle with the environment. Avoid littering, recycle, and regularly sign up for community cleanups. The more we do to keep the outdoors in good shape, the more we can all enjoy it!
  3. Show compassion. Sometimes that’s the greatest gift we can offer someone.
  4. Practice good manners. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way in making others feel appreciated and respected.
  5. Be helpful as much and as often as possible. Help create a sense of community wherever you go.
  6. Listen more. Sometimes all people truly want is to be heard, and to know they matter.
  7. Volunteer once a month—or more if you can. Learn about volunteering with us—it’s important work and so much fun!

To read the full blog post, visit girlscouts.org.

What I Learned from Traveling as a Girl Scout

What I Learned from Traveling as a Girl Scout

The following is a guest post from Girl Scout Lillian H…

The Eyes to the Skies Destination at Camp WaBak in Marietta, South Carolina has inspired me to do things differently in many ways. One of those ways is to always look up, because you never know what you might see. Another one is to try new things, even if you think you won’t like them at first. Finally, don’t be afraid to mess up or fail, everyone makes mistakes.

During the solar eclipse, we all thought that the sky was going to remain cloudy during totality. However, when it reached totality we all looked up and the clouds had parted.

Even when it was cloudy we all kept looking for changes in the environment. On the brink of totality an owl flew from the woods surrounding us to a secluded pine tree.

At this destination, at least for me being from Illinois, there were tons of new opportunities. We all went for barbecue, I tried hush puppies for the first time. There was a flight simulator at the Challenger Learning Center, I was a little scared at first, but it turned out to be tons of fun. Trying new things will never be a disappointing opportunity to experience.

There were a lot of things that I messed up on. We made bottle rockets out of two two-liter bottles, mine wasn’t the best but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it failed. We also did creek walking and I have to say, that’s the one thing that I messed up. Once we had gotten to the waterfall I slipped and fell into the knee deep water and skinned my knee on a stone. After that I had tons of fun wading in the ankle deep water with some of my new friends.

This destination has really taught me to always look up, try new things, and not to be afraid of messing up.

 

If you’d like to learn more about our council’s travel opportunities, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

Your Gift Helps Girls Like Phoebe Find Their Voices

Your Gift Helps Girls Like Phoebe Find Their Voices

For girls, growing up has never been more complicated. In the age of social media, bullying and peer pressure can start at a very young age. And our girls are feeling the impact. With cases of bullying on the rise, a gift today helps a girl find her voice— girls like Phoebe.

Phoebe encountered bullying beginning in 2nd grade. She felt alone and didn’t know how to ask for help. Phoebe knew she wanted a group of friends to surround her, support her, and like her for being herself. It wasn’t until she saw a Girl Scout troop in her neighborhood that she found hope that she could have that. She joined Girl Scouts right away.

From her very first meeting, Phoebe didn’t feel alone anymore. The other girls instantly welcomed her into the troop and made an effort to get to know her. This was a new experience for Phoebe and lifted her confidence. Even though she was the new girl in this group, she didn’t feel like an outsider, as she often did at school.

Girl Scouts gave Phoebe a safe space. She found an all-girl environment where she was not pressured to change herself in order to fit in or be seen—Phoebe found value in her uniqueness. She knew she could overcome challenges and grow from them. She went back to school with a newfound courage to talk to her teachers about the bullying and ask for help.

Phoebe learned a lot in 2nd grade, and Girl Scouts has been there for her ever since. Now in 8th grade, Phoebe credits Girl Scouts for building her courage, confidence, and character, so that she can practice a lifetime of leadership.

Each Girl Scout program proved to Phoebe that she could learn something new, achieve a goal, and have fun. For Phoebe, troop activities encouraged teamwork and collaboration; Girl Scout camp taught independence and resourcefulness; and the Girl Scout Cookie program instilled a strong work ethic and people skills.

Phoebe knows she’ll face challenges in life, and now she has the skills and experiences to help her soar. It doesn’t hurt that she also has her Girl Scout Sisters in her corner. Phoebe is excited for all the new adventures that await, even going to high school with hundreds of new people.

Now Phoebe sees new possibilities for her future, and she’s discovered her dream of owning a restaurant. With the skills she’s honed in her Girl Scout troop, she knows how to take the lead and make her dream a reality.

 

You are an important part of Phoebe’s Girl Scout experience. As a Girl Scout supporter, you are part of the village that has helped Phoebe become the confident and
courageous girl of character that she is today. You are part of the 112-year history of Girl
Scout leadership that has shaped the lives of millions of girls like Phoebe.

Your donation of any amount today, empowers girls to face challenges,
grow, and find purpose. You can make a difference for girls like Phoebe seeking a welcoming space to be themselves—girls who want to make the world a better place.

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On behalf of Phoebe and every girl like her, thank you.
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Butterfly Garden Coming to Camp Greene Wood

Butterfly Garden Coming to Camp Greene Wood

The following is a guest post from our outdoor conservation and stewardship specialist, Lauren Somogyi…

You might ask, what is a Monarch Waystation and why do we need one?

Well, to start, the monarch butterflies are currently on the path to extinction. Their populations have been declining for many years due to loss of habitat, insecticide and herbicide use, and intensive agriculture.

Monarch butterflies are considered an indicator species, which can help determine whether environments and ecosystems are healthy. If an indicator species population declines, it is possible that their specific living environment is also changing and something is wrong.

Also, while conserving the monarch butterflies, we help other pollinators as well, such as bees, by providing these native plant based habitats. Conserving these habitats can have a cascading effect to the conservation of the entire ecosystem.

So, now, why is having a Monarch Waystation important?

Creating a Monarch Waystation will help provide habitats for monarchs to breed, develop, and survive. The more areas that have these designated areas, filled with milkweed and other critical plants, the easier it is for monarchs to find areas to live.

A Monarch Waystation is an area that contains specific host and nectar plants critical to the survival of the monarch butterflies. These waystations are managed specifically to provide food, shelter, and habitat for monarch butterflies.

Following the guidelines provided by Monarch Watch, a nonprofit education, conservation, and research program, these waystations need to be at least 100 square feet and be exposed to six hours of a sun per day.

The plant criteria includes having at least 10 native host plants, made up of two or more species, as well as multiple native nectar plants. The host plants provide a location for butterflies to lay their eggs and are the sole food source for developing caterpillars, while the nectar plants provide food for the adult butterflies.

The main host plant for Monarchs is milkweed. Milkweed is the only type of plant that monarch caterpillars feed on when growing and developing. It is a critical plant to the monarch butterfly. By including these plants in waystations, abundance food sources are available to the monarchs.

How can I help?

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is offering multiple workshops next year for girls to come out and assist in developing our butterfly garden and Monarch Waystation.

We want girls to be able to learn about conservation techniques, specifically to the monarch butterflies, as well as engage them in hands-on gardening activities that will help them develop skills that they can take home.

We hope to provide fun and education workshops for girls to gain a better understanding of the environment around them and care for the Earth.

Let It Grow: Butterfly Buddies is open to girls in kindergarten through fifth grade. To learn more and to register, click here.