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!

Ten Thousand Buddhas
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!

Hong Kong students
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!”

Girl Scouts in Mexico
With Girl Scouts in Mexico, August 2017

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

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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.

Traveling with Troop 50384

Traveling with Troop 50384

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The following is a guest post from members of Girl Scout Troop 50834…

Recently, our troop traveled all throughout Europe visiting London, Paris and Barcelona. The trip was very interesting. We were able to see many famous landmarks: Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Tower of London, Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame, La Sagrada Familia.

We also saw famous people: Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward, Prince Charles, Camilla – Duchess of Cornwall, Felipe VI and Letizia – King and Queen of Spain. We also enjoyed seeing the play Wicked in London, it was amazing! We were able to meet one of the actors after the show.

Wicked

We rode the train everywhere we went and met different cultures of people from around the world; we also saw many different currencies. We visited PAX Lodge in London and received a Girl Scout pin. The Spanish markets had so many different foods and the crepes in France were fabulous! It was a trip of a lifetime that we will always remember.

Savannah

We also went to Savannah, Georgia. Getting the opportunity to experience the history of how Girl Scouts began was amazing. We were accompanied by another Girl Scout troop from Kansas during our time there as well.

Some of the highlights of our trip were visiting the birthplace of the Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low, and learning about how she interacted with and helped girls. Other high points were going on a dolphin cruise on Tybee Island and collecting seashells on the beach. We had a great time discovering our Girl Scout history and more about each other.

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

Your donation of any amount can help girls continue to experience adventure!
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You-and-Me: The First Step in Travel Progression

You-and-Me: The First Step in Travel Progression

You-and-Me on Mackinac Island 2018 marks the fifth Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana-sponsored trip to the Michigan island.

During this three-day, two-night adventure, Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes travel with their mom, grandma or favorite female adult friend for a fun-filled weekend adventure. The total price of the trip is approximately $350 per person which includes coach bus, accommodation, multiple meals and activities.

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The trip takes place from Aug. 5-7, 2018, and the group stays at the iconic Mission Point Resort in shared accommodation. Group activities include a horse-drawn carriage ride, butterfly house and admission to Fort Mackinac.

Girl Scouts and their family members get a full afternoon and evening to explore – whether that’s renting a bike to circle the 8.3 miles around the island, horseback riding, eating free fudge samples or shopping.

Following the success of GSGCNWI’s You-and-Me on Mackinac Island, the council has now added a second You-and-Me option in Door County, Wisconsin. Travel dates for this new opportunity are June 24-26, 2018.

Door County

Again, Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes travel with their mom, grandma or favorite female adult friend for a three-day, two-night adventure. The total cost of the trip is approximately $275 per person, and includes coach bus, accommodation, multiple meals and activities.

Door County Trolley

The group will take part in a trolley tour, guided hike at the Ridges Sanctuary and a boat tour. There will also be free-time to explore the towns of Egg Harbor and Sister Bay. Accommodation is shared-suites at Newport Resort in Egg Harbor.

Registration for both trips closes on January 31, 2018 and requires a $150 deposit. You can register for the Mackinac Island trip here and register for the Door County trip here.

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

Girl Scouts is the Ultimate Training Course for Life

Girl Scouts is the Ultimate Training Course for Life

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When Mary Ann Tuft was in high school back in the late 1940s, her teacher invited all the girls in the class to be in an exclusive sorority – everyone except for Mary Ann that is. She was not invited because she was Jewish. Although that may have been very deflating for some girls, Mary Ann had her Girl Scouts troop that accepted her no matter what.

Because Girl Scouts was so impactful on Mary Ann’s life, she decided to be one of the founding members of the Juliette Gordon Low Society – Girl Scouts Planned Giving Society. Mary Ann, who currently lives in Chicago, is happy to give back to an organization that has given her so much.

Mary Ann fondly recalls her troop leader and experiences as a Girl Scout. She says she felt a sense of belonging and her experience helped build her confidence as a young girl. She went camping across the country where she developed the love of the outdoors.

Learning how to collaborate and work as a team were key components of camping, she explains. They shared common goals and worked together to accomplish them. “There was a focus on others,” says Mary Ann. “We helped each other, it was never just about oneself.”

Mary Ann Tuft

Today, hanging in her kitchen, is a Girl Scout certificate from 1947 for a cooking class she completed. At age 83, she laughs at this because now she is the first one to call a caterer.

One Girl Scout opportunity led to the next Girl Scout opportunity for Mary Ann. After graduating from college, she started teaching the third grade and served as a volunteer Girl Scout leader. One of her favorite memories was taking the girls to Colorado Springs to go camping like she did when she was a Girl Scout.

Then Girl Scouts of the USA asked Mary Ann to be a representative to Girl Scouts in Israel. She lived in Israel for six months and never stayed in a hotel. She lived with many different families and learned a new culture and way of life. “Girl Scouts had always been ahead of the times,” says Mary Ann. “Girl Scouts has always accepting of other cultures.”

When she returned from Israel, she served as a national trainer for the Girl Scouts. Her leadership courses were even better than her college courses. With troop leaders, she shared her love and enthusiasm for Girl Scouts. Then those troop leaders passed on that love of scouting to future generations of girls.

“Girl Scouts is the ultimate training course for life,” says Mary Ann. After leaving Girl Scouts of the USA, she went on to be the Executive Director of the Radiological Society of North America in Oak Brook, Illinois. And then went on to start her own business, Tuft and Associates.

She says, “None of this would have happened without Girl Scouts.” She has owned her own business for 30 years and is still working today. “Any success I have had,” she says, “is because I had Girl Scouts as my foundation.”

To learn more about the Juliette Gordon Low Society, visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

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