Lifelong Girl Scout Recognized as Woman of Distinction

Lifelong Girl Scout Recognized as Woman of Distinction

For Nancy Fink, Girl Scouts is a way of life and her commitment to community service recently earned her a coveted spot as one of Lake County Journal‘s Women of Distinction.

“I was totally embarrassed,” she said of the honor. “I didn’t tell anyone at work, I just told my colleagues I was going to a luncheon. I don’t volunteer for the recognition. It feels better to do it than it does not to do it. To me, it’s embarrassing to be recognized for something I love to do.”

The Navy commander has been involved with Girl Scouts since she was a young girl growing up in Arizona.

“Girl Scouts was a means to independence and confidence,” said Fink. “We did a lot of canoeing, motorboating and water skiing. It gave you the courage to try new things because you’d already demonstrated what you could accomplish.”

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And Fink certainly accomplished quite a bit. In high school, she achieved her First-Class Award, which is the equivalent of today’s Gold Award and is the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn.

After high school, Fink attended Notre Dame to study math and later began teaching math and nuclear reactor theory with the Navy after college. And in 1991 she became an officer.

“It takes a lot of confidence in your character and your ability to compete in a group where you’re not in the norm,” she said. “I’m confident I got that ability to hold my own from being a Girl Scout.”

Today, she is the executive officer of Navy Recruiting District Chicago and lives in Libertyville with her family, including a daughter who’s a Girl Scout and three sons who are all Boy Scouts or Eagle Scouts.

In addition to being a Girl Scout volunteer and running her daughter’s troop, Fink also teaches religious education classes for first graders at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Parish.

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“Sometimes my older boys help in the classroom,” she said. “For my kids to hear me say out loud what I believe and how my faith impacts my life, it just makes them understand more about where I come from.”

Although Fink plans on retiring this year, she doesn’t have any plans to slow down as she becomes more involved as one of the service unit managers for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

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“Volunteering with Girl Scouts is an opportunity to give girls memories that really last a lifetime,” she said. “I don’t know what else you can do that takes an hour or two a month that can really stick with a young lady all the way into her adulthood like the experience you can give them through Girl Scouting. It’s good bang for your buck.”

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Girl Scouts Awards $10K in College Scholarships

Girl Scouts Awards $10K in College Scholarships

Six Gold Award honorees from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) have received a total of $10,000 in college scholarships in honor of their commitment to making the world a better place.

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.

In a Stressful World, This Girl Scout Brings Calm

In a Stressful World, This Girl Scout Brings Calm

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.”

To read more of Kaitlyn’s story, visit GirlScouts.org. To stand with us as champions for girls, donate today.

Chicago Girl Scout Gives Back to Baton Rouge

Chicago Girl Scout Gives Back to Baton Rouge

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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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Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Local Girl Scout Receives Scepter of Light Award

Kaitlyn Kropp knows what it takes to be a leader.

On Monday, October 10, 2016, the 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador received the Elena of Avalor Scepter of Light Award in honor of her ability to lead through everyday challenges  with the same attributes that define Disney’s Elena of Avalor.

Diane Ikemiyashiro, director of original programming for Disney Junior, presented Kaitlyn with the award on ABC7 and said it symbolizes the “true meaning of leadership.”

Earlier this year, Kaitlyn created an impressive sensory room at The Academy of Forest View in Arlington Heights as her Gold Award project to give those with autism the ability to minimize their stress before returning to class.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout between the ages of 14 and 17 can earn. The leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment required to complete the process set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship.

Reactions to Kaitlyn’s Gold Award project have been so positive that other schools have contacted her about creating similar spaces in their schools. Click here to see Kaitlyn in action.

A BIG thank you to Roz Varon ABC7, Girl Scout alum and former troop leader, for having us on!

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.

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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.

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Many thanks to everyone who helped make the Juliette Day Out a success! For more information or to register for Girl Scouts, please visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

With a plethora of construction paper, scissors, glue and fun facts spread before me and my Girl Scout troop, we began the riveting task of creating the world’s best table display for World Thinking Day.

As a wide-eyed Girl Scout Junior, Thinking Day granted me the opportunity to taste new food, meet new people and explore a world of possibilities. It was there, at that glue-covered table, that I discovered my passion for other cultures and travel.

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Growing up, my troop and I would sing camp songs in Cherokee, make music with Lummi sticks, eat Irish soda bread and dream of traveling to the Girl Scout World Centers. We were courageous in spirit, compassionate by action and eager to meet everyone. Little did I know just how much the lessons I learned with my troop would impact the course of my life.

As I got older, I realized that not everyone was as compassionate toward other people and cultures as my troop and I were. So, in my final year as a Girl Scout Ambassador, I combined my passion for culture and the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Millennium Goal of achieving world peace to create the framework for my Gold Award Project.

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Through my project, I educated local students and my Sister Girl Scouts about the lives of people in other countries, especially children in war zones. As part of my project, I conducted a toy and school supply drive with the packaged donations being shipped overseas to military personnel so that they could give the donations to children in the surrounding area in order to promote goodwill between the community and our soldiers.

Additionally, I created a permanent “mailbox to the troops” so that much deserved, handwritten letters of appreciation can always reach our soldiers. By educating the community and encouraging participants to donate a toy or a book, I desired to spread the concept of being compassionate to the next generation and convey to the community that they have the power to make a difference in the world by spreading joy and world peace one toy at a time.

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With such a passion for culture and exploration burning inside, it seems only logical that I would travel abroad and at age 19, I embraced my first opportunity to do so. Through my university, I was able to spend two months studying at the Center For International Learning in Muscat, Oman. During my summer abroad in the Sultanate of Oman, I was able to see the world’s second largest chandelier, walked the worn streets of a nearly 500-year-old city and spend one crazy day exploring London, England.

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From making Diwali candles as a Girl Scout Junior to studying abroad in Oman, the passion for culture and exploration that I discovered and fostered through Girl Scouts continues to shape my life and take me on spectacular journeysNow, as a permanent Girl Scout at heart and world traveler, I hope to educate and inspire others to embrace life with open arms and a compassionate heart.

Megan Ramirez is a recent Gold Award honoree and rising sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.