REEDSVILLE - The phrase, "Once a Girl Scout, Always a Girl Scout," is often heard throughout the Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania's 30-count service area, as generations of Girl Scouts share camp stories, troop traditions and lasting memories with one another.
GSHPA would not be able to provide camp adventures, forever friendships and truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to more than 26,500 girls without passion and dedication from our volunteers. Michele McKinney Jordan is one of them. This is her story:
I joined Girl Scouts as a Brownie in 1974. This was before Daisies, as they were not introduced until 1984. After school, a handful of other girls and I would walk to a nearby church to attend Girl Scout meetings. At those meetings, I learned about the Girl Scout Promise and Girl Scout Law and what it meant to be part of a community.
Photo submitted by ALLIE EINSIEDEL
Audrey and Meagan, from Girl Scout Troop 40350 in Reedsville, participate in a demonstration about rollercoaster energy transfer, presented by Matt Hockenbrock, energy and systems specialist at Hershey Entertainment and Resorts.
Girl Scouts exposed me to a variety of new things. On the most basic level, I was frequently thrown in with girls I really didn't know to do things that may have been outside my comfort zone. I learned to work with others, even if they weren't my friends. Working on badges gave me opportunities to try new things and gain new skills. I was presented with a variety of opportunities that my home or school life did not give me. I made a sit-upon, took part in skits, learned fun songs and went on hikes.
My first memory of camping as a Girl Scout was a weekend spent on the Gettysburg battlefields. We slept in tents and cooked eggs on a tin can over a fire. We explored nature and history and participated in a Girl Scout Campfire Ceremony. I learned that I enjoyed camping.
Selling Girl Scout Cookies not only gave me essential social and business skills, it allowed me the privilege of attending Girl Scout Summer Camp. I chose one that got me up close and personal with my childhood passion ... horses. I learned to care for them, respect them and ride them. It was a dream come true.
During my summer camp stays, I also learned how to become self sufficient. I learned first aid, how to spot poison ivy, how to build a shelter, set up a wash station, build a fire and cook on it. You would be amazed and the things you can cook on a stick. Even though camping skills don't really apply to everyday life, the confidence that I gained through learning these skills - the confidence of knowing I could take care of myself - has stayed with me. Now, of course, these opportunities are not limited to scouts. But Girl Scouts consistently presented me with these opportunities during my childhood, and that made it difficult to ignore them.
Jump ahead about 30 years. My daughter heard about Girl Scout Daisies and wanted to be one. Having fond memories of my own scouting experience, I was eager to find her a troop. She became a Daisy Girl Scout late in her Kindergarten year. At the end-of-year picnic a few months later, it was announced that the only way there would continue to be a Daisy troop was if someone was willing to lead it. My daughter was so happy and proud to be a Girl Scout, and I wanted her to have that experience. I volunteered. I became a member, took the necessary training, and got my clearances to become a Girl Scout Leader. That was four years ago, and my six Daisy seeds have grown to become a Junior Troop of fifteen fourth grade students. A branch off that has grown to twelve third grade Brownies. And these girls are not only our future, they are our present. As Girl Scouts, they are contributing members of the community who, together, do great things.
As I began my stint as a leader, I was amazed at how much the organization has to offer. In Girl Scouts, girls discover the fun, friendship and power of girls together. Through a myriad of enriching experiences, such as extraordinary field trips, sports, skill-building activities, community service projects, cultural exchanges and environmental stewardships, girls grow courageous and strong. Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill and respect; develop values to guide their actions and provide the foundation for sound decision-making; and contribute to the improvement of society through their abilities, leadership skills and cooperation with others.
As an adult volunteer with Girl Scouts and a troop leader, I am continually being challenged to step outside of my comfort zone, to try new things, learn new skills, and be a better citizen. I try to make the Girl Scout experience a rewarding one for my troop - one they will look back on as an experience that gave them the knowledge, skill and power that helped shape them into the adults that they will become.
So what does Girl Scouts mean to me? Empowerment. And this is a good thing.
Girl Scouts means turning today's girls into tomorrow's leaders. An organization of more than 50 million women, spanning 145 countries, that promotes self-esteem and teaches girls to be strong, confident citizens of our community, our country and our world. It's an organization that teaches girls to succeed in life and give back to society. Through meetings, activities and community service, these young girls develop a moral compass. They are inspired by positive role models, connect with and meet a variety of people and broaden their entire world view. Girl Scouts makes each and every girl involved feel a little more special and a little more empowered in the process. What's not to love?
Between camp, cookies, fun and friendship, there is plenty to love about Girl Scouts! GSHPA takes timeless traditions and mixes it with new and exciting adventures for today's girls! To find out how your daughter can become a Girl Scout or how you can become a role model by volunteering, visit www.gshpa.org.
About Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania
Girl Scouts in the Heart of Pennsylvania serves 26,500 girls in 30 counties in central and northeastern Pennsylvania. GSHPA's mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. We welcome all girls in grades K-12, as well as adults interested in volunteering. For more information, visit our Web site at www.gshpa.org or call (800) 692-7816.