How Girl Scouts Helped Me to #UnleashStrong

By Beth Anne Balance, Girl Scout Volunteer


When I tell people that I was a Girl Scout for twelve years, I often start the conversation with a caveat, a disclaimer, an explanation – my experience was “different.” Starting as Daisies and continuing to Seniors, my troop stayed together – almost ferociously – to grow up together. Many of us got our start together before Daisies began, learning to tie knots as preschoolers. By the time we entered Brownies, we knew 3 different ways to start a campfire. As Cadettes, hundreds of patches lined our backs as we took off into the woods together to explore, compass in hand and leaders back at camp.

In our hearts, we were pioneers. We were campfire girls, the ones with an inch of mud on our Merrill boots. As a 14-year-old, I knew how to pack my frame pack light while not forgetting the essentials. I could cook a full meal over a campfire, tie sailing knots in a boat, and knew that cotton does you no favors in the woods.

As I said, my experience looked quite different from many ideas of what Girl Scouting “is.”

When it was time to earn our Girl Scout Silver Award, my best friend Kathleen and I decided to tackle the challenge together. We wanted to find a way to keep shedding the cookies and crafts image of Girl Scouts and introduce younger girls to the Girl Scouting we knew – strong, prepared, ready to take on the big world. Our Silver Award project was big – to serve as counselors at the local day camp, working with the rising fifth graders. Each day, we would teach the girls an important lesson in camping – task making, tent pitching, budgeting and grocery shopping, fire and cooking. Our biggest hurdle was convincing parents to let us take the girls on an overnight on the last night of camp – one night in the woods, where the girls would apply everything they learned that week. At the end of the week, all of their hard work would result in the camping badge.

It was a huge project.

We began with to-do lists. What were the big tasks that needed to be done? What were the priorities? Were there any dependents? We compared the knowledge we had about campfire cooking against the budget at hand and developed a menu that was both easy-to-make and nutritious for the girls. In the summer heat, we took inventory of our camping gear and the tents loaned to us to ensure we returned everything we received. Were we missing anything? And then how would we entertain the girls? We made playlists of campfire songs and purchased supplies to make swaps. We thought of every angle. If someone got hurt, our chaperones included a nurse. If it poured rain, we had a contingency plan to move indoors.

Our project went beautifully. Not because we took an easy route, but because we were prepared. We took the time on the back-end to prepare for the logistics of the trip and we devoted time to the people involved to make sure they were ready. And we learned that in our preparedness, we were strong enough to tackle such a daunting task.

My Silver Award was the greatest leadership lesson of my life.

Even today as we face Hurricane Florence off the coast of North Carolina, I am ready. My task lists were made quickly, set with priorities and dependents. An inventory of supplies told me what was missing. And I’ve even thought of how to entertain my two young sons – a playlist of songs, games, craft supplies. I know that no matter how strong the wind blows this week, I’m prepared to face it.

Girl Scouts helps prepare girls for a lifetime of leadership with the confidence to take on challenges and #UnleashStrong. Join or volunteer today to join the Movement.

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