Taking the Lead
I have vivid memories of my friend’s dad teaching us how to change a tire and use jumper cables,” says Cathy Carmichael, a local troop leader who started as a Brownie, of her experience in Girl Scouts. For her, Girl Scouts had a positive impact on her life when she was younger. She grew up with Eagle Scout brothers and both of her parents served as volunteers. However, she wasn’t planning on becoming a leader herself.
Girl Scouts has influenced her life, but now, it is also playing a role in the lives of the girls in her troop. This positive experience is what Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouts of the USA, envisioned for all young girls.
Juliette Gordon Low aspired to create an organization for girls that helped prepare them for the future. She wanted a community where girls could embrace their individuality, strength, and intellect, while also enhance their courage, confidence, and character. Her vision is currently being carried out by Girl Scouts Louisiana East (GSLE). Located in Baton Rouge, GSLE hosts events that give the girls opportunities to explore their own talents, create new friendships, and give back to their communities. GSLE often highlights science, agriculture, and the arts. One of the events they participate in allows the girls to explore robotics.
“Last year, I volunteered to be an assistant coach for one of Girl Scouts Louisiana East’s First LEGO League Robotics teams. I had no idea that eight months after joining, we would be going to an international tournament,” says Carmichael.
In the tournament, girls build and program a LEGO Mindstorms robot to compete against other teams on tabletop playing fields. The teams apply STEM concepts to solve real-world problems.
Carmichael enjoys watching the girls in her troop continuously grow and mature as a Girl Scout. “When they were younger, they needed a lot of supervision and guidance,” she says. Now, Carmichael gives them the opportunity to be the leaders. “The mission of Girl Scouts builds courage, confidence, and character, and I try and help the girls remember this,” she explains.
Not all leaders have a long Girl Scout history, though. Local troop leader and former Service Unit Leader, Missy Shanklin didn’t consider Girl Scouts at first. “I had just moved to Baton Rouge and had never really thought about Girl Scouts before. My daughter came home with a flyer to sign up, so I went to the meeting not knowing a soul.”
However, becoming a leader was one of her greatest decisions. “Being a leader has been so much more than I could ever have imagined. Watching your own daughters gain confidence in a skill or task is being a mom, but to watch other girls accomplish goals through your influence as a leader is what being in Girl Scouts is all about.”
Both Carmichael and Shanklin agree that being a Girl Scout has had an incredible impact on their daughters. Shanklin says, “They have learned what it means to give back to a community in which they live, hustle in some cookies sales, and they could seriously build a fire from nothing.”
Knowing these life skills are what make being a Girl Scout truly special. ■