From a Girl Scout to Troop Leader: Lessons I’ve Learned

From a Girl Scout to Troop Leader: Lessons I’ve Learned

Sitting in my Daisy troop circle, with my fingers anxiously twitching, I couldn’t wait for my turn to dip my egg in the bowl of colored water. Little did I know, that this would become the first memory I would hold of a fifteen-year Girl Scout journey.

Growing up, Girl Scouts provided me with a way to get together with my friends and participate in creative crafts and activities. The girls in my troop and I would hold sleepovers, learn dances like the Flamenco for World Thinking Day, and partake in service events like the annual Step Up for Kids Walk held in downtown Chicago. However, the older I got, the more I learned that while Girl Scouts was a program for me to make friends, it was much more a program for me to discover myself.

Areesha in troop

At the age of 14, I completed my Silver Award project — Kits for Kids — where my team and I created and hosted a fundraiser, whose earnings allowed us to assemble and supply entertainment kits for the bedridden children of a local hospital. This opportunity showed me firsthand that I could make a direct impact — that I could and should go out and seek out issues I cared about and work to address them.

The project developed my passion for community service and, the more I reflect on it, the more I realize the number of skills that simple project helped me developed. Earning my Silver Award taught me to communicate effectively, work within a team, conduct research and outreach, and most importantly to act upon my passion to serve.

I was fortunate enough to not only be able to conduct projects, but to also attend programs, such as the 2011 National Scouts Jamboree, and the STEM overnight camp, both of which continued to foster my growth. The Jamboree was one of the first ways I was able to find myself. Going to a camp in another state with hundreds of other scouts I didn’t know, taught me the importance of taking initiative and forced me out of my shell. I was able to experience new thrills like ziplining, but was also able to become really close to people I had just met.

Areesha at STEM camp
My troop won an invention award at STEM camp!

The STEM overnight camp exposed me to the world of engineering and innovation, and encouraged me to mesh my quantitative and creative abilities to explore and innovate. Being a female, I wasn’t actively exposed to this field regarding innovation and technology. STEM camp made it not only acceptable, but rather commendable to be a girl and to like and excel at STEM subjects.

Near the end of my Girl Scout journey, I began reflecting on what it was ultimately that I gained from these experiences. Girl Scouts exposed me to new opportunities and engaged me in activities ranging in different fields, like STEM, with different people. Being a Girl Scout pushed me to work and communicate in teams; it challenged me with real world problems; it taught me life skills like first aid and self-defense; it encouraged me to chase my dreams and unleash my potential. Girl Scouts provided me with a safe environment to explore various fields and polish up my skill set, which has led me to serve in the versatile roles I do today. My Girl Scouts leaders and my Girl Scouts community provided me with the resources and support to empower me to become the confident and determined female I am.

However, the discovery did not stop with my experience or who I was, but rather expanded to my future abilities. Girl Scouts made me realize that I have the power and potential to foster change and to empower others.

Currently, I am a freshman at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois studying statistics and economics, with hopes of becoming an actuary in the near future. On campus, I am on a competitive Bollywood dance team, current social chair for our Women in Business organization, the Marketing and Resource Manager for an upcoming summer camp, and am spending time this quarter interning at a local start-up.

Female empowerment has now become a passion for me. It was through other females’ efforts, that I am able to uphold myself in a confident manner. Hence, the other role that I currently hold is the assistant leader for a Brownie troop of 24 girls. I took on this role because I was inspired to empower young girls. Talking to my Girl Scouts, regardless of how young they are, I can see that they are very talented with so much potential, and I have made it my mission to provide them with the resources, the time, and the motivation to help them grow, so that they can build that confidence and feel empowered enough to chase their dreams, broaden their horizons, and exceed their potential.

Areesha Brownie mural

Just as the mural made by my scouts above says, “Girls Can Change the World,” I hope to be one of those girls — one who inspires other girls to do the same.

A lifelong Girl Scout, Areesha Majeed is a troop leader for a second-grade Brownie troop. She is a freshman at Northwestern University pursuing a double major in economics and statistics with a minor in French. 

Give the Gift of Gathering at Juniper Knoll

Give the Gift of Gathering at Juniper Knoll

Kitchens are made for people to gather and we can’t until our campers can gather in the new dining hall at Camp Juniper Knoll.

It’s been a few years since heavy snow caused the roof to collapse on the original dining hall and construction crews have been hard at work preparing the building for the upcoming camp season.

Juniper Knoll

To help us serve Girl Scout campers for years to come, we’re stocking the dining hall’s kitchen … but we need your help. Shop the online kitchen registry to help fill the kitchen with all the gadgets and appliances necessary to ensure an exceptional experience for everyone who visits Juniper Knoll, which is located on Pleasant Lake in East Troy, Wisconsin.

Items, such as pots and pans, folding tables and chairs, range from $25 to $15,000. Gifts can be made as an individual, family, troop and/or service unit. You can also make a monetary donation to give a girl a camp experience with memories that will last a lifetime. Every gift makes an impact!

For more information or to purchase a gift, please visit To view additional pictures of the progress at Juniper Knoll, click here.

We look forward to inviting you to the grand opening of the dining hall this summer. Thank you for supporting our council in this exciting endeavor.

What I Learned at Girl Scout Summer Camp

What I Learned at Girl Scout Summer Camp

My name is Charlotte and I have been a Girl Scout for 10 years, from Daisy through to Senior. For the last four years, I’ve gone to Girl Scout summer camp. I’ve been to the Hoist your Sail, On Belay, Engineering Design and Backpacking Adventurer camps. The picture of our Backpacking group was in this year’s camp brochure, how cool is that?

Going to Girl Scout camp is great. There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t yet met. It doesn’t matter if you go to camp by yourself (like I do!) as you always meet up with other girls from previous years camps. Even though we haven’t seen each other for a year we’re still the best of friends. I love camping in the outdoors, learning new skills and sharing those experiences with my new and old friends.

Charlotte Camping Solo

Sailing taught me how to work both on my own and with other crew members. Of course the best part was tipping the sail boat and trying to re-right it! It was so much fun to be on, and in, the water every day. Our group stayed in platform tents by the lake which was great as it was cooler by the water.

Rock climbing taught me that I must be responsible for checking my equipment and that no obstacle is too high or too scary to overcome when you have buddies encouraging you all the way. At Devil’s Lake we stayed in the coolest yurts ever. They had A/C and a TV, too (shhh … don’t tell your moms!). Mind you, it was 103 degrees when we were there, so it was much appreciated.

The Engineering program was one of my favorite camps. We worked in groups and individually to solve all sorts of problems using the items provided as well as improvising along the way. We also got to visit the Yerkes Observatory. I had never done any engineering before, but after this camp I looked into the engineering classes my future high school had to offer. As a freshman, I chose to do a class in engineering design and next year I’m doing civil engineering and architecture. If I hadn’t been on this camp I would never thought about doing engineering at high school.

Finally, the Backpacking camp taught me the value of teamwork: planning and doing our hikes, sharing responsibilities around camp and fine tuning our “leave no trace” skills. I also learned that I really don’t like powdered eggs for breakfast and that life without any electronics is possible and totally enjoyable when you have good company and lovely scenery.

So, what will you do this summer? Watch TV? Play computer games? I challenge you to go try something new!

As for me, I’m off to Girl Scout leadership camp this summer. It’s time to learn some new skills and how to give back to the Girl Scout community.

Have a great summer – see you at camp!

There’s so much to see and do at summer camp! Check out our full list of summer programs at day and resident camps across our council in the 2016 Program Guide and register today.

Girl Scouts Learn About Careers in Law at Project Law Track

Girl Scouts Learn About Careers in Law at Project Law Track

Is being a lawyer really like Law & Order? Do people really yell “order in the court”?

Earlier this month, Girl Scouts from across the council began learning what it takes to be a lawyer during Project Law Track, a series of four interactive sessions exploring the different facets of law.

Students learn about the different facets of law during Project Law Track. 

The series was co-created by Monica Weed, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Navigant Counseling in Chicago and second vice president for the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Board of Directors.

Throughout Project Law Track sessions, which take place in Chicago and DuPage, attorneys with the Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women, DuPage Association of Women Lawyers and the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois work with Girl Scouts on different facets of law and the series concludes with a mock trial.

“I just started high school and I’m looking into different careers,” said Angelica Williams, a ninth grader at Lane Tech High School. “I want to learn about things that may be of interest to me. Girl Scouts is great to meet new people and learn new things. I’m looking forward to learning about the different types of law.”

Girl Scout Senior Angelica Williams introduces herself to the group.

During the first session, girls received an overview of legal concepts from women lawyers, including reality versus depictions of lawyers in media; the origins of law; criminal versus civil law; ethics and responsibilities; direct and cross examination; as well as how to prepare of law school.

“It’s important to have programs like Project Law Track so you can see people represented in the field and know that we did it and you can do it, too,” Jasmine Jackson, a case processing analyst contractor for the U.S. Department of Labor, told the students. “When I was growing up, I didn’t have a lot of mentors and I want to encourage younger girls to get involved with law because it starts now.”

To learn more about Project Law Track and other specially-designed series offered by Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, click here.

Girl Scouts Learn About Leadership at High Tea in Long Grove

Girl Scouts Learn About Leadership at High Tea in Long Grove

Twenty-five Girl Scouts and troop leaders from Buffalo Grove, Long Grove and Arlington Heights, IL had the opportunity to witness leadership in action during afternoon tea with local elected officials.

The event, which was held at High Tea with Gerri in Long Grove, IL, was hosted by Village Presidents Angie Underwood of Long Grove and Beverly Sussman of Buffalo Grove.

“These woman who make service a part of their everyday life wanted to give back to the Girl Scouts in the communities,” said Nancy Armstrong, regional community director for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.”And Gerri instructed us all on proper etiquette of women during high tea as the girls wore fancy hats and drank from vintage tea cups.”


As part of the experience, each of the mayors talked with the girls about their own stories of how they became leaders and attributed their beginnings in Girl Scouts, according to Armstrong. One of the mayors even brought along her beanie and Girl Scout handbook.

“They stressed the importance of always trying your best, and having your voice heard at any age,” said Armstrong. “They brought up examples of how even young children can make a difference and how important it is to have women in leadership roles.”

Recently, Underwood and Sussman declared March 12-19 Girl Scout Week in honor of the organization’s 104th birthday. With Girl Scouts present, the village presidents read and handed a proclamation to the girls at the town hall meetings.

Do you want your troop to participate in exceptional experiences such as this? Renew your Girl Scout membership today and receive exciting rewards!

Kellogg Executive Mentors Girl Scouts

Kellogg Executive Mentors Girl Scouts

It’s not every day you get to pick the brain of a top executive. But if you’re a Cookie CEO, it’s part of the job description.

Last week, Wendy Davidson, president of U.S. Specialty Channels for The Kellogg Company and Tribute to Achievement honoree, met with a few Cookie CEOs, the top five cookie sellers for Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana.

During the meeting at the Chicago Gathering Place, Davidson, who’s a former Girl Scout, shared business tips, words of wisdom and lessons learned with the young entrepreneurs.

“The leadership skills that you’re learning in Girl Scouts are so important. Everything I’ve learned along the way has prepared me for what’s next,” she said. “Community involvement is also important. Communities don’t happen by accident. They happen when people lean in and invest. You’re doing that already in your communities and I hope you carry that with you.”

As part of her role with Kellogg, Davidson oversees the bakeries responsible for producing the iconic Girl Scout Cookies.

“For me, it was like coming full circle,” she said. “I was at the Louisville [Kentucky] bakery and I was like a little kid. I got to see them make the Thin Mints and got to try one hot off the production line. I was giddy. I think I have one of the best jobs ever.”

Once the Cookie CEOs are in pursuit of their dream jobs, Davidson advised them to “always lend a hand before you need a hand.”

“As you move forward, reach back and help the people behind you,” she said. “Your giving back never stops and your need to receive never stops.”

After their meeting with Davidson, the Cookie CEOs took her advice to heart and payed it forward by sharing cookie-selling strategies with younger Girl Scouts from the GirlSpace program, which brings the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to girls in at-risk communities.

Cookie CEO Nina Grotto (center) shares advice with younger Girl Scouts.

“Girl Scouts has opened a lot of doors for me, so I’m really glad I stayed with it,” said Nina Grotto, a 17-year-old Cookie CEO who raised nearly $18,000 to send about 4,500 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to members of the armed forces through the Gift of Caring program.

Davidson also met with the GirlSpace Girl Scouts, participated in their healthy living program and answered questions about her role with Kellogg.


“One of my favorite parts about my job is partnering with Girl Scouts to help grow and develop future leaders, so that one day you can all take my job,” she said.

Davidson will receive the Luminary Award at this year’s Tribute to Achievement dinner on Monday, April 25. For tickets and more information, please visit

Arlington Heights Student Spearheads Project for Autistic Classmates

Arlington Heights Student Spearheads Project for Autistic Classmates

Creating a sensory room for students on the autism spectrum at The Academy at Forest View in Arlington Heights was a cause close to Kaitlyn Kropp’s heart.

Kropp, 17, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, said she knows all too well the struggles she and many of her classmates face during the school day, particularly when they are feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.

“Sometimes we get sensory overloaded or we just can’t stay still,” said Kropp, a junior at the academy in Township High School District 214. “Instead of buying junk food, I thought to myself, ‘why can’t I buy something else that everyone would benefit from?'”

This month, as Autism Awareness Month celebrations across the world aim to educate people about a disorder that affects one out of 68 people, Kropp is sharing her story with hopes of inspiring other teens like herself to advocate for their community.

On a recent morning, she was delighted to be excused from class to give a visitor a quick tour of the sensory room that opened earlier this year, and which she has named, “Chillax,” shorthand for “chill-out and relax.”

After district administrators agreed to her project and she was awarded a $1,000 IDEA grant, Kropp said she researched sensory rooms, compiling a list of features she liked and which would be suitable for the space, a former storage room.

Determined to accommodate every sense but smell and taste, she sought out an array of materials that provide calming and tactile experiences and protect students with padded mats in a muted gray color on the walls.There’s a “bungee chair,” which Kropp described as feeling like “a warm hug,” and manipulative features like Play-Doh, stress balls and weighted blankets.

“A sensory room should not be too cool, but not too hot, we have a dimmer switch for the lights, and a music player so we can listen to something simple and soothing, like ocean sounds or white noise,” Kropp said.

When asked what kind of events or situations might trigger the need for a student to visit the sensory room, Kropp described a social scenario common to all teens, which she sums up as “too much drama.”

“When my friends fight, sometimes they want me to choose sides, but I’m more like Switzerland,” Kropp said. “It makes me feel like I want to cry, or to punch something. I just feel very, very overwhelmed.”

Kara Kendrick, director of The Academy at Forest View and Life Transition Program, said the sensory room project is being recognized with a prestigious Girl Scouts Gold Award. It will be presented to Kropp in June.

“We have never had a student earning a Gold Award, so this is a big, big deal for us, and we certainly wanted to support her,” Kendrick said. “Through Kaitlyn’s efforts, we were able to give this sensory space to our students, and she did all of the work.”

To read the full story, visit

Photo via Karen Ann Cullotta / Pioneer Press

Four Girl Scouts Attend the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women

Four Girl Scouts Attend the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women

Imagine being on the forefront of change. Imagine being able to have your voice heard. Imagine standing up for a cause you believe in and making a difference.

For four local Girl Scouts, this was a reality. During the week of March 11-18, Mariel Boden, Nina Grotto, Laila Kassar and Eva Lewis represented Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana at the United Nations’ 60th Commission on the Status of Women in New York City and joined thousands of delegates from around the world.

“The trip was truly amazing,” said Laila, an 18-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador. “I learned a lot about all the different types of feminism and other things related to it.”

The theme of this year’s two-week commission was the link between sustainable development and women’s empowerment, as well as preventing and ending all acts of violence against women and girls.

The delegates attended various discussions about these topics and two of the Girl Scouts – Mariel and Eva – were able to participate in panels, such as “Girls at the Table,” about girl activists and their efforts to address local challenges within the context of sustainable development goals.


“Speaking at the Girls at the Table event made me realize the power I have, as well as the impact of my voice, even though I’m only 17 years old. There were many important people in the room and a few walked up to me afterward to convey their reactions to to my speech and answers to my questions,” said Eva, a Girl Scout Ambassador.

“I left the panel feeling so much positive energy from the audience as well as the other incredible girls I shared the panel with. I spoke at the United Nations,” she continued. “And that’s such a blessing in itself. The experience only validated my efforts and affirmed that I can only go up from here.”

Laila was also inspired by the panelists.

“One of the girls on the panel had a project where she taught self-defense to girls in India so they’d be better able to defend themselves,” she said. “Her advice was to start with six people, then 60, then 600, then 6,000 and so on to make a big difference. It inspired me to start thinking doing my Gold Award project to help Syrian refugees.”

Nina was particularly touched about a panel regarding violence against women in Ireland.

“It was my favorite because they didn’t just have ideas about how to prevent violence, but they’d implemented a program they’re using with other countries and communities to change the culture around domestic violence,” said Nina, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador.

And she can’t wait to share what she learned with her classmates and other Girl Scouts.

“I want other girls to know that even though you’re still young, what you have to say is important and you can still be advocates,” said Nina. “The issues and problems you’re facing are valid and there are people in the government who care about your problems and are working to fix them. If you want things to change, you have the power to advocate for yourself, your friends and your community.”

For more information about programs available to Older Girls, please visit



Gold Award: A Look Back

Gold Award: A Look Back

I can still remember 2008 when I was asked what my greatest accomplishment was for my college essay, and I wrote, getting my Gold Award.

Very few people at the time stayed in Girl Scouts to get their Gold Award. The cute faces no longer sold all of those Girl Scout Cookies and the stigma of being a good girl “Girl Scout” wasn’t very popular in high school.

I was part of the cool Girl Scout group. We liked volunteering. We spent our Girl Scout money on a cruise to Mexico and we stayed at Embassy Suites rather than a campsite for our annual Girl Scout meeting. Girl Scouting really is what you make it and it can be cool at any age.

I love volunteering and building community and that desire began with Girl Scouts – it began as my sister did her Silver Award project cleaning a home for pregnant teenagers and sewing baby bags for them with her troop. It began as we planned a trip to Savannah, Georgia to visit Juliette Gordon Low’s House or the Kennedy Space Center where we slept under a rocket. It began as I worked on badges to learn how to cook.

When I was 17, I started working on my Gold Award project. I was one of two girls in my troop to get her Gold Award. This service project for a Gold Award had to be over 60 hours and had to be something that lasted. So, if it was an event, it had to be an annual event. To start, I had to analyze my community and various issues within my South Florida community. I was more involved with my church community as a Sunday School teacher. I decided to make a mural of all of the kids in my Sunday School class for my Gold Award. I’m not the best artist, so I worked with other artists to help draw and paint my students. I think when we are young, we see our limits and don’t realize how powerful and impactful we are. It was rewarding to have my students represent a piece of the church and be a visual reminder to the diversity different voices within the congregation.

As an adult, I wanted to volunteer in my community, and I did a Google search for empowering women organizations to volunteer. The first result was Girl Scouts. I was afraid to be a Girl Scout leader because I didn’t have children, and I didn’t know if I could still relate to children. But I pursued that option.

The Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana paired me with another single twenty something, and we started a new Girl Scout troop in Edgewater, Illinois. We started in the middle of Girl Scout Cookie Season and thankfully sold all of our cookies and made more in donations than in profits, so we could buy books and Girl Scout uniforms for every girl in our combination Brownie and Junior troop.


My girls constantly surprised me with their insight, their energy, and their creativity. We participated in World Thinking Day by choreographing a dance, learning about Ivory Coast, and making too many plantains to share with the other Girls Scouts. We took a day trip to the Art Institute and completed our first Girl Scout badge. I got to teach and prepare the financial statements and most importantly, I got to know kids and families in my community.

It was a great experience and the four troop leaders who replaced us also were twenty-somethings without kids. I like to think we started a trend.

Amanda Elliott is a Chicago-based marketing professional and blogs about city life and the Chicago start-up community for Windy City Cosmo

What I Love About Being a Girl Scout Volunteer

What I Love About Being a Girl Scout Volunteer

As the infamous saying goes, “Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout!” Growing up, I was a Girl Scout and I have wonderful memories of my mom being a volunteer for my troop. We’d go on our Brownie camping trip, sing songs and make S’mores.

My mom was so funny and had everyone laughing because instead of wood she picked up a mouse and she screamed. She was always sewing on different patches and making sure my uniform was always washed and ready to go. She also went rollerskating with us. My mom is a people person and everyone just loved her.

So when my 6-year-old daughter, Jenna, asked to be a Girl Scout Daisy, of course I said yes! I knew the troop leader well as both our daughters attended preschool together. I want the best for my daughter, as every parent does.

Being a volunteer has given me the opportunity to witness my daughter practice the skills that Girl Scouts has taught her firsthand.


As a volunteer for her troop, I was able to go caroling with the girls and help them make Christmas cards for a local nursing home. I used to work with the elderly and I swelled with pride as my young daughter showed kindness and compassion and got it back tenfold!

Through the Girl Scout Cookie Program, I was able to teach my daughter money management and people skills during booth sales. We shared many laughs as I stood on the side of the road waving the cookie sign!

Girl Scouts goes beyond the badges and the pins. Girl Scouts is about girl power … that anything is possible, to be kind and to help others. Just like a Daisy, my daughter and the wonderful girls in her troop are blossoming into wonderful girls. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

A former dancer and dance instructor, Jessica Barnes is a first-year Girl Scout volunteer in Elk Grove Village. When she’s not busy helping the Daisies, she is enjoys having fun with her two daughters, Jenna and Emilee, spending time with her family and friends and baking.

Don’t miss out on the fun, renew your Girl Scout membership today! Troop leaders who renew their troop members through the online Member Community now until June 30 will be automatically enrolled in our brand new GS Plus Loyalty Program, which includes exclusive discounts, a free Girl Scout planner and much more.