The Definition (or Meaning) of Girl Led

Every year, both new and experienced troop leaders ask, “What does girl-led actually mean?”

Simply put, “girl-led” describes a way girls of every age can take active roles in figuring out the “what”, “where”, “when”, “why”, and “how” of what they do as Girl Scouts. It is the basic yet complex concept that girls should be encouraged to create their own unique Girl Scout experience while developing other leadership skills.

Taking part in the leadership of the troop gives girls the opportunity to feel a sense of self-worth and pride in seeing their own skills and ideas come to life. Girl-led experiences provide girls the independence to make mistakes, and the chances to try again.

Where to Begin?

If you’re a troop leader, you may be thinking this is easy… or maybe you’re questioning how to do this without losing your mind! Stepping out of your comfort zone as a leader can be intimidating but also incredibly rewarding because of all the new opportunities you will experience as a collaborative troop.

There is no one way to implement girl-led practices, just like there is no one way to be a Girl Scout! How you facilitate these experiences will change over time as the girls grow and develop leadership skills and curate their experiences.

It is important to remember the age-level of your girls and their abilities to plan and execute a meeting. You wouldn’t ask a kindergartner what they want to do–– you would give her choices and ask leading questions.
If you need some inspiration, here are some examples of questions for Daisy Girl Scouts:

  • “Do you want to sing songs or play games?”
  • “Would it be better to play this game indoors or outdoors?”
  • “Do you want to do this activity during a regular meeting or at a different time?”

This way, girls can vote on activities and make decisions to the best of their ability, giving them more to control a meeting. As they get older, their skills (and their confidence) will grow, and they will start to take on more responsibility!

Making it Happen, Step-By-Step

How do the girls come up with ideas and form a plan?

Traditionally, in the beginning of the new troop year, leaders assume for responsibility for planning troop activities. Girls choose from 2 to 3 activities suggested by their leaders.

While some ideas come from listening to the girls, this is a good time to introduce them to the concept of budgeting. For example, make it clear that the troop can afford to do “A” and “B” or just “C” but not all three, and let the girls decide the solution.

Facilitating Idea-Sharing

The next step is to start getting ideas from the girls. Girls look to their leaders for suggestions, but the girls should offer ideas for troop activities. This way, girls will begin to plan and carry out short term projects.
This is a good time to introduce girls to safety guidelines and Safety Activity Checkpoints.

For brainstorming, it helps to organize the activities into categories, like local trips, overnight trips, service projects, Take Action projects, international trips, and council programs. It helps if you set a time limit for 10 or 20 minutes. Here are some example rules for a brainstorming session:

  • Everyone has to participate!
  • Write every idea down.
  • Do not discuss the merits of ideas–– this will take place later.
  • Do not judge–– no groaning, laughing, cheering, or put downs.
  • Repetition is okay.
  • Spelling does not matter.
  • Read aloud the completed list when finished!

Making Decisions

Once you have finished brainstorming, it is time to start making decisions. Group decisions can be made by following these steps:

  • Look over ideas and edit the list down. Have each girl mark which activities she is most interested in doing. Combine similar activities, and eliminate activities that don’t seem likely to work for the group.
  • Collect information about any activities that the group doesn’t know much about.
  • Discuss the negatives and positives of each activity. Consider cost, safety, requirements, seasonal restraints, time commitments, age appropriateness, needs and interests of the group, and whether the activity reflects the purpose of Girl Scouts.

Taking Action

  • Figure out the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of the activities.
  • Plan your calendar accordingly!

Don’t forget to take time to evaluate the events. How did things turn out? What would we do differently next time? Reflect and learn from what went wrong and right with the plan.

What is a Leader’s Role?

  • Be a good listener and ask leading questions.
  • Assess the troop’s readiness and then guide the girls to assume responsibility.
  • Guide planning in small enough steps so girls can see parts of the plan working individually.
  • Guide the girls in making appropriate choices.
  • Make sure the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of the project are included.
  • Discuss the details of how each phase will be accomplished.
  • Allow each girl to learn from experience. Vary the amount of given help according to each girl’s needs, but offer to help to avoid discouragement.
  • Offer practical advice about time and money involved, resources people who might help, transportation, or needed equipment.
  • Build in an evaluation so girls can use this information for their next experience.
  • Acknolwedge achievement, no matter how small.
  • Make girl-led planning an ongoing part of your program.

Leading the Way

Now that you know more about how to help girls, give them a chance to help you!

When girls lead the way, they become empowered to curate their own experiences. This is how girls become independent women: by having the power to choose.

Check out our programming for girls, from travel opportunities, camping trips, custom programs, and more!

Read up on some of our new Fall and Winter 2019/2020 programs!

Adventure Awaits on these Council Sponsored Trips!

Get ready to get out there: all of our Girl Scout programs are live for this Girl Scout year, including all of our new travel opportunities! Below is a short and sweet description of each, along with the registration link. If you have any questions on these trips, contact Ashley Christensen at

Download this flyer to share with your friends!

Choose Your Own Adventure: Chicago Style!

A new twist on an old GCNWI classic! This time we’re taking it to the Windy City. We’ll stay the night at the hostel downtown, and girls will plan the whole weekend!
November 09-10, 2019 (SIGN UP SOON! Registration closes Oct. 27!)

Choose Your Own Adventure: Midwest!

It’s baaaacckkk! A favorite of many GCNWI travel groupies, this trip is a 4-day adventure to somewhere in the Midwest. Where you ask? That’s for the girls to decide. Hurry! Only 3 spots left (told ya it was a favorite!)
January 17-20, 2020

Capital Tour: Nashville!

This is a brand-new type of trip we’re particularly excited about. In its inaugural year, GCNWI is planning a trip to Nashville, the capital of Tennessee. Each year following, we’ll pick a new state capital for a new exciting adventure!
February 15-17, 2020

Junior Jetaway: Milwaukee

Another BRAND-NEW trip–– this time for Juniors! We’ll head to Milwaukee for a 2-day journey. Did someone say cheese curds?!
February 16-17, 2020

Brownies Day out in Chicago

Yup, you guessed it… another new program idea! As we work our way down the travel progression to younger Girl Scouts, we’ll give Brownies the day to plan a trip to the Windy City. What shall we see and do? That’s for the Brownies to figure out!
May 16, 2020

You-and-Me on Mackinac Island

One of the all-time favorites of hundreds of Girl Scouts! We’re headed on a coach bus with our moms, grandmas, and aunts to the island of no cars, lots of bicycles, and lots of fudge. If you haven’t been on this trip before (or even if you have), it’s time to join us!
August 9-11, 2020

Are We There Yet?

Traveling is more than just a fun adventure–– it’s a learning experience. Join us and explore what the Midwest (and beyond) has to offer!

Financial assistance is available for most council-sponsored trips. Applications will be sent to travelers who register for a trip.

Visit our travel page for more information!

Go-Getters Got After it at the 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

If running a marathon was easy, everyone would do it. On Sunday, Oct. 13, 15 Girl Scout Go-Getters took on the challenge and finished the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. 

The team was full of runners from diverse backgrounds and levels of association with Girl Scouts. We even had a family member of an Associate Board member travel all the way from Los Angeles to compete in his fourth marathon. We had a Girl Scout parent from the Phoenix, Arizona council travel in to fight through her third marathon. Two GCNWI staff members and our Associate Board President were completing their first ever marathon! 

Racing for Change 

While running 26.2 miles is a huge accomplishment, it’s what the team accomplishes in raising funds for our council that makes the biggest impact. Together, our team of 23 runners raised more than $35,000 and counting. 

Together we empower each G.I.R.L. to change the world. What is it that makes a G.I.R.L. so incredible? Well, she’s a Go-getter who races to the finish. She is an Innovator who builds robots and competes around the world. She is a Risk-taker who explores new adventures through travel. She is a Leader who speaks at a United Nations event. 

If you want to be a part of this growing community of runners and change-makers, apply for the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon! 

Take the leap and apply to run your first marathon as a Girl Scout Go-Getter! 

  • Apply by Dec. 1 – Fundraising Minimum is $1,250 
  • Apply after Dec. 1 – Fundraising Minimum is $1,750 

Applications will close on Jan, 30, 2020 or when our team is filled. 

Go Get It! 

When you run with the Girl Scout Go-Getters, you will receive: 

  • Guaranteed entry into the 2020 Bank of America Chicago Marathon  
  • Free virtual and in-person training options with Chicago Endurance Sports 
  • Official Girl Scout Go-Getters team running shirt and running belt 
  • Customizable fundraising page to help reach your goal 
  • Access to all team events (kick-off meeting, pasta party, and other events decided by team) 
  • Free access to Race Day Resort on race day (located next to start line with food, drinks, indoor restrooms) 
  • You will be invited to attend our “Thanks to You” reception in Fall 2020 (usually at the Union League Club, downtown) 

If you have any questions, please contact Holly Johnson at

Debunking the Myth: You CAN Save for Travel!

Contributed by Global Action Volunteer Team Member (GAVT) Maureen Ewing

Maureen Ewing is a Lifetime Member of the Girl Scouts with 12 years as a girl member and over 25 years as an adult volunteer. Maureen studied abroad for a full academic year at Nottingham University in the UK and did graduate studies at Rhodes University in South Africa, where she earned her Master’s Degree. She currently serves on the Global Action Volunteer Team and co-led a Destination to India (check out the blog series here!) and the WAGGGS World Centre Sangam this summer. Maureen believes that her travel experience as a Girl Scout helped form her into the independent and curious traveler she is today (30 countries and counting)!

As a Global Action Volunteer member, she hopes to grow the conversations and travel opportunities available to girls in this council. She’s been kind enough to share some tips and tricks on how to make your travel dreams happen without breaking the bank. Read on for her exclusive advice on budgeting and saving for your next adventure!

Ballin’ On A Budget

Written by Maureen Ewing

Over the past two decades, I’ve talked to many girls and women about traveling. One of the first questions I receive is always, “How do you afford it?” My response is always: I save for it.

Daydreaming about travel is fun, but making it happen can feel daunting. Life happens and sometimes it feels difficult to carve out the time and money to travel. Yet, you want to see the world. Planning a trip well, working and saving for it, means that when you take the trip, you’ll appreciate every day and every dollar.

Step 1: Choose the Trip

You’ve been daydreaming about traveling to a specific place for a long time, and it’s time to make the dream a reality. Answer a few key questions:

  • When do you want to go?
  • How long do you want to go?
  • How much can you afford?

Once you have a goal, you can begin to make it a reality. How much time can you take off work or school? Do you need to schedule it around holiday schedules or other people’s schedules?

The more in advance you plan, the more you can take advantage of travel deals and discounts.

Step 2: Do Your Research

Go to the library and check out all the travel guides you can find about where you’re going (yes, books are still relevant and very useful). Choose books that give suggestions appropriate for your budget. Go online and read all articles and blogs from other travelers about the location where you want to travel. Follow travel sites and hashtags on social media to see what other travelers are doing!

Make a list of all the things you want to do. Dream big! You won’t do everything, but you’ll understand the possibilities. Doing pre-trip research builds excitement for the trip, and your trip will be even better for it!

Poll your friends and family for their tips on travel. What did they enjoy on their trips? What would they do differently?

Pro Girl Scout tip: Check out our blog on researching your travels as a Gen Z!

Step 3: Make a Budget

Use books and online resources to find out how much plane tickets cost, the range of accommodation prices, the sights you want to see.

Make a preliminary budget that takes into account the big expenses you’ve researched: flights (and baggage costs), travel insurance, accommodation, food, local transit, sightseeing, souvenirs, etc.

Prepare for the unexpected costs in your budget:

  • Do you need to make any pre-trip purchases like new clothes, a new backpack, a portable charger for your phone, a new camera, etc. ?
  • If you are going out of the country, will you need to use your phone, and if so, what does your company charge?
  • What immunizations do you need?
  • Do you have a passport or does it need to be renewed (your passport must be valid for 6 months after you return from your trip)?
  • Do you need a travel Visa to visit this country (a special application process to visit the country)?
  • How much baggage allowance do you get on your flight?

Add a little padding to the budget in case there’s something you don’t want to miss, or something unexpected happens, like you miss your train.

With a preliminary budget, you can set realistic expectations for how much money you need to save and how quickly (or slowly) you can manage it. You’ll also be ready to jump on a cheap plane ticket and other not-to-miss-early-bird opportunities.

Step 4: Plan a Savings Schedule

When you know your budget, plan out how much money you need to have saved before the trip. There will be some pre-trip expenses you will need to buy in advance like flights or accommodations or tickets to that can’t-miss-show. You might buy your flights eight to twelve months before you leave to take advantage of a great deal, and you should prepare for that in your savings schedule.

How much ready cash do you want to have with you and available when you travel? Some trips may give you easy access to use your credit or debit cards, but some trips may take you places where you’ll need to have cash on hand.

You might open a special savings account or a special checking account at a different bank, that you will use only for travel. You can squirrel away your money in this account so it is out-of-sight of your day to day expenses.

If it’s for a Girl Scout trip, you can look up money-earning options. Check out this blog post for money-earning ideas and these FAQs!

Here are a couple examples of savings schedules:

  • If you know your trip will cost $2,500 and you have 12 months to save up for it, that would be about $208/month. You can then begin to plan how to save that money each month. Can you cut back on your regular expenses to cover that amount, or do you need to be creative in your fundraising?
  • Let’s say you want to travel to Edinburgh, Scotland in August because you want to visit the various festivals, take tours into the countryside, and attend a Highland Games. This timing will affect your budget because it’s high season and in a city. If you plan early, you can get cheaper flights and better deals on accommodation. You might decide to stay in a hostel or Airbnb to save money for the experiences. Taxis and Ubers can add up, so research the local transit options (trains, buses, trams) and figure out how to get around the city.
  • Let’s say you want to travel to Paris, France, and you want to go during spring break! You’ve got a tighter $1,500 budget and only one week to travel. European cities can often be cheap to fly to in the off-season, such as spring, and you’ve been following sites that track flight prices for you. You’ve been saving for six months, so you’re able to buy that amazing deal as soon as it pops up. You have much more money in your budget now to do more, maybe even splurge a little on a hotel or a Bed and Breakfast.

Dream it. Plan it. Travel!

Traveling is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. There is always a new place to go, new people to meet, beautiful experiences to be had. There is always a reason not to go but don’t let money stand in your way. Start saving now so when you’re ready to go, you’re ready!

On the Global Action Volunteer Team, we believe travel opens up our minds and hearts and gives us fresh perspectives. If you can dream it, you can plan it, and you can afford to travel.

Which way to adventure?

Saving up for a big trip can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be stressful. With hard work (and maybe the help of a travel scholarship) your day-dreams can become reality. Special thanks to Maureen for her super-helpful advice!

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana is a council committed to providing incredible opportunities for girls to experience the world. Whether you’re going on a weekend trip to Milwaukee, or a two-week adventure in England, the Girl Scouts have your back.

Are you interested in providing unforgettable travel experiences to Girl Scouts? Find out what it takes to join the Global Action Volunteer Team!

For more advice from our Global Action Volunteer Team Members, check out their other guest blog posts:
Who We Are Part 1Who We Are Part 2|Why You Should Try Backpacking|Daydreaming About Travel|A WAGGGS Adventure in Mexico|Guide to Safety While Traveling Research travel as a Gen Z|Girl Scouts Will Travel (Maureen’s other featured guest post!)

Visit our travel page for more information on where we’re headed this year and the next.

Guide to Planning a Girl Scout Troop Trip to Savannah, GA, Part 2

Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

Savannah, Georgia: the Hostess City of the South. The birthplace of the Girl Scouts of the United States, and of the Founder, Juliette Gordon Low. Savannah is an oasis on the coast. It is a special place for Girl Scouts–– not only is it naturally beautiful, but it is a city flooded with history.

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) took some amazing advice from leaders in the council who recently traveled with their troops to Savannah! We featured the first half of their recommendations, and now, we are sharing more of their tips and tricks!

Check out part one of this blog series to learn about accommodations, the JGL Birthplace, Girl Scout perks, sightseeing, and travel to, from, and around Savannah.

What You Need to Know

  1. Restaurants
  2. Savannah Favorites
  3. Money-earning advice
  4. Additional tips


Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room

There are many restaurants in Savannah, and the leaders have shared with us their tried-and-true favorites!

Savannah Favorites

Here are the activities that left the best impression on the leaders and Girl Scouts during their visits to Savannah:

Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace, the home where JGL was born and raised, is an obvious Girl Scout favorite! This home offers guided tours, pinning ceremonies, and has a Girl Scout shop. Check out the Frequently Asked Questions section on the Birthplace website for more information.

Tybee Island

Tybee Island has plenty of awesome things to do! The leaders’ favorites included are hitting the beach and taking a dolphin tour (there are two to choose from: Captain Mike’s and Captain Derek’s).

Kayaking Trips

There are plenty of opportunities to kayak in Savannah around the coast and in the waters of Skidaway Island State Park. Check out Savannah Canoe and Kayak tours or Moon River Kayak!

Ghost Tours of Savannah

Thrill-seeking Girl Scouts will definitely enjoy a ghost tour of this haunted city, and because it is one of Savannah’s most popular activities, there are plenty of ways to do this! You can also embark on a dark and spooky evening on a haunted nighttime narrated carriage tour!

Old Fort Jackson

History buffs will appreciate the Civil War era activities and daily cannon firings at the National Historic Landmark Old Fort Jackson.

Historic Trolley Ride

Like ghost tours, historic trolley tours are a definite favorite of Savannah visitors, so there are many ways to hitch a ride around town.

Money Earning Advice

Leaders suggest:

  • Putting your Cookie and Fall Product revenues toward the trip
  • Referring to our Funding your Girl Scout Travels blog series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4)
  • Planning this trip well in advance and calculating everything!
  • Not forgetting about possible Girl Scout discounts for Girl Scout activities!

Additional Tips 

  • Use PBnJ Tours or a local travel agent to help plan your trip.
  • Make the trip as girl-led as possible; give the girls options and help them curate their own experience.
  • Make sure to fill out your trip & travel forms well in advance.
  • Wear matching shirts every day to keep track of your girls.
  • Make reservations early, especially if you’re traveling in the summer.
  • It is a hot place, so make sure to drink plenty of water!
  • Plan ahead for lots of activities, but be ready to take breaks when the girls need it.
  • Do your research!
  • Get patches to commemorate the experience (some can be found at the JGL Birthplace store).
  • If your accommodation doesn’t provide breakfast, try buying it yourselves at a local grocery store to save some money.

Southern Comfort from GCNWI

Please note that we aren’t endorsing these places, but passing along advice from others. All places should be further researched to see if they fit your needs and wants!

We would like to thank these leaders for their wonderful advice! Check out the first part of this blog series to learn about where to stay, what to do, and why!

Check out our travel page for more opportunities!

Join us for a Pumpkin SMASH and Fall Festival!

Saturday, Nov. 2, 5:30-8:30 p.m.| Camp Greene Wood, Naperville, IL

It’s finally getting chilly out there, and Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana has some fun lined up for girls this season!

Pumpkin Smash and Fall Festival at Camp Greene Wood

Get ready to SMASH SOME PUMPKINS! Girl Scouts of all ages are invited to join us for the second annual Pumpkin Smash and Fall Festival on Saturday, November 2 at Camp Greene Wood. Drop your pumpkin from a ladder, go at it with a baseball bat, shred it up like Billy Corgan… whatever you decide to do, you will help us in the effort to divert compostable materials from landfills! This is the perfect opportunity to get rid of your old jack-o-lanterns, let out some frustration, and do good for the planet all at the same time!

You’ll also get a chance to participate in some post-Halloween spooky activities (because Halloween should be all year-round anyway) including:

  • Time around the campfire enjoying hot chocolate and cider
  • Getting your own fall cornucopia cone
  • Making caramel apples at the caramel apple bar (with tons of yummy toppings)
  • Taking photos with family and friends at the Fall Photo Station with fun props and backdrops
  • Applying fun temporary tattoos
  • Participating in fall themed Minute-To-Win-It Challenges, a variety of fun opportunities for girls to race against their friends or family to fin a small prize
  • Making three separate crafts, including a Fall Fabric No Sew Scrunchie, a Pinecone Turkey, and a Fall Candle
  • Going on one of two exciting hikes: a fun, non-scary glow-stick illuminated Glow Hike, and a Spooky Hike, where we hope to get a scare out of a few girls!

Register to attend Pumpkin Smash Fall Fest on Nov. 2 5:30-8:30 p.m.!

To be clear, the community is more than welcome to just smash their pumpkins with us, or drop them off and we’ll smash them for you! Everyone is welcome to join us around the campfire at the Program Center for a hot cup of something and information about our upcoming Green for Good Expo.

More Than a Smash

We are so happy to be partnering once more with the organization SCARCE Every year they help us organize this event and encourage other organizations and groups to host their own Pumpkin Smash events to promote composting.

Food composting is more than just having a great time smashing some pumpkins–– it has real world implications for the health of our environment. When food is thrown into a landfill, it breaks down and releases methane, a chemical that aids to the thickening of the ozone layer and the production of greenhouse gases. Essentially, composting stops this process in its tracks, instead diverting the energy toward the enrichment of soil and drastically reducing food waste (according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency).

This exciting event is just one of many lined up to get ready for next year’s environmental expo, Green for Good! We’re sparking inquiry, inspiration and innovation in the field of environmental stewardship–– and we’d like you to come along with us. Find out more about the expo and how you can join the Girl Scouts in going greener.

Register for the Pumpkin Smash and Fall Fest here before October 19!

Autumn is Callng!

There’s clearly a lot to do with the Girl Scouts this fall… and that’s not all. Camping and outdoor programming, council sponsored trips, exciting special events: you name it, Girl Scouts are doing it!

Check out our programs page to explore everything going on this year and the next!

Meet the Girls the World Needs

Today, as we observe International Day of the Girl, I am proud to see girls stepping up as today’s leaders. At Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, our local Girl Scouts are #changemakers and work with their Girl Scout sisters, family, friends, and communities to BE THE CHANGE THEY WANT TO SEE

Meet Your Match from GirlScoutsUSA on Vimeo.

Earning their Bronze, Silver and the highest award, the Gold Award, Girl Scouts learn the importance of service by identifying issues and taking action. Not only do they make the world better, the girls learn the importance of purpose that ignites their souls.  They are the GIRLS THE WORLD NEEDS

As we celebrate this day,  I challenge you to match the efforts of the powerful young women in the video and read more on our council blog about these powerhouse Gold Award recipients. To change our society for the better, it will take the efforts of ALL GENERATIONS and Girl Scouts is leading the way!

Your ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER when you join the Girl Scout movement. Mentor a girl as a volunteer, or invest in her future by donating. Become a champion for girls by sharing that ALL GIRLS deserve the chance to realize their true potential. Join us and show these young women that they are not alone in their quest for better.

Visit our website to MEET YOUR MATCH today. 

Thank You,

Nancy Wright, CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana

Volunteer Leadership Expo 2019!

On October 5, close to 300 volunteers and Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) gathered at the Tinley Park Convention Center to celebrate volunteers who are proactive, dedicated to girl empowerment, and demonstrate that Action Speaks Louder!

Whether the volunteers were brand new to the role, bridging to the next level with their troops, or seasoned members of service unit teams, all in attendance were provided with new resources, insider tips, and much more at several educational group sessions!

While volunteers attended different Breakout Sessions, Girl Scouts in attendance participated in all environmentally themed craft activities: taking old t-shirts and making them into bags, using natural dyes for water color painting, and recycling paper drawings. The girls also met Daisy, the Girl Scout character from WTTW’s Nature Cat and our Nature Cat program!

Breaking Out Of The Box

The Breakout Sessions at this year’s Leadership Expo were designed for volunteers to dive deep into two of five subjects of their choice: Think Outside the Cookie Box, Drop-In Tech Corner: Log on, Link & Explore, Create Your Own Dream Team, Go Beyond the Badge, and The Ultimate Balancing Act!

The Ultimate Balancing Act session was facilitated by two of our volunteer trainers who are also experienced troop leaders: Lindsay Hayden and Melissa Young-Bridgeforth. They ran two sessions aimed at helping leaders understand how to utilize all of the available resources: Volunteer Tool Kit, National Program Portfolio, Expert Connection, Program Wall, and Camp Programs.

Our year’s theme, Action Speaks Louder, resonated throughout the session and each participant was asked to make a commitment to help her troop become more girl led. Our leaders are on track to take their personal commitments and make this a great troop year!

In addition, volunteers learned about council updates like becoming a National Delegate, our environmental expo Green for Good, Product Program and Fall Product for 2019-2020, outdoor programming, and more!

Some Very Cool Volunteers

Alice Perez Calzada and Alexandra Calzada

Alice Perez Calzada and her daughter Alexandra are third year troop leaders of Daisies and Brownies, and this was their second year attending a Leadership Expo! Alice was Alexandra’s troop leader, and got back into the game again because of her younger daughter.

Alice and Alexandra came back to this year’s Leadership Expo because they wanted to make connections with other service units, learn tips and tricks to become better and more open leaders, in the hoped to connect more with their Girl Scouts!

Their advice for leaders? “If you have Girl Scouts in high school, make sure you are providing girl-led programs, and being there as a guide and not a leader.” This includes creating a relaxed environment where girls feel comfortable sharing their ideas. They also suggested getting girls especially excited for the amazing travel opportunities offered by GCWNI.

Leticia Carmona

Leticia Carmona, an adult volunteer who helps out with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, is yet another awesome volunteer who attended this year’s Expo! Her favorite part of being a part of the GCNWI council is “getting to see the girls do all their activities and the excitement in their faces… seeing the pride in the girls when they participate and complete a girl-led program.”

Leticia’s advice for troop leaders and volunteers is simple: take ownership of your role. “If you are a parent volunteer, really commit to that position and engage your girls into being in attendance to every meeting and participating in as many programs and activities as possible.”

Lead The Way!

If you missed this session of the Leadership Expo, don’t fret! There is another session on Saturday, October 19, in Skokie, Illinois at the Holiday Inn Chicago North Shore!

Check out our Leadership Expo page for more info, registration details, and more!

Interested in fostering girl empowerment? Find out how you can volunteer with the Girl Scouts today.

Announcing Phase II of our Master Property Plan!

Girl Scout councils love to launch exciting, new program experiences for girls, and Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) is certainly no exception. 

Recently, we celebrated the grand opening of our new ​high adventure climbing tower, zipline and high ropes course  at Camp Butternut Springs, thanks to the generosity of philanthropist and adventurer Al Hanna. Seeing girls fly overhead, laughing and screaming with delight as they zoom by, is one of the best parts of what we do to fulfill our mission. 

It’s the kind of experience we want more girls to encounter at our properties, especially our camps. But to bring to life the type of activities and amenities girls and volunteers tell us they want, we also must make difficult decisions. 

It has been eight years since GSGCNWI announced the first phase of our initial Master Property Plan. It is now time to evaluate where we are today, and where we want to be in the future. 

The objectives of Phase II of the Master Property Plan are to: 

  • keep our focus on the evolving needs of girls; 
  • thoughtfully and thoroughly align to our 3-year strategic plan; 
  • acknowledge the council’s healthy financial position today, and keep our limited resources focused on the future; 
  • reflect our readiness to invest in enhanced experiences for future generations; 
  • transparently engage stakeholders in next steps and solutions; 
  • reduce our need to divert dollars to deferred maintenance issues; 
  • and shift to leased office solutions to keep focus on mission, not repairs. 

Our focus on creating a master property plan began years ago, when we inherited a large portfolio of properties in 2008 after merging seven previously independent Girl Scout councils into one. We knew at the time that caring for more than 20 different camp and office properties would be too heavy a financial burden for us. 

In 2011, with the help of a committee of volunteers and property experts over the course of two years of research, we made the difficult decision to retire and sell several properties. At the time, our overall economy was struggling and so were most nonprofits, including GSGCNWI. We simply did not have the resources to make any investments in property repairs or amenities between 2010 – 2015. 

Then, between 2016 and 2019, we started to invest again. Using a combination of our operational budget and money we received from the sale of the properties, we have been able to put approximately $7 million into new or improved amenities at several of our properties. 

Yet even with those improvements, we are still faced with a daunting deferred maintenance issue, with needed repairs and updates exceeding $30 million. Too many of our properties, some used far less than others, need significant attention just to be operational and safe.

After much consideration, and again with the guidance of girls, volunteers, and many others, we have decided to concentrate our resources on building enhanced experiences for girls at four primary camp properties that cover the full footprint of our council: Camp Juniper Knoll (Wisconsin), Camp Greene Wood and Camp Palos (both in Illinois), and Camp Butternut Springs (Indiana). 

That means we will list for sale three camp/program properties (Pokanoka, River Trails, and Friendship Center). These  properties have  significant deferred maintenance issues and  are  not  fully utilized  by girls and families for myriad reasons. 

We’ll also list two very tired, maintenance-heavy gathering places for sale (Homewood and Merrillville), and look for leased space that will represent those communities instead of owning property. And finally, we will review options for our Chicago space at 20 S. Clark since that lease expires in 2021. 

Please note: Each property will continue to be open and in use until the property is sold.  This may be a lengthy process, so programs will continue to be scheduled as long as maintenance issues do not prevent activities from taking place. 

Visit our website for more information about our master property plan, and  to stay informed about future announcements.

Please send any questions and comments related to our properties to

Join a Girl Advisory Committee!

Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors: we’re calling on you to help us develop new and exciting programs for Girl Scouts council-wide!

Do you think outside the box? Have you been day-dreaming about Girl Scout programs you haven’t seen yet? Are you itching to take part in a girl-led project to benefit the council?

A Girl Advisory Committee is the place for you!

Make a Difference

This is an incredible leadership development opportunity to help create programs that reflect what you want to see in the future of Girl Scouts. As a member of a committee, you will have the chance to share your ideas on one of four topics: Cultural Awareness, Civic Engagement and Service, STEAM, or our new big expo, Green for Good!

Don’t miss out on this chance to collaborate with your peers and lead the way for your fellow Girl Scouts. We’re looking to you–– and we look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Share Your Voice

Committees will meet at the Vernon Hills Gathering Place on October 19 from 2-3:30 pm. Registration for the Green for Good and Civic Engagement committees closes on October 12, and the registration for the Cultural Awareness and STEAM committees closes on October 16, so make sure to reserve your spot soon!

Check out our programs page to find more amazing opportunities for girls of all ages!