Looking back at the Smart Cookies Badge Bash

Looking back at the Smart Cookies Badge Bash

Last Thursday, Sept. 23, community members, leaders in Girl Scouting, and supporters gathered at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to celebrate and garner excitement for the Girl Scout mission at our annual fall fundraiser, Smart Cookies Badge Bash, hosted by our Associate Board!

Attendees got a first-hand look at what Girl Scouts really do through interactive booths led by staff and alums from our council. These former Girl Scouts taught booth participants about fundamental Girl Scout experiences, from testing their speed at tying a bowline knot to putting their crafting skills to the test by designing a face mask. At a STEM-based booth sponsored by InventorCloud, attendees also got a chance to make their own Newton Disc to learn about color-light interactions.

All of these booths showcased exactly why investing in Girl Scouts matters: we provide Girl Scouts with experiences that help them find their voice, their interests and passions, and make an impact. Girl Scouts empowers young people who can be unapologetically themselves as they discover their strengths and rise to meet new challenges—whether they want to climb to the top of a tree or the top of their class.

Thanks to your support, we raised $67,000 and counting!

Check out all of the photos from the event here.

Your donation is an investment in girls, setting the stage for moments that will transform their lives.

Help ensure that ANY girl, ALL girls, can participate in Girl Scouts, right now, when they need it most.

Girl Scout Shaela recognized with the National Gold Award Scholarship

Girl Scout Shaela recognized with the National Gold Award Scholarship

What does success look like? A confident shade of Girl Scout gold. And when a Gold Award Girl Scout shares the real-world skills gained from earning the Gold Award—team building, managing a complex project from start to finish, or public speaking, to name a few—their resume sets them apart from their peers.

A Gold Award Girl Scout, no matter their background or ability, learns to tap into the world-changing power within her. She takes the lead in designing and enacting a plan for change and makes a positive impact in her community and beyond.

We are thrilled to announce that Girl Scout Shaela is the Gold Award Girl Scout from Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) to be awarded a national scholarship from Girl Scouts of the USA for extraordinary action in addressing the issue of food insecurity. Shaela’s work in building a relationship with Help for Hope, a local food and supply pantry in Coal City, Illinois, has earned her national recognition, and we are so proud.

Read on to hear about Shaela’s initiative, in her own words.

Coal City Community Care Project

Written by National Gold Award Scholarship Recipient Shaela

From the very beginning all the way to my current role in Girl Scouts, it has truly been one of forming lifetime friendships and acquiring priceless life and survival skills. I enrolled in Girl Scouts as a Daisy, the very first step of a beautiful journey I will never regret taking. My mother, aunt, and grandmother were all Girl Scouts before me, so it was important to me to continue the chain of strong, independent women in my family. Together with my cousin, I began the Girl Scout journey and the climb up the ladder of learning, exploring, leading, and providing service to others.

To earn my Gold Award, I partnered with the Help for Hope Food Pantry, a local food and supply pantry in Coal City, to assist my community physically and emotionally. I implemented a Letters of Love box for others to receive supportive and heartfelt letters which provide encouragement for the Help for Hope frequenters. In addition, I also constructed a Blessing Box/Micro-pantry, Drop-Off Donation Box, and provided numerous collection bins throughout town to collect needed food, supplies, cleaning products, personal products, and other items for the Help for Hope community. Finally, I planned and started an annual Drive-Thru Donation Drive in which community members can bring in donated items and supplies safely from the trunk of their car. All structures and events implemented went to the betterment of my community and to increase products offered at Help for Hope.

The number of people in need in my community was really what pushed me to work hard and continue with my Gold Award project. After volunteering at Help for Hope for a couple years prior to my project, I was able to see the large number of families and individuals frequenting the facility. In seeing the variety of items they offered at the pantry, I was deeply motivated to help them move forward as much as possible.

After the pandemic began, my passion to help others through difficult times only grew stronger as people began to lose their jobs and fall into financial struggles. With COVID-19 came a wave of unity among people, and I wanted nothing more than to partake in that very mission. So many are suffering right now because of this virus’s effects, and the mission of Help for Hope deeply inspired me to assist others, especially at such a crucial time. Thus, it was the heartbreaking suffering of those around me and those greatly impacted by the pandemic that pushed me to encourage members of my community and reach out as much as I could.

As someone who has been active in volunteer service for many years, my drive to continue to make a difference is something that is housed deep inside my empathy and compassion toward others. I have always had a very strong connection with people, and I have been able to form incredible connections with others by being able to lend a listening ear or a helping hand to those who I know are facing struggles. Knowing how these people feel, what they fight for, or what they are going through pushes me to continue to help and make a difference in the world.

I wish more than anything to provide aid that can assist in making that shadow leave my community and the world to establish peace and understanding for all. Getting rid of these negative emotions and actions that exist in today’s society is how humanity can achieve true unity. That goal of having acceptance, aid, equity, and love in the world is what keeps me going.

Girl Scouting is something that I truly value and treasure close to my heart. It has been such a constant part of my life for the longest time that I honestly couldn’t imagine life without it. Through all the meetings, camps, projects, trips, journeys, and events I have participated in, I have learned how to be strong, determined, compassionate, courageous, caring, helpful, and so much more. I have learned not only how to “make the world a better place” but how to follow each step of the Girl Scout Law and Promise.

I will forever fondly look back upon my younger years in Girl Scouts and treasure the inspiration I received from the program and the invaluable scouting experiences with my dear cousin and all my family and friends. They led me to where I am today and enabled me to make an impact. Thank you, Girl Scouts!

Time to Go Gold

Self-confidence and an unstoppable shine? You’re looking at a Gold Award Girl Scout, and she carries her remarkable leadership skills with her for life.

Join a century of women who have done big things. Learn more about Gold Award scholarships, the history of the Gold Award, and the benefits of going Gold

Sign up for our Highest Award trainings or a Take Action workshop to get started on your journey!

Get ready for Girls Change the World month!

We’re celebrating Girl Scouts Change the World Month and International Day of the Girl (October 11) with lots of programs and special events!

Stay tuned for more information!

Corinne Schillings Memorial Garden finds new home at Camp Palos

Corinne Schillings Memorial Garden finds new home at Camp Palos

Girl Scout camp is a special place, and a site of treasured memories for many, and now Camp Palos in Palos Park, IL, is home to a special memorial garden in honor of Corinne Schillings, a Girl Scout alum who lost her life on March 6, 2004.

The garden, until this year, had a special place at the Homewood Gathering Place. After Corinne’s passing, “we requested people not send flowers but asked that they plant trees,” Karen, Corinne’s mother and longtime Girl Scout volunteer explained. “We had over 60 trees planted in her memory in the parks in Homewood. That’s when the volunteers in the South Cook council asked the board if something could be made in [Corinne’s] memory at the office, so they planted evergreen trees and a garden.”

“When I found out the [Homewood] office was going to be sold, I asked if we could have the garden moved,” and the Corinne Schillings Memorial Garden now has a home at Camp Palos in the entrance of camp, a beautiful way to welcome our Girl Scouts into a meaningful camp experience. Karen hopes Girl Scouts and volunteers can take ownership of the garden and continue to pay tribute to Corinne, who loved to learn and explore.

The Corinne Jeannine Schillings Foundation is dedicated to preserving the memory of Corinne Schillings and providing scholarships to former Silver or Gold Award Girl Scouts who intend to study a foreign language or study abroad during college or university.

GCNWI CEO Nancy Wright shared, “A special thank you to the Schillings family for welcoming our girls and families with this beautiful garden celebrating Corinne’s life, as well as inspiring everyone to have fun making special camp memories.”

If you make it out to Camp Palos, take a second and reflect at Corinne’s memorial garden.

It’s time to come back to Girl Scouts

Nearly 80 percent of Girl Scouts told us that “Girl Scouts helped me feel more connected to other girls and my community.” When you press play on Girl Scouts, you press play on connection, community, and making treasured memories.

Renew your membership today!

The History of Girl Scout Calendars

The History of Girl Scout Calendars

Time for a Girl Scout History Lesson from the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Historians! 📚💚

Girl Scouts aren’t just known for cookies; calendars were also a hit, and are a great example of the resilience and quick-thinking that Girl Scouts have shown for over a century!

Calendar sales began as an alternative to cookies during World War II when sugar and other ingredients were hard to come by due to wartime rationing. The Girl Scout National Equipment Service produced the first calendar for the year 1944 and it sold for 25¢.

Many councils also produced their own calendars. DuPage County Council Senior and Cadette Girl Scouts first produced a local calendar in 1972 and sold it for 35¢.

Ruth Caragher, formerly a Girl Scout with Ship 167 in Downers Grove, recalls working on the 1991 calendar, “The best thing I remember about the experience was that the girls really did all the work. We had a weekly schedule and weekly goals. We had gobs of photos of girls doing stuff that leaders and others had taken and given to us to go through and consider for possible inclusion.

“We learned what makes a good photo for inclusion in the ‘collage’ style pages. We tried to have themes for each page, things like Cadette Senior Jamboree and camping, winter activities, regular troop meetings and girls in uniform and American flags, parades, ceremonies, etc.”

“In the end we each got a full case of printed calendars. Our ‘WORK’ was now in our laps and we had to go and SELL THEM! It was good though because I was proud of my work on the project. I wish I could do it again with the friends I made in Girl Scouts.”

Preserving Girl Scout History

Honoring the history of Girl Scouting in our local communities is a wonderful way to explore the evolution of one of the country’s oldest organizations dedicated to girls and women. You can read all about the GCNWI Girl Scout Historians on our blog, or visit our website for more information on how to get involved.

Become a part of our story!

Her next adventure to take, new territory to explore, or barrier to break, is all waiting her in the new Girl Scout year! We have carefully curated experiences to help girls think creatively and discover their interests, passions and ambitions without limitations.

Get ready to “press play” on virtual and in-person opportunities we have coming this fall and renew your membership!

Congratulations to the 2021 Pinnacle Award Class!

Congratulations to the 2021 Pinnacle Award Class!

Introducing the first-ever Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Pinnacle Award recipients! This award was created in partnership with our Adult Recognition Committee and council staff who work directly with Girl Scouts.

These Ambassador Girl Scouts are each amazing examples of young people stepping up and using their voice, taking the lead, and committing to their communities. Girl Scouts who earn the Pinnacle Award will receive a pin to wear proudly, a letter of congratulations from our CEO, and be listed in the Annual Recognition booklet.

Congratulations to these Girl Scouts!

The Pinnacle Award honors Ambassador Girl Scouts who have demonstrated outstanding leadership through their Girl Scout experience. To qualify for this award girls must document their experiences by earning at least seven leadership points achieved through a combination of Girl Scout and other extracurricular experiences.

Applications are currently closed, but be on the lookout for when they open to apply!

Press play on Girl Scouts!

Connecting. Testing her strength. Making a difference. Renew today to make sure your Girl Scout continues to shine her brightest.

She’s ready to explore, learn, and create. She’s ready to come back.

Press play with Girl Scouts and watch her confidence soar. Renew your Girl Scout membership today.

Camp CEO brings Girl Scouts and professional mentors together!

Camp CEO brings Girl Scouts and professional mentors together!

Girl Scouts and community leaders gathered at Camp Greene Wood for the fifteenth year of our premiere leadership program Camp CEO! Influential women making waves in their own careers met with high school Girl Scouts for a hybrid in-person and virtual week full of networking, leadership challenges, inspiring dialogue, and some fun in the sun.

At Camp CEO, Girl Scouts focus on self-awareness and self-discovery, learning public speaking, effective communication and collaboration skills, all while getting exposure to professional women in their community. Camp CEO mentor and SVP and Chief Customer Officer for NiSource Jennifer Montague shared: “During the week several senior executives shared our journeys with the girls and focused on exercises and topics ranging from leadership, teamwork, personal branding, listening with intention, networking and interviewing. Great fun!”

Girl Scout Courtney reflected on the experience: “The leadership challenge was amazing! It was so fun to be with girls I didn’t know that well, and by the end, we were the best trio ever.”

The Girl Scouts took away plenty from the experience; Courtney shared, “I learned that networking is a really great skill to have. Also hearing from a lot of the mentors that you should follow your heart [was] really inspiring.” Girl Scout Sydney added, “I always thought [networking] was something fancy when in reality it is just talking and meeting new people.”

Girl Scout Corrine continued, “I think Camp CEO provided me with many life skills. I learned that being a leader doesn’t mean being the loudest in the room; you need to be an understanding and adaptable leader that can help your whole team succeed.”

CEO/Founder of Driver’s Seat Tiana Clark shared, “I had a great time at Girl Scout’s Camp CEO. At Camp CEO, mentors like myself spent time with Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana teens engaging in discussion and activities around leadership, branding, networking, navigating challenging situations and everything in between! I had a blast!”

Managing Director and Head of Office for Marsh Julie Marcello added, “Loved being part of Camp CEO and joining all these great mentors and mentees. Full steam ahead for all these amazing high school Girl Scouts!”

Thank You!

We want to thank all of the incredible women involved in making Camp CEO a success, from our sponsors and community partners, to the mentors, to the staff, to the Girl Scouts themselves!

Open the door to amazing opportunities!

It’s not too late to join or renew your membership with Girl Scouts! Join today and get access to amazing leadership experiences like Camp CEO and so much more.

Meet the Gold Award Class of 2021

Meet the Gold Award Class of 2021

Gold Award Girl Scouts are the dreamers and the doers who take “make the world a better place” to the next level. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable and proof that not only can they make a difference, but that they already have.

Seniors and Ambassadors who earn the Gold Award tackle issues that are dear to them and drive lasting change in their communities and beyond. Think of the Gold Award as a key that can open doors to scholarships, preferred admission tracks for college, and amazing career opportunities. 

The Gold Award Class of 2021 from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) are young changemakers; they are innovators, organizers, and advocates. Each of these Girl Scouts poured their hearts and energy into projects that will leave a positive and lasting impact on others, and we are so proud of them!

Scroll through to meet the Gold Award Class of 2021!

Alexis T. Staying Alive

My original idea for my project, “Staying Alive,” was to CPR-certify members of my community. This new skill would allow people to act in the case of an emergency and have the potential to save lives. Due to the pandemic, I had to slightly change my project. I decided to start making face masks for people within my community and I attached a card that outlines the basic steps of CPR. These cards can be kept in wallets, cars or wherever else may be useful. The face masks I made were used by members of my community in order to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. It was important to me that I incorporated a new plan of action once I determined that I could no longer safely certify people. Even though I could no longer certify people in person, I knew that I still wanted to share this skill with others. By making the cards and masks, it allowed me to share this skill while still staying safe.

Allie D. From Eigth Grade to High School

My project is a presentation that is going to be put up on Bannockburn Elementary School website. The project gives tips and advice to help the eighth graders transition to the major high school in our town. The topics are clubs, academics, athletics, and some other social aspects.

Allison S. Pollinator Garden

Our church had a third of an acre “forest” full of invasive plants. I cleaned and mulched the area and created a pollinator garden using native plants. We also removed invasive trees and bushes, replacing them with native species.

Alyssa N. Fish Measuring Boards and Portable Tables (FLAG)

I made fish measuring boards and portable tables for the Will County Forest Preserve.

Alyssa S. Gaming for Women

I created a tournament for competitive Pokemon specifically designed to welcome women to play. Named the “Women’s Tournament,” I was able to create a safe space for women to feel welcome and play Pokemon, and also interact with other women in the community. I also created a Discord server for people to join and use that as the hub for women to practice and meet each other and view tournament information. I was able to livestream the event on Twitch so that everyone else in the community could watch and support the women playing in the tournament.

Amber D. Growing With The Elderly

I built and painted two raised gardening beds with wheels and have them to the American House Cedarlake Assisted Living Facility. Each bed has four wooden walls, caster wheels (for mobility), soil, and seeds. Since the residents are not allowed outside of the homes, adding a garden with fresh vegetables and herbs would gave them a new hobby (gardening), some new scenery to look at while inside of the home, and a new garden filled with fruits and vegetables that they can eat.

Amelia R. Prayer Garden

In order to bring attention to the ever growing awareness around mental health, a garden for prayer, reflection, meditation, and mindfulness was made to be accessible to the students and staff at the Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart. Complete with a bench, carefully hand painted rocks, and a mailbox with wonderful messages of positivity and mindfulness along with guides to meditation, this garden has been an exceptional addition to the school especially due to how no spaces at the school were specifically designed for students to go to for complete privacy prior to the completion of the garden. Located in the school’s outdoor garden, it gives students the chance to reconnect with nature and to take a moment to destress, away from the stressors of every day life at school.

Anna B. Mokena School and Park District Pet Cleanup

My Gold Award addresses the issue of pet waste left on the grounds of the community park and on the grounds of the adjacent school. The park and the large area around the school are very popular places for members of the community to walk with their dogs and these areas see a great deal of foot traffic. By providing pet waste receptacles, I have helped the community maintain the health and beauty of the grass and keep it free of pet waste, thereby allowing members of the community to better enjoy these outdoor areas.

Aren S. Supply Station

My project was created to help students who may not have access to important daily school supplies. I selected a school that over 76% of the population is on the free and reduced lunch plan. I wanted students to focus on their education and not on the financial burden that buying supplies places on those kiddos. I fundraised and had many supplies donated. After supplies were donated bags were created with school supplies the students needed. The additional school supplies were in a general location at the school for students to access when they were needed throughout the school year.

Arwen R. St. John’s Cemetery Veteran Memorial Map Project

My project makes sure that all veterans buried at St. John’s cemetery in Mokena, Illinois receive proper recognition by flag placement at the foot of their grave for Memorial Day. To achieve this goal, I worked with both the head of St. John’s Cemetery and the Mokena VFW Post 725 to produce a map of the cemetery that has the locations and names of all deceased veterans. This map is reproduced and distributed to those placing flags on the graves the weekend before Memorial Day and helps to ensure that no veteran is forgotten or left behind.

Ashley S. Comfort Carts

My project addresses the need for providing children’s ministry services for families with special needs children. After working in the Peer Partner program at my high school, I realized the importance of having more opportunities for inclusion for these children in my community. As a result, I researched, designed, and created a special needs program for Alleluia Lutheran Church called Caring Connect whereby special needs children can be assimilated into age appropriate Sunday School classrooms to promote independence and growth as well as build self-esteem for these children. The project also included the development of two mobile comfort carts that contain fidgets and specialized equipment needed to incorporate these children into a classroom in a safe and comfortable way. To reduce costs, I constructed several items such as sensory bottles, weighted lap pads, and weighted stuffed animals. The project also involved development of the program procedures and a training program and manual to qualify and train volunteers. After training, each special needs child is provided with a “buddy” each week to serve as their mentor.

Avery M. Distance Marker Project

I worked to support my community by implementing distance marker signs along the path in a local park. Also included with the distance markers is an opening sign with a summary of the history of the town and park. The goal is to encourage outdoor activity and beautify the park.

Brianna D. For the Love of STEM

I planned and hosted a virtual STEM event for 100 third and fourth graders in my community. Additionally, I made a website with curriculum, instructions, and required materials for future use. I aimed to decrease stigmas within STEM classes and courses that lead to disinterest. While instructing participants through a variety of STEM-related activities, I taught technical skills and soft skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.

Cali L. Mental Health Videos

During our turbulent teenage years, there’s a lot of things that can wrong and that can change. One thing that is affected during this time, though, is mental health. When I first started this project, I identified
that my mental health was not the strongest and that led to a series of issues, such as me losing friends
and stopping activities that I was passionate about. I wanted to make videos to help try to reverse those

Caroline E. Outdoor Oasis

The Outdoor Oasis project entailed creating a garden for hands-on agricultural and biological experiences for school children. In this project, I created a tiered “vertical” garden with many garden boxes in order to efficiently use the space, as well as created a traditional raised garden bed. The grade levels have split up the various gardening areas and will include it as part of their curriculum when teaching about plants. Additionally, they will be able to use the vegetables once they are grown. Finally, the garden also serves to beautify the courtyard that it is located in.

Claire B. Little Free Libraries

I went out and built/installed three Little Free Libraries around my community in places where they would be helpful and/or spark interest in reading. I aimed to provide as diverse stories as possible to expose my community to a broad variety of different narratives!

Delaney B. Diapers for Dignity

Nationwide, researchers estimated that 7 million children need diapers, and only about 300,000 of these children receive support from diaper banks. Diapers are an essential and often an overlooked need for
families who are struggling financially. Dignity, and overall family well-being are at stake when parents
and caregivers cannot afford an adequate number of disposable diapers. Diaper Depot provided low
income families in the North/Northwest region of Chicago the support they needed.

Eden H. Kenilworth Union Church Cares

I created a junior care guild to provide support to those struggling with mental health issues in my community. My project directly fought the negative impacts that COVID-19 had on the mental health of youth in my community. My junior care guild provides all types of support to teens in the area who are struggling such as delivering goodies and mailing cards.

Elliana B. Remodeling the Early Childhood Education Center at Concordia University

As schools are reopening this fall, they have an unexpected challenge to address, especially how to safely educate students during a pandemic. The Early Childhood Education Center at Concordia University Chicago has been working for many years to improve their playgrounds but they still had a few issues to address. These issues include having unusable outdoor storage for their toys and equipment and needing a wider variety of areas for children to play and explore.

I created two platforms that lifted the storage containers out of the mud and allowed the doors to swing freely. This also allowed for the toys inside to be stored cleanly instead of having them sit directly in the mud. I also created a kitchen to match the pots and pans that the teachers already had. This created an entirely new play area for the preschoolers who must spend most of their day playing outside due to COVID-19.

Heidi S. Raised Herb and Flower Boxes

My Gold Award involved the creation of three elevated garden bed boxes at a local retirement home in my community. These boxes allowed residents to have an outlet for the planning, growing and harvesting of their own herbs, vegetables and flowers. It also allowed for the socialization of the residents and collaboration of their efforts.

Janine G. Girls in STEM

I hosted three workshops with 29 girls. I did five experiments that related to science and also gave a presentation that looked at what STEM was and other resources that girls can use to continue their learning in relation to STEM. Each workshop was about an hour and a half and most of the girls were Girl Scouts; all of them were in grades 3-5.

Jenna H. Butterfly Prairie Garden

For my Gold Award I designed a butterfly garden at Camp Greene Wood. I did this by cutting and mulching a sitting area and path through a prairie, building butterfly houses which were placed along the path, and built an entrance arbor for the garden. I also made informational booklets to guide troops through the path and educate them about prairie plants and flowers as they walk through the garden. For the garden, I picked and harvested seeds to spread and plant in the spring to continue to sustain the prairie.

Jennifer B. Composting Makes Changes

I created a double decker compost bin at the garden plots at the Lisle Food Pantry. The goal of my project was to find a more sustainable way to get rid of waste that comes from a garden. I used two large drum barrels as the composters and used wood supports in order to stack them and make the barrels easy to turn. Another goal of the composter was to make it easy to use.

Jordan E. Grab and Go Book Bags

I collected reusable bags and books for children at the Lake County Children’s Advocacy center to choose from. The LCAC deals with children and teens who have been abused and the teens are often forgotten when people are giving donations. I collected books geared towards teens and they can fill up a bag to take with them.

Jordan K. “Pop In” Boxes

I organized a donation drive for two homeless shelters in my area. I made the boxes myself, developed social media sites for the drive, and also created a website. This drive was created because these specific shelters were struggling throughout the holiday season during the pandemic, and I wanted to find a way for myself and the community to help out.

Jordanne N. Hey Pretty Girl

Many girls develop low self-esteem and body image issues due to how media portrayals. I created the website www.heyprettygirl.net, a safe space where girls can discuss and express their feelings and emotions about themselves through links to books, poetry, and affirmations that uplift. My final pieces were a self-esteem workshop, creating a club at my school, and growing a long-lasting social media presence.

Karina V. Be Smart, Don’t Start

My project was about raising awareness on the dangers of drug abuse amongst youth. I spent time researching, interviewing experts, and creating a presentation that I gave to youth groups. I also shared the presentation with local schools and a non-for-profit organization as an additional tool augment their health curriculum. My presentation also created anti-drug youth ambassadors.

Katie C. Befriend a Butterfly

My Gold Award addressed the decreasing Monarch butterfly population, and the steps that community members could take towards positively impacting the species. I lead educational classes that taught how to identify butterfly eggs in the wild and raise caterpillars from home. At the end of each class, I gave participants take-home kits which included instructions on how to raise them, two or three butterfly eggs, and a stalk of milkweed that was grown from seed. The intention of including the kits was to not only help inflate future monarch generations by adding to their population, but also promote awareness within younger generations. Additionally, I worked with my local public works department to install a large monarch habitat in the community park. The butterfly garden included several caterpillar and butterfly food sources, as well as an assortment of perennials and a flagstone path for kids to walk across.

Kayla A. How to be a Teen Advocate

According to Everytown USA, nearly 2,900 children and teens (ages 0 to 19) are shot and killed annually, and nearly 15,600 are shot and injured—that’s an average of 51 American young people every day. My project is to increase awareness of this problem by being a teen advocate to reduce gun violence against kids ages (0-19) while helping others advocate for their cause.

Keeley M. Girls in STEM!

My Gold Award addressed the underrepresentation and stereotypes of women in STEM fields. Often, girls are not encouraged or directed to pursue a passion in a STEM field. In order to address this, I completed a two-part project. For the first part of my project, I attended 11 younger Girl Scout troop meetings in my local area and I coordinated STEM based troop meetings. I directed activities such as a coding team-building maze, building platform shoes from recycled materials, making kinetic sand, a math scavenger hunt, and a race car coding activity. For the second part of my project, I moderated a live, 2-hour zoom webinar, in coordination with the Indian Prairie Public Library in Darien, Illinois. Five accomplished women in STEM fields were on the panel. They answered various questions relating to STEM, including their experiences in the workplace and how they became so successful. Through this, I was able to give and provide opportunity to my community at large.

Kendall B. Climate Connection

I built a bridge to ensure safety to those horseback riding or hiking over a small creek. Additionally, I further educated younger scouts and children how to take care of the outdoors and love the Earth!

Korey Z. Bethel Church Micro-pantry

Located in Lansing IL, I created a micro-pantry at Bethel Christian Reform church, where I saw a need for struggling families. A micro-pantry is a small box-like structure that offers non-perishables and other basic necessities to anyone who needs them. This created an anonymous place where people can get items without judgement and donate without contact of others.

Lia P. Community Benches

I researched the importance of social skills, friendship, and cooperation among the youngest of school children, and decided to develop a community bench. To do this, I assisted in the researching, building, and execution of plans to build the bench for a local preschool. In addition, I created an instructional video and survey to measure the effectiveness of my project in the classroom.

Lillian R. Girls Leadership Club

The Girls Leadership Club is a space dedicated to the young women of my school community’s personal empowerment and promoting both female empowerment and discussion of women’s issues school-wide. Girls Leadership Club invites girls from grades 9-12 to gather in a space that is safe and comfortable to express themselves, develop leadership skills, and broaden their own understanding of women’s issues, all while cultivate a culture of female empowerment in our school. We engaged in service for women facing housing insecurity, spent time discussing ways to improve our school’s culture surrounding women, and spent time reflecting on our own self-image as young women. Girls Leadership Club is both an all-purpose empowerment space and advocacy group for the women of my school and the world.

Lily P. Domestic Violence Prevention

Education outreach in schools and in the community and promoting healthy relationships was my main goal for my project. I wanted to bring awareness of unhealthy relationships and to provide a source of support to those who may find themselves in an unsafe environment. By going out into the community, I was able to collect much needed donations for the Apna Ghar Women’s Shelter as well as sharing educational materials and tools to the community.

Lindsey M. Shelter Garden

[I beautified] a shelter for the homeless to make clients feel better about where they are. Just because they are homeless, doesn’t mean they should have to go to a shelter that looks like it isn’t cared for. Having a beautiful place to call home will inspire residents to keep going on their path.

Madeline H. Empowerment Program

My Gold Award addressed teen girl empowerment and was designed to serve teenaged high school girls as part of a new program being developed at Naperville’s Alive Center. The project focused on the development of program content and activities for the newly created teen-led, teen-driven program as well as the creation of a resource brochure on teen issues. The brochure, designed to help teens navigate various teenager challenges, was distributed free distribution at Alive Center’s various locations as well as provided in electronic form for continued distribution.

Maeve D. Duck Deck Construction

For my Gold Award, I worked alongside Willowbrook Wildlife Center to build “duck deck.” These are raised, waterproof platforms made from decking material to provide shelter for the ducks at the Willowbrook nature center. With a hide-box and a hinged ramp, these decks can be submerged in a adequate environment for waterfowl and serve as a habitat for up to 25 years. The construction took about 4 days start to finish, with several months of planning and communication between those involved and myself.

Maheen S. Adopt-a-Grandparent

A safe space where youth and senior citizen members from the local community could come together to share experiences and learn from one another. Events included game night, storytelling, arts and crafts, small group interviews and gardening.

Margaret S. Beautifying Countryside Park

My Gold Award addressed the issue of improving the ecosystem and beautifying Countryside Park. It is important for my project to improve the ecosystem of [the park] and to enhance the presence of native plants
as well as water ecosystems in the area. If this area is well maintained, it can impact the ecosystems
around the park which would impact the [community] as a whole. This project did teach my community about
native plants and the work it takes for a community to make something sustainable. My community will
takes care of Countryside Park while I am away. As an example, I hope my community realizes not littering can help the garden and ecosystem flourish.

Neeharika K. Facilitating Intergenerational Engagement and Improving the Livelihood of our Elderly

Many local low-income senior citizens face challenges such as food insecurities, health issues, financial struggles, and loneliness. Additionally, there is seemingly little communication and understanding across generations. I decided to address these issues by hosting a care package event to support the senior community and create an opportunity for students and seniors to interact. Just as I had finalized my plan, the pandemic hit canceling my event indefinitely. I persevered and made adjustments to fit new regulations, eventually delivering care packages to 100 local seniors. After distributing the care packages, I was grateful to listen to stories from seniors and hear I inspired new hope for youth leadership. Further motivated by this, I coordinated an intergenerational pen-pal project to create a lasting impact. I believe my project showed seniors a community of youth that cared for their health and wanted to bring them some joy.

Olivia J. STEM in the Park

“STEM in the Park” are signs that combine Science, Technology, Engineering and Math activities that use the playground equipment. Elementary school children can experience engaging learning activities while playing at Union Creek Park in Frankfort. Children will explore concepts like shapes, friction, gravity, speed, angles and much more.

Patricia M. POW/MIA Memorial

In my local cemetery I created a Prisoners of War (POW)/Missing in Action (MIA) memorial for the military. I also refurbished an old wooden chair for the local American Legion to use in their annual Memorial Day parade. This was a reminder for the community to always pay their respects to the ones who gave their lives for us at the Civil War cannon.

Rachel D. Christmas Shelter Store

My Gold Award addressed the issue of poverty by working with local homeless shelters to help reorganize and remodel their Christmas store in time for the holidays. This store allows people in the community to buy newer clothes and necessities with “Hesed Bucks” to help with the stressors the holidays can bring.

Rebecca F. Small Changes, Big Differences

I created a three week long video program where I reached out to young ladies and we talked about exercise, healthy eating, yoga, skin care, and mental health! Each day of the week I put out a new video I made onto our group Facebook page talking about one of our five core concepts, sharing tips and tricks to improve their everyday lifestyle! Throughout the three weeks I had talked to many of the girls via email and surveys to hear feedback from them and about the positive impacts that this experience gave them!

Scarlett O. Hats for Little Warriors

For my project, I learned to crochet hats for premature babies. I made four different sizes of the hats, as a way to impact a larger group of people. The hats that I made, I donated to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Edward-Elmhurst Hospital. These hats were brightly colored, and served as a way to remind the families of the babies in the NICU, that someone is thinking of them as they go through this difficult time in their lives.

Shaela O. Coal City Community Care Project

My goal was to increase the physical and emotional support for clients of Help for Hope and those in need in my community. Help for Hope is a local food and supply pantry in Coal City. I was able to achieve this by first implementing collection bins for supply donations at local churches, businesses, schools, and organizations. I also constructed a micro-pantry and donation drop-off box that provides anytime access to food, personal products, or other household supplies to those in need. In conjunction with the micro-pantry, I also created an instructional video on how to construct one as well, so that others may learn and become inspired to build one and spread love and assistance around their area as well. Additionally, I built a Letters of Love box, which allows community members to write letters of encouragement and hope to frequenters of the Help for Hope pantry, and help to bring a ray of sunshine to their day. Finally, I organized a drive-thru food and supply donation drive in order to be able to continue spreading awareness and support for Help for Hope, as well as restock their shelves annually. Overall, I was able to achieve my goal of lending a hand physically and emotionally to help those in need in my community.

Sheila T. Little Free Libraries

I built three Little Free Libraries and collected over one thousand books to stock them with. I gave three townships in Lake County a Little Free Library and at least two bins full of books for them.

Sloane J. The Importance of Freshman Year

My project was created to help incoming high school freshmen balance high school life. I talked about how it is important to stay focused freshmen year to be on track for what comes after graduation. I talked about how to balance social life with school work, how to manage time, SAT tips as well as options for after high school.

Taylor M. Niles North High School College Resource Center

The college resources center at Niles North High School did not maintain a list of educational summer programs. Currently, few students participate in summer programs, but I feel that more would enroll if the information was available. I created a comprehensive website containing educational summer programs. The site has over 25 different subject areas, each populated with info and the links to access these programs of their day playing outside due to COVID-19.

Teagan W. Theatre Content Organization Initiative

My project was centered around cataloging and organizing the storage spaces of my school’s theater program. I started by sifting through all of the materials in the storage spaces and separating the useful materials from the unusable materials. Next I cataloged the remaining materials in a spreadsheet. Finally I organized the materials by function, using shelving units and storage containers.

Tess O. RBHS Volunteer Choir

I founded and directed a student volunteer choir to perform at local nursing homes. The project addressed issues of senior isolation, while also providing choir students with opportunities for service. It was a great way for high school students to connect with the community, and to bring music to places that needed it most.

Drive-through, outdoor celebrations at both Camp Greene Wood and the Vernon Hills Gathering Place honored dedicated individual young Girl Scouts from throughout our council who earned their Gold Awards in 2020 and 2021: read our blog to see pictures and hear the story!

Learn more about earning the Gold Award on our website.

The Girl Scout Year In Review

The Girl Scout Year In Review

In 2020 and 2021, Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Girl Scouts, volunteers, family, and friends made the most of what was a uniquely difficult year. Girl Scouts pulled through; and we deserve to celebrate and look back on last Girl Scout year with pride!

Let’s take a look back at what we got up to and what our Girl Scouts accomplished.

Girl Scouts Kept It Going

Advocating for menstrual justice; building groundbreaking robotics technology to serve incarcerated youth; creating sustainable solutions to environmental issues; these are just some of the things our Girl Scouts have been up to this Girl Scout year.

Girl Scouts, whether they met in-person or virtually, kept the rhythm going through programs like Spark Days and our first-ever Hackathon, special events like Pigtails, Puffs & Ponytails, and independent service projects and creative activities of their own! We’ve kept up with Girl Scouts every week on our blog; make sure to catch up and read our Girl Stories.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program kept going too, and our Girl Scouts did fantastic! During this unprecedented year, GCNWI Girl Scouts worked hard to reach their cookie goals and gave more than ever to our Gift of Caring program. We also celebrated our GCNWI Cookie CEOs, Girl Scouts who were the top sellers in the council!

Their efforts proved (like the 2020 Cookie Program theme) that no matter what comes their way, “We’ve Got This!” Congrats to these Girl Scouts and all of the volunteers AND our supporters that helped make this cookie season thrive!

GCNWI Girl Scouts Zoe and Mali had the amazing experience of connecting with former First Lady Michelle Obama in the Zoom of a lifetime at GSUSA’s exclusive Becoming Me event! The Becoming Me event prompted 2,000 Girl Scouts across the council to gather their closest family to participate in this inspirational event: read more on our blog.

Surrounded by family, friends, and cheers, the members of the 2020 and 2021 classes of Gold Award recipients stepped into the limelight to receive bountiful accolades for their accomplishments! We highlighted all of our Gold Award Girl Scouts from the class of 2020 on our blog; stay tuned to read about the class of 2021!

One of our Girl Scouts, Therese M., made history last October, as she was named one of the 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scouts. We sat down with Therese for an in-depth conversation about her Gold Award initiative, Project Dandelion, and the power of the Girl Scout in the mission toward equality and anti-violence; read more.

Therese is just one of these amazing 2020 National Gold Award Girl Scouts—be sure to meet all of them!

New Democracy badges from GSUSA required girls to engage directly with their local political representatives to learn more about the democratic process in a year where civic engagement became especially important. Girl Scouts worked hard to get out the vote, met with local judges and mayors for live virtual Q&As, and Service Unit Managers provided suffrage-themed programming in a hybrid in-person and virtual session.

Girl Scouts also responded to calls for racial justice and liberation; Troop 40681 hosted a Black Lives Matter demonstration and created their own action resource guide. You can read about these Girl Scouts in the Chicago Tribune.

The Girl Scouts of the USA 55th National Council Session (NCS) saw nearly 1,200 voting delegates, along with girls, volunteers, staff, and board members from across the country gathered virtually to celebrate Girl Scouts and consider six proposals affecting the Girl Scout Movement. For our council, this NCS was a momentous success! Two proposals authored and presented by GCNWI were passed, the first time two proposals from the same council have been approved! We are incredibly proud of everyone who made this happen; read more about it and our amazing National Council Delegates.

Twelve fantastic GCNWI Girl Scouts played an important role in the NCS proceedings: Leah, Alonda, Caroline, Dex, Alany, Emily, Ariana, Kate, Erin, Dakota, Carlie, and Laura. Read our blog to hear from Alaina Greene, a GCNWI staff member, who helped the girls take the lead and start their own girl-led forum!

Girl Scouts were not alone in their amazing work; volunteers have ALSO kept the rhythm going, and we can’t thank them enough! Whether they are our Council Historians who collect, preserve, and share the history and legacy of Girl Scouts across the nation and in our area, our troop leaders who supported their Girl Scouts by providing stability throughout the pandemic, or anything in between, we are so grateful for their sustained commitment to the Girl Scout mission.

You can read volunteer stories on our blog, too!

Last September, we hosted our first ever premiere virtual fundraising event, Smart Cookies: Stand for More, an evening dedicated to uplifting our tireless girls and members. The night showcased powerful stories from our members and Girl Scout champions, inspiring words from our CEO Nancy Wright and Associate Board members, and a council-wide and community pledge to support the future success of our girls.

Watch the Smart Cookies program above!

During this year’s Tribute to Achievement program, we focused on Moments that Matter: those moments in life, big or small, that forever change your future, your life, or the lives of those around you. And you, our supporters, made the Moment Matter like never before: thanks to generous donations, the council raised over $517,000 for our Girl Scouts! You can watch the program above if you missed it!

Thank you for an amazing year together!

We are so proud of everything our council members have accomplished and overcome this year, and we’re so excited for a year full of excitement, friendship, and even more fun!

Renew your membership today and make sure you come along with us!

Before we get to fall, though, there’s still more to do! Read our blog to learn about what’s coming up this summer and fall with Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI).

Meet the Global Action Volunteer Team (Again!)

Meet the Global Action Volunteer Team (Again!)

Our Girl Scout volunteers are just like our Girl Scouts: fearless and determined! If you haven’t heard of the Global Action Volunteer Team (GAVT), it’s time to get to know them! This month’s Volunteer Spotlight goes to a special group of volunteers from Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) who are passionate about travel, cultural awareness, and sharing their knowledge with the Girl Scouts.

The Global Action Volunteer Team began in 2012 in conjunction with the GSUSA Global Girl Scouting initiative, and is lead by Maureen Ewing and council staff liaison Ashley Christensen. Current team members include Camille Gonzalez Jensen, Davia Wilkerson, Denise Urban, Fawna Black-Cicotte, JodiLyn Simmons-Machota, Karen Zeller, Kimberly DeWitt, Shari Schmidt, and Taylor Tengelsen, with new members Yaqoota Aziz and Geraldine Adams joining in 2021.

All the members LOVE to travel! The GAVT uses their experiences to engage and inspire girls to want to learn more about the world around them. They aspire to increase awareness of Global Girl Scouting amongst girls, parents, volunteers, and staff. The team wants to help other Girl Scout volunteers, especially leaders, understand the importance of and feel comfortable with travel and its progression throughout the Girl Scout program.

Maureen said, “Travel fosters confidence, compassion, curiosity, leadership, and independence. [Through travel,] girls learn to be citizens of the world and commit to making the world peaceful and equitable for all.”

Shari also believes that traveling with Girl Scouts helps girls in many ways: “Travel is an education that cannot be replicated with a video game or in a book or in a classroom. The best part of travelling is that the lessons are embedded. You don’t have to have a formal plan, even wandering from one place to another creates lifelong learnings that create the foundations for new adventures.”

One of the team’s greatest accomplishments is starting the brand-new GCNWI Travel Scholarship. More information on how girls can apply for this scholarship will be provided later this year!

The GSGCNWI GAVT believes that those who expand their worldview through global programming and travel opportunities will become more knowledgeable, compassionate citizens of the world. The team hopes that every Girl Scout has the opportunity to become a responsible and effective global leader. They want Girl Scouts to understand the world in a more open-minded, empathetic way. By seeing, and hopefully understanding other cultures, Girl Scouts can grow into conscientious citizens of the world.

If you want to learn more about traveling as a Girl Scout or about the Global Action Volunteer Team and how to join, check out our council’s travel webpage. If you are interested in giving a gift to the Travel Scholarship, you can do so on our website!

All of us at Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana say a big thank you, to the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Global Action Volunteer Team (GAVT). We appreciate you, your dedication, work, and wonderful contributions to Girl Scouts!

The GAVT has their own blog series so you can get to know them a little better (and hear some awesome travel stories and tips, too!).

Who We Are Part 1 Who We Are Part 2  | Why You Should Try Backpacking | Dreaming of Future Travels? Plan with GCNWI | Adventure to the World Centres: Our Chalet Switzerland! | Adventure to the World Centres: Our Cabaña Mexico! | Adventure to the World Centres: Pax Lodge London!  Adventure to the World Centres: Sangam India!  |  Guide to Safety While Traveling | Research travel as a Gen Z | Debunking the Myth: You CAN Save for Travel | How to Pack for a Big Trip

The Global Action Volunteer Team produced a series of videos showing off their neighborhoods! Watch the series on our YouTube, then check out these neighborhoods with your troop or family.

We want to know about your favorite town or neighborhood with your very own video! You can even bring Flat Juliette with you on your tour. Once you’ve made a video, share them on our website

Download Flat Juliette »
Download Flat Juliette Junior »

Help make travel adventures like these possible for more Girl Scouts through the GCNWI Travel Scholarship! Scholarship funds provide girls facing financial hardship with the resources to plan and pursue travel, from council-sponsored day trips to international journeys through the Destinations program. Together, we can help Girl Scouts become more knowledgeable, compassionate citizens of the world through global programming and travel opportunities.

Member Spotlight: Melissa Young-Bridgeforth!

Member Spotlight: Melissa Young-Bridgeforth!

This week we are spotlighting the amazing work of Girl Scout volunteer Melissa Young-Bridgeforth, who has been a part of the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) community for more than 20 years as a member, a national and council delegate, Democratic Process Task Group chair, a troop leader, service unit manager, and MORE! Melissa’s service has gone above and beyond (and she is a recipient of the Thanks Badge for her volunteer work!), so this week, we are turning the tables and thanking her.

Read on to hear from Melissa about her Girl Scout legacy and relationship with GCNWI.

Volunteer Exemplifies What It Means to Be a Girl Scout

Melissa has been involved with Girl Scouts at almost every level of service. She first volunteered as a troop leader for her daughters, then as a service unit manager, and after voicing her concerns about Girl Scouts in the West Side of Chicago, she became a Council Delegate, “and somewhere in between there became a trainer.” After 10 years as a Council Delegate, Melissa has served as a National Delegate, and also serves as Delegate Chair. “Sprinkled throughout there, I still co-chair for the product programs (volunteer committees supporting both the Girl Scout Cookie and Fall Product Program) and still train if I’m needed.”

“When I started out as a service unit manager, I wasn’t liking how things were being communicated. Somebody [at the council] told me I needed to step up, so I kept stepping up. As my service started to grow, I became a mentor by default, because you have to recruit people if you have no one there to help tell them how to do things!”

Melissa leads by example, and people respect that. Her advice to younger or new volunteers: “Voice your opinion and make sure it’s heard and understood, period. That confidence and rapport with everyone around you will build. I think new leaders need to have that confidence; if you have it in your personal life or your workplace, bring it to Girl Scouts, also.”

As far as the future of Girl Scouts is concerned, Melissa has plenty of hope. “If enough of us are making this day better than the next, the world will become better… We are making baby steps, and baby steps are good because we still have glass ceilings everywhere. Each generation we’re building girls who are more robust, more willing to get up and start talking to people.”

“My personal perk from being a Girl Scout is that it helps me, we, find the skills we already have, period. The best part is being put in situations that constantly challenge me to refine my skills, especially the ones I think are my weakest link.”

Thank you so much to Melissa for sharing her story with us!

Lead Girls Through Our Becoming Me Program Series

Inspired by themes from Michelle Obama’s Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers, this new program series will guide girls of all ages to become their best selves. 

Volunteer to guide girls as they explore the truth in their own stories and the power of their voices! You will work with girls during 6-8 fun-filled and inspirational virtual sessions.

Sign-up to get started »

Learn more about volunteering with GSGCNWI today!

Renew by June 30 and Enjoy Exclusive Membership Perks!

When you stick with Girl Scouts, you’re not just giving your girl something to do, you’re giving her someone to be. The bravest, boldest, best version of herself. The version of herself walks with her head a bit higher and acts with confidence.

Renew her membership for 2021-22 today and she’ll receive a FREE “We’ve Got This” patch, plus access to the newest programs for the summer and beyond! 

Learn more on our website.