Becoming a Girl Scout Brownie 

Told by Council Historian, Christine A. Caragher 

A friend of mine is a Daisy leader and is now getting the troop ready for their bridging ceremony. This event has inspired me to look back on the tradition of becoming a Brownie and share a bit about the Brownie Program and its origins. 

At the beginning of Girl Scouting, there were only Girl Scouts, which started at age 11. Only one complication: the Girl Scouts were often responsible for their little sisters, as they often had to babysit the little ones. To solve this problem, the first official Brownie Program was created.  

The program and its principles were inspired by the children’s book, The Brownies by Julia Horatia Ewing. In the book, the Brownie is a quiet, clever fairy helper who helps the mortals in their homes by doing “good turns.” Early Brownies had traditions like making a Brownie Promise and being “obedient and helpful to other people, especially those at home.” They had a motto: “Be Prepared,” and a cry: “L. A. H.” which stood for “Lend A Hand.” The Brownies became little versions of their big sister Girl Scouts. They also went by the nickname “Junior Scouts.” 

The leaders were lovingly called Brown Owl and Tawney Owl. The leaders had a guidebook, The Brown Book for Brown Owls. (Note: the council historians have this book in our collection. You may request to see it. You may request any book in the collection if you ask by emailing

Only Brownie Girl Scout leaders had a handbook titled Leader’s Guide to the Brownie Scout Program. Some topics were: Service Brownie Scouts Can Give, The Brownie Song, Brownie Scout Troop’s Own Special Days, Suggested Activities for Brownie Scouts in the Outdoors – Three Years of Progressive Activities, and lots more! The handbook also included tests and requirements to lead the Brownies to awards and become Girl Scouts! 

It was not until 1951 that Brownies got their handbook. It was titled Brownie Scout Handbook. The book was all about Girl Scouts and traditions, and, in those days, a girl had to attend four meetings, pay $1.00 for national membership dues, and recite the Brownie Promise before becoming an official Brownie.  

I became a Brownie in 1957, and we still used the 1951 handbook. My mom was one of the troop leaders. We had a huge troop and three leaders. It was great! I went through Girl Scouts until I reached Cadettes in 1962. I later became my two daughters’ Girl Scout leader until they became Seniors. And now, I am a Girl Scout historian! Thanks, Mom!  

Today, the Daisy Program starts in kindergarten, and when Daisies reach second grade, they can become Brownies through a special bridging ceremony.   

You may be wondering: what is a bridging ceremony? 

A bridging ceremony is when troop members, volunteers, and family gather to recognize those who are ready to move up a level in Girl Scouting. They are a time to reflect on the past and look toward the future with confidence, courage, and character. 

Bridging ceremonies happen between all levels of Girl Scouts. Each level of the bridging ceremony is unique, but all ceremonies are a key part of the life of a Girl Scout.  

For a bridging to Brownie ceremony, the words are special. The ceremony relates to the same children’s book that the Brownie Program was inspired by. 

The leader states, “To prepare for bridging today, our troop read “The Brownie Story,” a story about girls who went to a forest in search of “very helpful persons” called Brownies. There they met a wise old owl who told them that they could find the Brownie if they looked upon the magic pond and finished a magic rhyme. Now we, too, will perform a little magic. I’d like to call all new Brownies to stand around the magic pond and listen carefully while I read this poem. 

Cross your little fingers, stand up on your toes,  

That’s a bit of magic that every Brownie knows.  

Now we all are standing inside a forest glade,  

Listen very carefully; see the magic made.  

And tucked inside this great big wood,  

You’ll find a pond that’s pure and good.  

Then turn yourself around three times, 

Gaze into the pond; complete the rhyme.” 

One at a time, each new Brownie walks to the pond and is met by a co-leader or helper who turns her in a circle while the Girl Scout says, “Twist me and turn me and show me the Elf; I looked in the water and saw myself!” The Girl Scout then receives a Brownie Membership Pin pinned upside down and returns to her fellow Girl Scouts. The leader explains that Girl Scouts must perform three good deeds for their family for their pin to be turned right side up.  

After the three good deeds are done, the Girl Scout is now ready for new adventures, new badges, new skills to learn, and new trails to blaze as an official Girl Scout Brownie.  

How Girl Scouts Are Leading the Charge for Environmental Change 

Are you or your troop working on a service project or highest award dedicated to the environment?  

If so, you’ll want to apply for the 2023 Becker Eco-Advocacy Award to receive funds to help in your efforts to make a difference in your community. The deadline is May 19, 2023. 

Becker Eco-Advocacy Award recipients are Girl Scouts who advocate for and build sustainable projects to preserve the environment and make lasting differences in their communities.  

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana would like to recognize the 2022 Becker Eco-Advocacy Award recipients who are environmental superstars in their community and living out the Girl Scout mission of building a better world. 

Congratulations to: Faith from Troop 20871 in Chicago, IL, Troop 45856 from Lakemoor, IL, and Troop 15459 from Munster, IN.   

Please read on to learn how their efforts are contributing to making the world a better, healthier, and safer place for all.  

Faith, Troop 20871, Chicago, IL:  

Faith was inspired to expand the community garden so all residents in her community could harvest fresh and healthy foods. Faith constructed new garden beds close to the sidewalks so people could pick food free of charge. Faith also included raised garden beds that are exclusively for people with disabilities, allowing people to harvest the vegetables standing up so they don’t have to bend down. “A neighbor of mine, Mr. Kevin, recently had a stroke. He wants to garden but can’t bend down. He can now use his wheelchair to harvest the vegetables,” said Faith.  

Faith will continue her work by tending the garden beds to ensure that the garden will flourish with fresh vegetables and remain in her community for many more years.  

Take a look at some of the photos below of Faith’s project.  

Troop 45856, Lakemoor, IL:  

Troop 45856 is working with the Lake County Forest Preserve to create a pollinator garden at the Ryerson Woods Visitor Center. The troop is currently picking out the plants, growing, and designing them so they can turn their pollinator garden into a certified monarch waystation this summer. When the troop met with Superintendent Bob Gold of Big Hollow School District to share about their project, he announced that the school district board wanted to double the money being put into the troop’s project and dedicate the garden to one of the school’s staff members retiring this year. The support from the Becker Eco-Advocacy Award and the school board allows Troop 45856 to expand their project into something more meaningful and sustainable than they ever anticipated. 

Troop 15459, Munster, IN:  

Troop 15459 is currently building a butterfly garden in their community to complete their Bronze Award. They hope to have this done by the end of spring 2023. 

Stay tuned for more updates from all our 2022 Becker Eco-Advocacy Award recipients.  

About the award: 

The Philip J. Becker Eco-Advocacy Endowment Fund honors the memory of Philip J. Becker, a life-long educator who was devoted to inspiring young people to understand the urgency of transitioning to innovative, renewable, and sustainable energy sources. His family, with strong Girl Scout ties, honors his memory and his passion for the environment by funding these awards to inspire girls to take action to make the world a better place. 

How can I receive this award? 

Becker Eco-Advocacy Award recipients are Girl Scouts currently working on a service or highest award project dedicated to environmental issues. 

Becker Eco-Advocacy Award applications are open now and will close on May 19, 2023. 

Learn more and apply today!

Remembering Girl Scout Volunteer, Pat Walenga

As a volunteer leader, one usually looks to an experienced leader for instruction, advice, and mentoring. Pat Walenga, who died suddenly in 2019, was one of those mentors. 

A photo of Pat’s tribute.

Pat Walenga was a Girl Scout herself. With disruptions in her own life growing up, she could always count on Girl Scouts as the place that provided stability. 

Initially an assistant leader for two years when she was just out of high school, Pat returned to being a leader when her older daughter needed one. Pat never stopped being a leader over the next forty years, which led to having four or five troops at a time every year.

Pat (fourth from right) with fellow Girl Scout Historians.

Pat was steadfast in promoting Girl Scouting. She was a service unit manager, area chair, master trainer, council and national delegate, board of directors’ member, board secretary (for the Girl Scouts of Chicago, before the merger of councils in 2008), and historian. She served on numerous committees: 75th Anniversary, By-Laws, Contemporary Issues, Outdoor, Long-Range Property, and Field Policy. 

With Pat’s many jobs, her dedication to girl involvement and experiences was always at the heart of what she did. Girl Scout activities needed to be fun, as well as a place to learn skills, learn about oneself, and learn about others.

Pat as her clown character, “Yum Yum,” posing with her husband.

At Salmagundi, a northwest area annual event she ran, Pat appeared as Yum Yum, her clown character. On camping trips and outdoor events, Pat would have teams of girls go on an unnatural hike, looking for non-natural items near the path.

At times, questions were asked at troop meetings that girls did not feel comfortable asking in any other environment. One Daisy was worried that her grandparents would be sent back to Mexico; Pat was there to listen. Pat was always there to squeeze the hand of a Junior who got a bad grade; she encouraged a Cadette struggling with school; she hugged and assured others.  

Pat connected not only with girls but also connected with former Girl Scouts wherever and whenever she could. When Girl Scouts of Chicago was considering selling Camp Juniper Knoll, Pat provided the local newspaper with a very old photo from the archives which showed young campers with lily pads on their heads; a half-million-dollar donation was received from a woman who remembered the event, saving the camp.

Pat received every award over the years. However, her most outstanding achievement was the fun and adventures with her many Girl Scouts. Her reward was the joy of working with the girls to help them become confident and caring women. 

Thank you for supporting Resilient, Ready, and Strong Girl Scouts at Tribute to Achievement 

On March 16, 2023, we celebrated our Tribute to Achievement Event at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago by recognizing our awardees who have made the world a better place by advancing opportunities for girls and women. 

There was magic that could be felt around the room the entire night. From the smiles as Girl Scouts sold cookies during dinner (I mean, who could resist? Those Girl Scouts were on a mission!) to heartfelt emotions as awardees and Girl Scouts shared personal stories about what being a Girl Scout means to them.  

Carole Brown’s acceptance speech for the Luminary Award was extremely powerful and touched the hearts of everyone in the room. 

“When I look back on my time as a Girl Scout, I realize that Girl Scouts changed the trajectory of my life. The Girl Scouts gave a little Black girl her voice back. They let a little Black girl be seen for more than the color of her skin,” said Carole. 

Carole’s remarks mirrored Girl Scout Sydney’s story about being resilient and wanting to be seen as smart, creative, and determined despite persistent stereotypes that “girls are for glitter; boys are for science.”  

We also honored Josephine (Jodi) Bahl with the Girl Scout’s Own Award. A former board member and lifetime Girl Scout, Jodi was the perfect recipient of this year’s award. For our Corporate Award, we honored McDermott, Will & Emery, a long-standing supporter of our council and a fantastic partner. The award was accepted by Michael Boykins, Managing Partner of the Chicago office.  

Another highlight of the evening was the video about how girls are learning to be Resilient, Ready, and Strong in the outdoors. You can watch the video below. 

Thanks to your generosity, we raised nearly $540,000 and counting to provide life-changing experiences for girls and help them grow to be Resilient, Ready, and Strong. To relive the magic of the evening, or to share it with others, check out the slideshow here. 

A special thank you to our 2023 Tribute to Achievement Sponsors!  


The History of Girl Scout Week

Girl Scouts take pride in recognizing the traditions and special days that make up Girl Scouting. Girl Scout Week is a perfect example of how Girl Scouts and Girl Scout volunteers come together and showcase their Girl Scout spirit. Girl Scout Week 2023 started on March 12 and concluded on March 18. Girls had a great time participating in the many fun activities throughout the week, including birthday parties, outdoor activities, ceremonies, community service, exploring Girl Scout traditions, and much more.

The tradition of celebrating Girl Scout Week is lively, but did you know that from 1919 to 1953, Girl Scout Week was observed in the fall? It included Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday (October 31), and each day of the week had a different focus:

Sunday         Girl Scout Sunday

Monday        Homemaking Day    

Tuesday        Citizenship Day      

Wednesday   Health and Safety Day       

Thursday      International Friendship Day

Friday          Arts and Crafts Day

Saturday       Out-of-Doors Day

During the National Council Session (NCS) in 1953, it was decided to combine Girl Scout Week with Girl Scouts’ birthday and celebrate during the week that includes March 12.

Why March 12?

On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon Low held the very first Girl Scout meeting in Savannah, Georgia, making March 12 Girl Scouts’ birthday.

Since the NCS in 1953, Girl Scout Week has started with Girl Scout Sunday and ended with Girl Scout Jummah/Sabbath/Shabbat Saturday.

Girl Scout Jammah/Sabbath/Shabbat Saturday, as a part of Girl Scout Week, was established to spread awareness of Girl Scouting at places of worship, to share the Girl Scout legacy of service to others, and deepen girls’ connection to their faith and Girl Scouting.

Everything in Girl Scouting is based on the Girl Scout Promise and Law, which include many common principles and values found across religions. Therefore, during Girl Scout Week, faith partners join us to help girls celebrate the connections between their faith and Girl Scouts.   

Girl Scout Week connects Girl Scouts across the globe.

We hope you had an unforgettable experience celebrating this historic Girl Scout tradition.

Support Girl Scouts at Tribute to Achievement

“Resilient. Ready. Strong.” Grounded in optimism, yet often fueled by adversity, these three powerful words speak volumes about the inner fortitude it takes to navigate a world of everyday challenges and difficult decisions. Life is rarely easy. Failure can overshadow success. Self-doubt, inequities, and biases influence our view of reality.  

Girls, especially, need a place where they can build the skills to overcome those doubts and see a world of opportunity. As Girl Scouts, girls learn to find their purpose, passion, and perspective by accentuating the positive qualities they already have and practicing the vital skills of decision-making, risk-taking, and leadership that build resiliency over time. To thrive, girls need advocates who rally around them, encourage them, and invest in them. They need you. 

Please join us on March 16 to support the critical work of Girl Scouts and sustain access to leadership and formative experiences for every girl in our community. 

We are honored to recognize our awardees who have made the world a better place by advancing opportunities for girls and women. 

Meet the Honorees:

Corporate Award

Receiving the Corporate Award is McDermott Will & Emery, a long-standing partner of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI). Accepting the award will be Michael Boykins, Chicago Managing Partner. McDermott Will & Emery has been a valued collaborator with Girl Scouts GCNWI over many years, and we are thrilled to honor this relationship. 

The Girl Scout’s Own Award

The Girl Scout’s Own Award honors our very own former Girl Scouts GCNWI Board Member, Josephine (Jodi) Bahl. Jodi is a lifetime Girl Scout member and was active in a troop growing up in the St. Croix Valley council. We are thrilled to present this award to a long-time champion of Girl Scouting and our council.  

Luminary Award

Carole L. Brown is head of Asset Management Group for The PNC Financial Services Group. In this role, she is responsible for leading PNC’s wealth management and private banking services for high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals and families, as well as custom investment and advisory solutions for institutional clients.  

We are thrilled that PNC Financial Services Group is the Presenting Sponsor of this year’s event. Thank you, PNC!! 

Don’t Miss Out 

Join us on March 16 to celebrate these incredible honorees, along with girls and women who are leading with purpose and passion. 

Meet the Class of 2022 Pinnacle Awardees!  

 The Pinnacle Award, a Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana-specific award, honors Ambassador Girl Scouts who have demonstrated leadership in Girl Scouting and their communities! We were honored to recognize 19 outstanding Girl Scouts and young alums in the Pinnacle Award’s second year.  

Read on to meet some of these Girl Scouts.  

Girl Scout Grace, earned the Pinnacle Award by attending Camp CEO, earning her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Award, providing leadership in a girl-led interest group, and serving in a leadership capacity outside of Girl Scouts.   

What is the value of Girl Scouting in your life?   

 Being in Girl Scouts gives you an instant family; it has pushed me to be a better person, and that is a big part of Girl Scouts. Who doesn’t want to be a better person? Learning so much about all parts of life is another big benefit; there are opportunities, from working on cars to holding a dinner party.  

What do you wish others knew about Girl Scouts?  

It is not just spa parties. There’s an opportunity to do whatever your heart desires in Girl Scouts. Some people like going outdoors (like me), and others like staying indoors. There is something for everyone within Girl Scouts.  

What keeps you going? What drives you to make a difference in the world?   

My passion is indescribable. I don’t have a reason for it; I just have it. I see an issue, and I want to fix it, and that’s what I attempt to do every day. Seeing how people live drives me to learn more and help them if necessary. Support from friends and family also really helps me keep pushing.  

Grace is now a freshman in college and said, “Here, I am still making a difference, just in a unique way. I have started working on founding a zero-waste store on our school’s campus to help students and the environment all at once!”  

Girl Scout Ameenah, earned the Pinnacle Award though serving as a District Delegate and program aide, earning her Bronze and Silver Award, traveling with Girl Scouts and serving in leadership positions within her service unit and community.   

What is the value of Girl Scouting in your life?  

Girl Scouting taught me leadership skills and responsibilities. Girl Scouts has added a great deal to my life in the form of having the ability and opportunity to give back to a program that brought me out of my shell and made me the confident person I am today.  

What do you wish others knew about Girl Scouts?  

Girls Scouts goes beyond elementary school. Those older girls at cookie booths are, in fact, Girl Scouts. That there are so many choices. That Girl Scouts is what you make it. You can do as little or as much as you want; your Girl Scout experience is entirely up to you. There are so many opportunities and options within Girl Scouts that there really is something for everyone.  

What keeps you going? What drives you to make a difference in the world?  

I want to make sure future generations don’t have to go through the same issues I had. Essentially to make the world a better place, better than at least how I found it.  

What drove me was a desire to prevent future students from having the same issues I had regarding handwriting and schoolwork in general. As a left-handed student, I was told that I was using the “wrong” hand while writing even in second grade, and there is a noticeable difference in my handwriting on a desk with an arm on the right side, lacking support for people who write with their left hand, and a flat-topped neutral desk. I want to help to ensure that no students’ schoolwork suffers because of what desk they happen to sit in that day. Also, they are taught early on the skills they need to succeed as a left-handed student in this day and age.  

Ameenah is planning to go to college and study engineering and continues to volunteer with a Brownie troop.  

 Girl Scout Erika, earned the Pinnacle Award by traveling with Girl Scouts, earning her Silver and Gold Award, and serving in a leadership position in a girl-led interest group and the community.  

What is the value of Girl Scouting in your life?   

Girl Scouts creates a supportive community for every girl, allowing her to explore her curiosities and passions. In my life, Girl Scouts has led me to make friends and find a supportive, embracing community where I can explore and grow into myself.  

What keeps you going? What drives you to make a difference in the world?  

The feeling of satisfaction keeps me going, knowing I did all I could and tried my hardest. This idea is very helpful because it also applies to successes and failures. The idea that I can do anything I set my mind to gives me the drive to do difficult things and keeps me going.  

What types of changes do you think need to happen in society and your community? How do you see Girl Scouts affecting these changes?   

I think our society needs to change to be more compassionate to other people. I can see Girl Scouts affecting these changes because Girl Scouts is “a sister to every Girl Scout,” meaning Girl Scouts already upholds these values and can influence and progress society to do the same.  

 Erika is looking forward to what’s next, which includes college!  


Girl Scout Olivia, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Bronze Award, serving as a CIT (counselor-in-training), District Delegate, traveling with Girl Scouts, and serving in a leadership capacity within her service unit and community.   

What is the value of Girl Scouting in your life?  

Girl Scouts has given me a lot of opportunities throughout my life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. From traveling abroad (even though it was canceled due to COVID) to camping outdoors and even connecting with scouts across the country, the experiences I’ve had with Girl Scouts has forever shaped my life to where I am now.  

What do you wish others knew about Girl Scouts?  

I wish people knew that Girl Scouts is for every age and we’re doing more than just selling cookies. We have been able to provide a welcoming and accepting space for everyone, and I think we should be recognized for that.  

What types of changes do you think need to happen in society and your community? How do you see Girl Scouts affecting these changes?  

I think communities need to start accepting that the population is very diverse, and we should all be celebrated for it. I think Girl Scouts has done a good job at providing inclusivity and representation for younger girls, especially when they may not be in a diverse area. Additionally, as a suggestion, I would love to see Girl Scouts advocate more for community service outside of earning awards; service shouldn’t be something required, rather it should be something that they learn is important for everyone.  

Olivia is currently a freshman majoring in biology and minoring in East Asian language and culture. She keeps in touch with her old troop and enjoys sharing her Girl Scout experiences with her peers!  

Girl Scout Shaela, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Award, serving as a program aide, CIT (counselor-in-training), and serving in a leadership capacity within her service unit and community.   

What is the value of Girl Scouting in your life?  

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. It has helped me to communicate effectively, form life-long friendships, network with others, lead when needed, and it has improved my confidence as a person. I have grown so much due to Girl Scouts, and that development is something I will not take for granted. 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. The values included in those words are values that I hold true in my personal life, and because of this, Girl Scouts is a program that means the world to me. The lessons and skills I have been taught through the program are priceless, as has my time being a loyal member.  

What do you wish others knew about Girl Scouts?  

I wish others knew about the incredible experiences Girl Scouts can offer! Girl Scouts gives young women amazing opportunities to explore their communities, the natural world, leadership experiences, service engagements, and so much more! They infuse young women with confidence, kindness, strength, resilience, and charity. It is truly an organization that empowers young women to take on the world and reach their full potential.  

What keeps you going? What drives you to make a difference in the world?  

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 am often able to tell how others are feeling and place myself in their shoes without any difficulty or hesitation. I can see the stress and painful emotions that can follow others like a dark shadow, and that motivates me to take action. I wish more than anything to provide aide that can assist in making that shadow leave my community and the world, as well as to establish peace and understanding for all. Getting rid of these negative emotions and actions that exist today is how humanity can achieve true unity. That goal of having acceptance, aid, equity, and love in the world is what keeps me going.   

Shaela has bridged to adults and is a college student. She shared, “Girl Scouts still remains a part of my life, however, as I continue to engage in service opportunities on my campus that bring people together for a great cause, just like Girl Scouts. I reflect upon the wonderful times I had in my troop at each service event that I attended, and I am always incredibly grateful for the passion and dedication it taught me. Girl Scouts gave me the powerful value set and drive for service that I still hold dear today. I hope to engage in Girl Scouting after my educational career as well.”  

Girl Scout Emily, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Award, attending Camp CEO, and providing leadership within a service unit.   

What is the value of Girl Scouts in your life?  

Girl Scouting has provided me with countless lifelong friendships and memories that I will cherish forever. Girl Scouts has helped me realize that I can make a difference in the world if I put my mind to it. After I got my Gold Award, I felt like I could now accomplish anything. I now notice so many ideas for community service projects; I just want to help them all.  

 What do you wish others knew about Girl Scouts?  

 I think that it is a common idea that Girl Scouts is just an after-school activity for younger girls where they sell cookies. Yeah, that is a part of it, but I wish others would realize that Girl Scouts has so many amazing opportunities for older girls. Whenever I tell someone I’m a Girl Scout, they seem to say, “Let me know when you’re selling cookies.” I always respond by telling them about my Gold Award project.  

What keeps you going? What drives you to make a difference in the world?  

 Anytime I notice something that I know I can change for the better, I try to do it because there might not be someone else after me to make the change. In my experience, people are hesitant to initiate any change but will engage in efforts once someone is there to lead them. I know that I can at least get an effort started and that people will follow.  

What types of changes do you think need to happen in society and your community? How do you see Girl Scouts affecting these changes?  

 I think people need to be more respectful of different opinions. In my community, people seem to get aggressive toward individuals with opinions different than their own. Girl Scouts has a strong emphasis on being respectful of everyone no matter what, and I think society could implement that idea.  

Girl Scout Kye, earned the Pinnacle Award through service as a program aide, CIT (Counselor-in-training), earning their Silver Award, and providing leadership in their service unit and community.  

 What is the value of Girl Scouts in your life?  

 Girl Scouts means a lot to me. I’ve learned a lot of social, leadership, and outdoor skills from camp and from earning my Gold Award. I use the skills I’ve learned from Girl Scouts every day, and I love teaching those skills to younger Girl Scouts.  

 What do you wish others knew about Girl Scouts?  

 I wish that people understood how many positive life skills kids can learn by being a Girl Scout. For example, kids can learn outdoor and leadership skills by going to camp or a range of different skills, from planning, leading, and developing their highest award projects. I also wish that more people knew about the Gold Award because it is an amazing award and deserves more recognition.  

 What types of changes do you think need to happen in society and your community? How do you see Girl Scouts affecting these changes?  

 I believe that more needs to be done to help the environment. Girl Scouts can help with these changes in multiple ways. I believe that camp is one of these ways because it connects kids to the environment. This connection can result in positive change since more people will have a personal connection to the earth. Highest award projects are another one of these ways, because many Girl Scouts choose topics that benefit the environment. Lastly, Girl Scouts also teaches leadership skills, which can help create change throughout their lifetime.  

Kye is currently studying music education, works at Girl Scout camp, and is a lifetime member.   

Girl Scout Sofi, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Silver Award, attending Camp CEO, serving as a National Delegate Alternate, and serving in a leadership capacity within her service unit and community.   

What is the value of Girl Scouts in your life?  

Girl Scouts has played a big role in my life, and I hold all that I’ve gained and the adventures I’ve had because of it very close to my heart. I’ve learned a lot, like social skills, sales skills, outdoor skills, and even historical information. I use so many things from Girl Scouts in other parts of my life all the time, and it’s given me a leg up in some situations. I’ve made so many friends, met all kinds of different people, and built lasting connections that I’m so grateful for. Girl Scouts has also provided me with so many opportunities to help others, making me very happy.  

 What do you wish others knew about Girl Scouts?  

Not every experience is the same. It varies from troop to troop, service unit to service unit, and girl to girl. It’s significantly what you make of it, but also finding the best fit and focus for you. I know some people think everything is uniform troop to troop and that discourages them from giving Girl Scouts a try when of course, there’s variation, and that’s needed because no two people are the same or have the same interests.  

 What keeps you going? What drives you to make a difference in the world?  

 The biggest thing that continually pushes me to make efforts to create change is seeing the impact of those efforts in other people. I love seeing other people happy and getting to know I contributed to it. I also don’t like feeling unable to do anything, it makes seeing or hearing about negative situations even worse, so I really appreciate having channels to take action to try to address issues.  

Sofi is currently in college and a lifetime member. “I’m currently serving as a National Delegate Alternate and staying connected with my troop.”  

Girl Scout Julia, earned the Pinnacle Award by serving as a girl rep to the Board of Directions, serving as a District Delegate, earning her Bronze and Silver Award, and serving in leadership capacities in her community.   

What is the value of Girl Scouts in your life?  

Girl Scouting has taught me the values of community and volunteer work. Girl Scouting has empowered me to use my voice for positive change in the world.  

What keeps you going? What drives you to make a difference in the world?  

I hope to impact the world around me through my voice and leadership to enact positive change. Even if an issue seems small, it can create a ripple effect.  

What types of changes do you think need to happen in society and your community? How do you see Girl Scouts affecting these changes?  

Girl Scouts positively impacts girls by empowering them to stand up for what they believe is just and fair and gives them the tools to do so, whether environmental issues or social justice. Girl Scouts in my community are willing to put their voices forward to solve a problem.  

Julia plans to study music performance and hopes to stay involved in Girl Scouts as a lifetime member.  


We also want to congratulate:  

-Girl Scout Magnolia, earned the Pinnacle Award by serving as a CIT (counselor-in-training), earning their Bronze and Silver Award, serving in leadership roles within her service unit and community.    

-Girl Scout Eva, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Bronze and Silver Award, serving as a CIT (counselor-in-training), serving in a leadership capacity in her service unit and community.   

– Girl Scout Megan, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Bronze and Silver Award, serving as a CIT (counselor-in-training), and serving in leadership capacities within her service unit and community.   

-Girl Scout Nooriyah, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Bronze and Silver Award, serving as a girl rep to the Board of Directors, District Delegate, traveling with Girl Scouts, and serving in a leadership capacity outside of Girl Scouts.   

-Girl Scout Hannah, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Silver and Gold Award, providing leadership to her service unit and community.   

-Girl Scout Levi, earned the Pinnacle Award by serving as a program aide, CIT (counselor-in-training), attending Camp CEO, earning their Bronze and Silver Award, traveling with Girl Scouts, and serving in leadership capacities in their community.  

-Girl Scout Alyssa, earned the Pinnacle Award by serving as a program aide, earning her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Award, and serving in a leadership capacity in their community.   

-Girl Scout Katherine, earned the Pinnacle Award by traveling with Girl Scouts, earning her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Award, and serving in a leadership capacity in her community. 

-Girl Scout Neha, earned the Pinnacle Award by traveling with Girl Scouts, earning her Bronze and Silver Award, serving as a program aide, and serving in a leadership capacity in her service unit and community.   

-Girl Scout Elizabeth, earned the Pinnacle Award by earning her Bronze and Silver Award, serving as a CIT (counselor-in-training), and providing leadership to her service unit and community.   

The application is now open for the 2023 Pinnacle Award class!  

Details and application can be found on our website.

Troop Uses Cookie Proceeds To Create Memories That Will Last A Lifetime

Troop proceeds from selling cookies can be used for fun, like taking a trip to Disney World! 

Troop 35580 recently returned from a five-night, six-day trip visiting Disney Springs, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom. When visiting Animal Kingdom, girls earned their Animal Habitat patch to enhance their Girl Scout experience.

“We saw the true meaning of sisterhood. They (Girl Scouts) all showed their courage and strength. Many of the girls stepped outside their box and rode rides they would have never ridden at all the parks,” said Troop Leader Kailey Gernenz. 

The troop paid for this trip with the proceeds collected from selling 22,925 boxes of cookies over the past three years.

“Like Walt Disney says” IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, YOU CAN DO IT.” That is what got us to Disney,” said Kailey.

The troop made many great memories and has set another goal for 2025 to return and go to Sea World.

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana created a plan to help troops continue to reach their cookie goals. 

For every online shipped order (Digital Cookie, Ship-to-Customer) placed and paid for by a customer between February 27 and March 20, the troop will receive $1.15 ($1.25, if the troop opted out of rewards) per package as troop proceeds.

Girl Scouts, remember to email your customers on February 27 with your new Digital Cookie link.

The National Council Session – A Sustained History of Girl Scout Governance

Starting in 1915 in Washington, D.C., the democratic process has been continually promoted by our organization through the National Council Session (NCS), a.k.a. the National Convention. 

Orlando, Florida, will host the 56th National Council Session from July 18-20, 2023, followed immediately with Phenom by Girl Scouts from July 20-22, 2023. This triennial meeting, comprised of delegates from each council, is charged with giving clear direction to the future of the Girl Scout Movement. It is the central link between Girl Scout councils and GSUSA. Each local council is allotted delegates on an adjustable formula to keep the National Council close to the optimal size of 1,500 delegates. Once elected by their local councils, the delegates serve a three-year term.

So, what do these National Council delegates do once they are elected to their positions? During NCS, National Delegates represent their local councils as voting members. They gather input, debate, and vote on proposals that impact the future of the Girl Scout Movement, including changes to the Constitution and the Blue Book of Basic Documents. In addition, National Delegates elect the National Board of Directors and the Board Development Committee. However, during the interim three years between each NCS, the National Delegates can also develop and submit proposals to the National Board for consideration as agenda items. In Girl Scouting, a proposal is a leading motion to bring a recommendation before the National Council for a vote. The National Board of Directors decides whether each submitted proposal is worthy of being on the agenda. 

However, if any proposal developed by a local council receives support from 15 percent or more of the Girl Scout councils, then the National Board of Directors is obliged to have that proposal on the agenda so the National Council can act upon it.

This may sound boring and mundane, but the National Council Sessions are vital to keeping the movement forward-thinking. There has been a wide range of proposals since that first Girl Scout convention in 1915, and it’s quite interesting to look back on what has transpired at NCS.

My first encounter with the National Council Session occurred in 1990 in Miami Beach. At that convention, I was the chaperone for the two girls from legacy South Cook County Council who were sent as visitors. Since I had no previous association with NCS, I didn’t realize how many councils would actually send girls as delegates. I then began to lobby for a change to any subsequent South Cook County delegations to include at least two girl delegates.

After Miami Beach, I attended all but one NCS either as a delegate, a girl chaperone, or often both! However, Miami Beach was an experience I will never forget. The keynote speaker was the author and poet Maya Angelou who captivated and inspired the attendees. The Spring 1991 Leader Magazine described her address in this manner: “. . . she held everyone spellbound. In song, in prose, in poetry, she captivated one and all with her wisdom, her insight, and her humor.”

The Miami Beach Convention Center during the 1990 NCS.

An additional highlight of the Miami Beach convention was the launching of GSUSA’s national service project on literacy with the help of an unexpected visit from our Honorary President at that time, First Lady Barbara Bush. Leader Magazine depicted it this way: “The excitement of the First Lady’s visit began with the arrival of the Secret Service people who checked the arena thoroughly. A surprise for those stern-visaged gentlemen must have been the immediate silence resulting from our Girl Scout quiet sign!”

First Lady Barbara Bush at the 1990 NCS.

The 1990 NCS is memorable for another reason, too. At this triennial meeting, the National Council passed a proposal to establish the designation Girl Scout “Gold Award” as the highest award to be earned by a girl member. After having the name of the highest award change several times in our Girl Scout history, this proposal dictated that the name “Gold Award” could not be altered.

You probably already know that the Girl Scout Promise and Law have been changed several times. However, you may not realize that some changes were voted upon during a National Council Session. The first-time changes were made at NCS took place in 1972 in Dallas. The delegation voted to approve this wording of the Promise and Law:

The Promise

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God,

My country and mankind,

And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

The Law

I will do my best:

—to be honest

—to be fair

—to help where I am needed

—to be cheerful

—to be friendly and considerate

—to be a sister to every Girl Scout

—to respect authority

—to use resources wisely

—to protect and improve the world around me

—to show respect for myself and others through my words and action

The Promise was again revised by the NCS delegation in Detroit in 1984 to its current form:

On my honor, I will try:

To serve God and my country,

To help people at all times,

And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

However, The Law did not undergo additional changes until the Fort Worth NCS in 1996, which is the version we use today:

I will do my best to be

honest and fair,

friendly and helpful,

considerate and caring,

courageous and strong, and

responsible for what I say and do,

and to

respect myself and others,

respect authority,

use resources wisely,

make the world a better place, and

be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Perhaps the most misunderstood proposal concerning the Girl Scout Promise was passed by the National Delegates in 1993 at the Minneapolis convention. The proposal was titled “Flexibility in Wording for Spiritual Beliefs in the Girl Scout Promise.” It stated:

THAT, since the Girl Scout organization makes no attempt to interpret or define the word “God” but encourages members to establish for themselves the nature of their spiritual beliefs, it be the policy of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. that individuals when making the Girl Scout Promise may substitute wording appropriate to their own spiritual beliefs for the word “God.”  

Having attended the 1993 National Council Session, I still remember the headlines of that time declaring that the Girl Scouts had taken “God” out of their Promise. The intent of the proposal was to promote inclusivity for girls of various faiths whose religious beliefs might have a different terminology for “God,” such as Allah or Yahweh. Many media outlets totally misrepresented what had transpired, so GSUSA had to do damage control and make numerous explanations on what the proposal intended to do.

Members of the South Cook County Council delegation wearing their convention casual attire during the 1993 Minneapolis NCS.

At other National Councils Sessions, the delegates have reviewed the request to increase dues. The Constitution was amended in 1975 during that year’s Washington NCS, giving this authority to the delegates. It stated: Decision on annual membership dues shall be by ballot and shall require a majority of votes cast. However, the wording in the GS Constitution concerning membership dues was somewhat altered at the 2008 NCS in Indianapolis. Within its rationale for the changes, the National Board included the statement that after the 2008 NCS, it would be the one to set dues amounts going forward and included a lengthy explanation as to why it felt it had the authority. At their January 20, 2012, meeting, the National Board raised annual membership dues from $12 to $15, effective with the 2014 membership year. This was the first time since the 1975 amended Constitution that the National Board raised annual membership dues without the National Council’s approval. Then in 2016, the National Board raised the dues again, going from $15 to $25. A lawsuit initiated by the Farthest North Council against GSUSA claimed that the dues increase violated the Constitution. The lawsuit went all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Farthest North Council.

This controversy on who has the authority to raise the membership dues caused the delegates of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) to write a proposal for the 2020 NCS that would create a compromise between the National Board and the National Council. The proposal inserted into the Constitution has this wording:

The National Board of Directors must seek approval from the National Council whenever planned dues increase will increase by more than 25% in any triennium. This amendment to the Constitution passed, making it one of the two proposals submitted by GSGCNWI in 2020 to be approved.

Delegate Marty Poch (right) served as a resource person for the GCNWI dues restriction proposal at the 2020 virtual NCS

Another proposal associated with membership dues was passed at the Houston NCS in 1981. However, it was at this time the Lifetime Membership category was established. Then in 1999, at the Kansas City NCS, a vote was taken to have a special Lifetime Membership dues be offered to any girl who was a registered Senior Girl Scout at the time of her high school graduation or equivalent. In 2017 in Columbus, the delegates approved the elimination of the multiplier formerly used to establish the cost of a Girl Scout Lifetime Membership and voted for a flat rate of $400 or, for alums under age 30 and currently registered volunteers with ten or more years of service, a $200 cost. This change was supported by the GSGCNWI delegation.

GCNWI Delegation at the 2017 Columbus NCS.

There have been other significant proposals passed during NCS, such as those concerning the National Board. For instance, the Denver National Council session in 1978 reduced the number of National Board Members from 65 to 51. This number of National Board members was again reduced in 1996 in Fort Worth to 35. During the Atlanta NCS in 2005, the number of members of the National Board of Directors was amended to 25, which is the number that is in place today. Also, in 2005, the number of consecutive terms for the National President was reduced from three to two.

As I mentioned before, GSGCNWI had two proposals pass during the virtual NCS of 2020. Besides the proposal to restrict any dues increase to not exceed 25% in a triennium unless voted upon by the National Council, the GSGCNWI delegates also developed a proposal for the movement to establish a feasibility task group to research the formation of a National Gold Award Scholarship Foundation. When both proposals received positive outcomes, the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana made NCS history. We were the first local council to have two proposals pass during a single NCS. As one of the authors of the National Gold Award Scholarship Foundation proposal, I was asked to sit on the feasibility task group. Our findings will be shared at the NCS in Orlando this coming July. Stay tuned!

Karen Schillings at the virtual 2020 NCS presenting the proposal to initiate a task group to research the feasibility of a National Gold Award Scholarship foundation.

The GSGCNWI delegation is really looking forward to attending the Orlando NCS this July. After having the 2020 NCS held virtually due to the pandemic, it will be so satisfying to be in a convention hall once again with Girl Scouts from across the country. Being a National Delegate is a huge commitment with the numerous meetings before and even after the National Council Session. However, it’s extremely gratifying to know that this work is tremendously important to the vitality of the Girl Scout Movement.

Finally, I want to share a uniquely GSGCNWI tradition that was started for NCS in 2011. As a National Delegate who is also a Council Historian, I have had the capability to acquire vintage uniforms for our girl members who attend NCS as either delegates or visitors. The girls always feel special when delegates from other councils can identify the era of the uniforms they are wearing. Because 2020 was virtual, this tradition was suspended during that NCS, but it will definitely be brought back for 2023!