How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

How Girl Scouts Impacted My World View

With a plethora of construction paper, scissors, glue and fun facts spread before me and my Girl Scout troop, we began the riveting task of creating the world’s best table display for World Thinking Day.

As a wide-eyed Girl Scout Junior, Thinking Day granted me the opportunity to taste new food, meet new people and explore a world of possibilities. It was there, at that glue-covered table, that I discovered my passion for other cultures and travel.


Growing up, my troop and I would sing camp songs in Cherokee, make music with Lummi sticks, eat Irish soda bread and dream of traveling to the Girl Scout World Centers. We were courageous in spirit, compassionate by action and eager to meet everyone. Little did I know just how much the lessons I learned with my troop would impact the course of my life.

As I got older, I realized that not everyone was as compassionate toward other people and cultures as my troop and I were. So, in my final year as a Girl Scout Ambassador, I combined my passion for culture and the WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) Millennium Goal of achieving world peace to create the framework for my Gold Award Project.


Through my project, I educated local students and my Sister Girl Scouts about the lives of people in other countries, especially children in war zones. As part of my project, I conducted a toy and school supply drive with the packaged donations being shipped overseas to military personnel so that they could give the donations to children in the surrounding area in order to promote goodwill between the community and our soldiers.

Additionally, I created a permanent “mailbox to the troops” so that much deserved, handwritten letters of appreciation can always reach our soldiers. By educating the community and encouraging participants to donate a toy or a book, I desired to spread the concept of being compassionate to the next generation and convey to the community that they have the power to make a difference in the world by spreading joy and world peace one toy at a time.


With such a passion for culture and exploration burning inside, it seems only logical that I would travel abroad and at age 19, I embraced my first opportunity to do so. Through my university, I was able to spend two months studying at the Center For International Learning in Muscat, Oman. During my summer abroad in the Sultanate of Oman, I was able to see the world’s second largest chandelier, walked the worn streets of a nearly 500-year-old city and spend one crazy day exploring London, England.


From making Diwali candles as a Girl Scout Junior to studying abroad in Oman, the passion for culture and exploration that I discovered and fostered through Girl Scouts continues to shape my life and take me on spectacular journeysNow, as a permanent Girl Scout at heart and world traveler, I hope to educate and inspire others to embrace life with open arms and a compassionate heart.

Megan Ramirez is a recent Gold Award honoree and rising sophomore at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky.

Plainfield Girl Scout Creates Accessible Playground for Everyone

Plainfield Girl Scout Creates Accessible Playground for Everyone

No matter how old you are, you will always get a little excited seeing a swing set in your neighborhood park or school. Swings symbolize childhood memories and having a good time with friends. But sometimes it’s harder for some to use a playground than others.

Girl Scout Ambassador Rachel Lau dedicated her Gold Award project to making sure everyone could have a good time at the park by taking six months to raise money for the Plainfield Parks and Recreation team to buy ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-friendly swings.

In an interview with the parks district, Lau explained why she chose the swings for her Gold Award project.

“I am a huge advocate for children with mental and physical disabilities. I researched the parks within Plainfield, Illinois and found that several were not designed to be safe for children with mental and physical disabilities,” said Lau. “For that reason, I [wanted] to modify a playground in Plainfield to make it handicap-friendly for children.”

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The swings were also the most realistic and cost-efficient solution for this problem that she discovered in her community. The project is also very close to Lau’s heart because of a family friend who has Asperger’s syndrome.

“I was first inspired for my project when I noticed that a family friend, Holden, had trouble playing at public parks,” said Lau. “I often saw the heartbreak of his mom having to pull him off of the equipment.”

This project has made a significant impact in her community and she has truly seen the reward that comes with investing in a sustainable project.

“One of the most successful aspects of my project so far would be my fundraising efforts and finally being able to purchase the swings,” Lau said. “Watching all of my heard work come together was truly rewarding.”

Rachael Lau’s family friend, Holden

“I hope that these swings will be sustainable for the future because they will stay permanently in their respective parks (Northwest Community Park and Renwick Park) so that children with any disability will be able to enjoy Plainfield parks, just like Holden,” said Lau.

The ADA swings are located at Bott Park,  24550 W. Renwick Rd., as well as Northwest Community Park,  127th St. Plainfield, thanks to Rachel’s fundraising and the Plainfield Park District.

To learn more about how you can earn your Gold Award, click here.

Girl Scouts Celebrate ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ at Bank of America

Girl Scouts Celebrate ‘Bring Your Daughter to Work Day’ at Bank of America

The #GirlPower was strong at the Bank of America ‘Bring Your Daughter, Niece and Mentee to Work Day!’ Employees at the Bank of America financial center in downtown Chicago invited Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana, and three special guests — Girl Scouts Cadette Susan Tatelli, Anya Konieczka and Areesha Majeed — to speak about the importance of women in leadership.


During her remarks, Wright discussed the growing number of women in leadership positions and connected this confidence in girls to the main character in the popular animated movie Zootopia and contestants on the reality singing show The Voice. She stressed the importance of trying again, and than failing at something can be a great stepping stone.

“To fail simply means it is your ‘First Attempt In Learning,'” explained Wright. “Remember, oftentimes, when you fail it makes you step back, rethink your approach and try again with even more passion, heart and power. And this is what makes all the difference moving forward.”

Meanwhile, the Girl Scout panelists spoke to their experiences in Girl Scouting and their contributions to their communities through service projects and leadership roles.


Anya, an 11-year-old Girl Scout Junior, earned her Bronze Award after organizing a hair donation drive in Downers Grove, Illinois. She was inspired to start the project after her friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer.

“I want everyone who has lost their confidence by losing their hair to find it again,” she said.

In the future, Anya hopes to continue her love of coding, and eventually code for a robot that will help find the cure for cancer.

Susan, a 13-year-old Girl Scout Senior, made headlines with her Silver Award project, which focused on the self-administration of epinephrine. She wants to help those who are still learning about their allergies and those who are not fully aware of what to do during a life-threatening reaction. Susan, who was recently appointed to Food Allergy and Reaction Education (FARE)’s Teen Advisory Group, wants to continue to help raise awareness about food allergies through her Gold Award.

Meanwhile, Majeed, a 19-year-old Girl Scout alumna and Brownie troop co-leader, discussed the importance of empowerment. The 19-year-old rising sophomore at Northwestern University in Evanston wants to be an actuary to study the measurement of empowerment and how this affects young girls.

About 50 Bank of America employees and their daughters, neices and mentees participated in the luncheon.


“I share the same desire with everyone here today,” Wright said, “the desire to inspire girls and young women to pursue their dreams without reservations.”


Gurnee Girl Scout Creates Honor Guard for Fallen Firefighters

Gurnee Girl Scout Creates Honor Guard for Fallen Firefighters

NBC certainly made a hit with their show “Chicago Fire” and helped bring awareness to viewers about the trials and dangers of being an active firefighter, but one Girl Scout wanted to make a deeper impression with her Silver and Gold Awards.

Lauren Constantino of Troop 41413 in Gurnee, Illinois wanted to honor fallen firefighters in her Gold Award project and founded the Girl Scout Honor Guard for Fallen Fire Fighters (GSHGFFF). Her mission as State Commander of GSHGFFF is to promote public awareness and honor those who have sacrificed their lives in duty, as well as the honor guards and families.

“While I was working on getting together my flag training and volunteers for my Silver Award, I had an idea of creating my own honor guard, and to make something bigger out of what we were already trying to accomplish,” Lauren said. “Honor guards are a large aspect of my life. My dad was my inspiration for the project, because not only is he a fallen firefighter, but also he began the honor guard at the Gurnee Fire Department and participated in the state and national firefighter honor guards.”

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Lauren and her GSHGFFF team proudly participate in the Annual Honor Guard Convention at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois.

Since GSHGFFF’s founding in January 2015, Lauren and her 15 other members have performed many flag ceremonies, led color guards, participated in Memorial Day parades, as well as multiple events with Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois Honor Guard (AFFI HG) since May 2015.

“The most defining moment is when we were at the Illinois Fire Fighter Memorial ceremony. Our state governor actually talked about us in his speech!” Constantino said.  “It has been so amazing just to see the acceptance and support for the Girl Scout Honor Guard for Fallen Fire Fighters.”

Lauren, as well as the other Girl Scouts who helped her on this journey, were not only able to honor the firefighters, but also the Girl Scouts as they completed trainings, drills and events. Her project has even brought her closer to pursuing a career in law enforcement and possibly ROTC as she enters college in fall 2017. Her family, including her brother, who is a firefighter, is very proud of her accomplishments.

“It is not just a Gold Award project,” said Lauren. “It is an official, established honor guard to support and honor those who put themselves before us every day and put their lives on the line for us, as well as the families who stand by them, and the honor guard members who never forget them.”

For more information about the GSHGFFF, an application to join, or to start your own chapter, email Lauren at

Downers Grove Teen Earns Girl Scout Silver Award

Downers Grove Teen Earns Girl Scout Silver Award

When Sophie Marro’s grandmother suffered a stroke a while back, the 13-year-old Girl Scout Cadette knew she wanted to do something that could help patients in rehab. After witnessing cancer patients struggle with seatbelts due to the portacath used for their chemotherapy, Sophie started making port pillows as part of her Girl Scout Silver Award project.

One weekend, 12 people and more than 250 port pillows later, Sophie, who lives in Downers Grove, was able to donate the items to Elmhurst Hospital Cancer Center, the hospital that treated her grandmother.


“The patients were really happy to see them,” Sophie said. “They were glad to see someone was thinking of them. It felt really good and I was happy that I could give back to the community that helped my grandmother.”

As a result of her project, Sophie earned her Silver Award, which is the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn.

“I feel like I really honed in on three skills: leadership, organization and staying positive,” she said. “Leadership because I learned about accomplishing goal. Organization because there was a lot of material and people to organize to make sure everything ran smoothly.”

At one point while Sophie and her friends were making the pillows, all of the sewing machines broke because they were overworked.

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“We got a little frustrated, but it was important to keep an upbeat attitude,” she said.

Sophie, who’s been a Girl Scout since first grade, has plans to earn her Gold Award as well, which is the highest award in Girl Scouting.

“I participate in a lot of sports, but they don’t really teach citizenship or giving back to the community,” she said. “I’m really happy that Girl Scouts allows me to do that.”

Local Girl Scouts Earn Gold Award

Local Girl Scouts Earn Gold Award

Nearly 70 local high school students recently earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s most prestigious national honor for girls, the Girl Scout Gold Award. Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) honored their accomplishments during a special ceremony on June 4, 2016 at the Chicago Marriott Oak Brook.

“Girl Scout traditions, such as earning the Gold Award, provide a bond that unites generations of girls and women who stepped out of their comfort zones to defy society’s expectations of what women could accomplish,” said Karen Layng, president of the GSGCNWI board of directors.

Gold Award recipients recite the Girl Scout Promise during the ceremony.

The Girl Scout Gold Award, which is celebrating its centennial this year, is the highest award that Girl Scouts ages 14-18 may earn. The leadership skills, organizational skills, and sense of community and commitment required to complete the process set the foundation for a lifetime of active citizenship. Girls complete seven steps to earn the Gold Award, including the completion of a significant service project.

“I have no doubt that you are the generation that will continue to shatter stereotypes about what women can achieve,” GSGCNWI CEO Nancy Wright told the students. “Use the skills you have learned through the process of earning the Gold Award to change the world for the better.”

The Gold Award project fulfills a need within a girl’s community (whether local or global), creates change and is sustaining. The Gold Award recognizes the work of Girl Scouts who demonstrate leadership culminating in 80 hours or more, dedicated towards their service project. Girls complete a minimum of 40 hours in a leadership role before embarking on the final project.

Elise Mayfield, a former Chicago resident and finalist on MasterChef Season 5, was the keynote speaker for the ceremony and shared the importance of resiliency.

Elise Mayfield addresses the Class of 2016 Gold Award recipients.

“I know that you all have experienced setbacks in your journey, both in your personal life and, I’d be willing to bet, in your pursuit of the Gold Award,” said Mayfield, who is also the founder and executive chef of Honey Baby Bakery in Homewood, Alabama. “But you bounced back. You took a hit and you kept on going and I know you’ll continue to do that throughout your life.”

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s report, The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life, Girl Scout Gold Award recipients receive greater lifetime benefits than their peers with regard to positive sense of self, life satisfaction, leadership, life success, community service and civic engagement as a result of their experience in Girl Scouting, including earning their Gold Award.

Girl Scout Ambassador Allison Fron holds her Gold Award pin, certificate and program.

Girls have earned Girl Scouts of the USA’s highest awards since 1916, just four years after the organization’s founding in 1912. These awards include the Golden Eagle of Merit, Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, First Class and the current Girl Scout Gold Award which was introduced in 1980. Over the course of the last century, millions of Girl Scout alumnae have positively impacted their communities and the world with their creative, impactful and sustainable community service, or Take Action, projects.

Girl Scout Ambassador Sonya Ajani proudly demonstrates her Gold Award project, which consisted of a 72-hour survival kit and workshops for her community.

As awareness of the Girl Scout Gold Award continues to grow, so does its prestige. An increasing number of colleges are offering financial incentives to those who earn Girl Scout Gold Awards and admissions counselors view it as a sign of an individual girl’s ability to lead. This year, GSGCNWI announced a new scholarship for Gold Award recipients that was made possible through generous donations. The deadline is August 1, 2016 and information is available at


Photos courtesy of Lynn Renee Photography

Arlington Heights Student Spearheads Project for Autistic Classmates

Arlington Heights Student Spearheads Project for Autistic Classmates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To read the full story, visit

Photo via Karen Ann Cullotta / Pioneer Press

Become a Superhero with the Girl Scout Super Gold Power Patch Program

Become a Superhero with the Girl Scout Super Gold Power Patch Program

If you’ve ever wanted to become a superhero, now’s your chance.

In celebration of the centennial of the Highest Award this year, we’ve developed a program for Daisies, Brownies and Juniors to learn about what it takes to be a super Girl Scout!

The Super Gold Power Patch Program features fun, high-energy games about the history of the Highest Awards in Girl Scouting; colorful comic strips featuring real-life examples of Bronze, Silver and Gold Award projects that have had a deep impact on the community; activities for girls to create their own one-of-a-kind superhero comic strip and emblem – and envision their own Highest Award project for the future.

The curriculum and patches are $5 for each Girl Scout participant. To learn more about the Super Gold Power Patch Program and to register, click here.

An Open Letter to Powerful Girls Everywhere

An Open Letter to Powerful Girls Everywhere

My name is Brandi Hoover and I’m a 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador. Ever since I was a Daisy in kindergarten, Girl Scouts has done nothing but support me and give me opportunities that no other organization would have been able to, such as camping with my friends, attending Camp CEO, being a girl representative on the Board of Directors and so many more.

Having already earned my Silver Award, I’m currently working on my Gold Award, which is the highest award in Girl Scouting. When trying to think of what to do for my Gold Award project, I started noticing how big of a problem low self-esteem is in girls my age.

Girl Scouts was always there showing me the true value of my life. So I kept asking myself, “what can I do about this?”  How can I make others feel the way Girl Scouts has made me feel. Now, it has always been a dream of mine to impact the world and make a difference. So I thought what better way to make my dream a reality. 


Nearly a year ago, I started a blog called Hello Powerful You. The purpose behind my blog is to empower girls and help them raise their self-esteem. I post a variety of things from how I overcame barriers in my life to pictures of inspirational quotes. I think that every person deserve to live a happy life with a high self-esteem.

I think that Girl Scouts really helped me realize the full potential that I had. The organization as a whole really showed me the leadership skills I had. They proved to me that I could do anything I set my mind to. They not only supported me through this whole process and continue to support me, but they have also given me so many opportunities and way to help me network. One of my goals for this blog is to turn it into an organization like Girl Scouts. They have helped me turn my dreams and aspirations into a reality.

Now one of the things I regularly think about when trying to motivate myself to stay positive is how an issue will affect my life. I first think about how it will affect my life right now, and then I think about how it will affect my life in five years. If I realize that this problem will not affect me in one year or even five years, then why am I stressing about it now?

You should never stress about something that is not going to affect your life in the long run. Failing one math test is not going to break your future. Your boss in five or even ten years will not look back on that one test you failed in middle school or high school.

I use this method to help me work through problems on a daily basis. Now one year into my blog, I have many goals for Hello Powerful You. I hope that one day this blog can become something even bigger as I said earlier something like an organization to empower girls … just like Girl Scouts.

Most importantly, I want to change the world one girl at a time. So please check out my blog and tell me what makes you powerful.


Celebrate National Girl Scout Day with #100DaysOfGold

Celebrate National Girl Scout Day with #100DaysOfGold

Community service is at the cornerstone of what it means to be a Girl Scout, which is why more than 100 girls are gathering in Vernon Hills this weekend to celebrate National Girl Scout Day with the Birthday in a Bag Bash.

This Saturday, March 12, marks the 104th birthday of Girl Scouts and girls from Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) are paying it forward by assembling Birthday in a Bag supplies at Gathering Places across the council. The service project invites girls to gather items, such as boxed cake, canned frosting, candles, balloons, streamers and a small toy for children at local food pantries.

“We wanted to be a part of this project to be able to help make a person’s birthday special,” said adult volunteers Karen Huber and Sue Siegel of Girl Scout Cadette Troop 40651 in Park Ridge.


Through a combined effort, GCNWI Service Unit 405 and five troops at St. Paul of the Cross School in Park Ridge brought in donations to in cake mixes, pans, cans of frosting, plates, napkins, tablecloths, birthday candles, and balloons to fill 50 birthday bags. The bags were then delivered to the parish food pantry and will be shared with the Maine Township Food Pantry and Our Lady of Angels Food Pantry.

“The girls enjoyed being part of this effort,” Huber and Siegel said. “They also had fun deciding which items to put together in the bags, such as yellow cake and pink frosting or chocolate cake with white or chocolate frosting.”

The Birthday in a Bag Bash also kicks off #100DaysOfGold to commemorate the centennial of the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting. The council-wide initiative encourages girls to participate in 100 days of doing good in their communities starting on March 12 and going through June 20.

“We’ve already been given so much in our lives, yet there are some who struggle to find basic necessities,” said Marie T., a Girl Scout Cadette with Troop 40651. “It’s our time to pay it forward and give these people what every human deserves.”