Athaide-Victor: Girl Scouts more than cookie salesWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
This year, I will be entering my 13th year in Girl Scouts. Now, as a junior in high school, I often get quizzical looks and mountains of questions like, “You’re still in Girl Scouts?” or, “What do you guys even do?” Well, the answer is simple for me.
Girl Scouting opens so many doors for girls. Even when we’re really young, Girl Scouts learn how to safely use tools, cook for ourselves and become strong leaders. One of my earliest memories is collecting sticks with my friends at our first campout so we could build our own fire and make s’mores. Being with a group of supportive friends is so important at a young age. We can laugh together, play together and tell each other secrets. Simple things like going for a short hike or telling stories around a fire might seem small, but they can seem like the world to little girls.
The best part about it is that we grew up together. I can shuffle through my summer camp photos, picking out the chunky eyeglass frames, the braced smiles and the turned-backward-baseball-cap phases of all of my friends until I reach the photo of the loving, confident counselors-in-training that I know today. A short week at camp could change a little girl’s life. It definitely made a difference in mine.
Girl Scouts has helped me and so many other girls in so many ways. I can easily say that I consider my Girl Scout sisters to be my closest friends. I have an insanely active troop, in addition to the lovely ladies I work with, and I am so grateful for them.
We’ve been everywhere from Put-in-Bay to Salt Lake City to Europe. A few summers ago, I went backpacking with a few friends of mine in the Porcupine Mountains in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I have to admit, we were all a little nervous, considering none of us had backpacked for more than one night. In the end, it was incredible. We learned to carry all of our supplies on our backs and work with one another to get from one camp to the next. It was hard climbing, but the view from the top was simply breathtaking.
Just this summer, we took an educational tour of London, Paris and most of Italy. While we knew this trip would be expensive, that didn’t stop us. We started planning when most of us were in eighth grade. Every year, we relentlessly sold cookies, held car washes, organized babysitting events and did anything else we could to help us raise enough money. Traveling with my troop was such an incredible experience. We met guides and scouts from around the world. It was so cool to meet and talk with them. It was almost strange; since we all were scouts, we shared a bond that was beyond language.
We give back to the community, too. A few years ago, my troop collected and delivered funds to our Japanese sister Girl Scouts in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. One friend of mine is traveling to Costa Rica and doing community service there using the money she earned from selling cookies. Another friend of mine is doing a community service project that involves creating a hiking trail for the National Park Service in honor of the founder of Girl Scouts.
We help more than just individual girls. Girl Scouts change the entire world for the better.
Pilar Athaide-Victor is a student at Toledo School for the Arts and a Girl Scout with Girl Scouts of Western Ohio.