Lizmary's senior portrait
Lizmary mud house building in Panama

Please welcome this month’s guest blogger Natalie Lucker! Natalie attended Girl Scout camp from age 6 through her Councilor-in-training experience and didn’t stop there. Her full bio follows this post.

“Girl Scout camp has been my favorite thing in the entire world since I was six years old.”

Hello! I’m Natalie and I’m excited to return for my second year as the Girl Scout Camp Green Eyrie Director this summer. Girl Scout camp has been my favorite thing in the entire world since I was six years old.

When I was a younger camper, I loved going to Girl Scout camp because I knew it meant I would get to do things I didn’t get to do anywhere else. I knew I would get to go swimming, get in a boat, play field games, and show off my outdoor skills that I thought were likely really advanced for a 9-year-old. I would meet new people, make new friends, and chat with my bunkmates well after ‘lights out’ even though we knew our counselor would be back in two minutes to remind us to go to sleep.

As I got older, Girl Scout camp started to mean more than camp songs and canoeing. Camp meant my break from school was a golden opportunity to try more new things and build on the skills I acquired the previous summer. Without even knowing it at the time, it meant I got to take the things I learned at camp and teach it to younger campers and in the process learn so much more about me and my own interests.

As a camp staff member, I watch camper after camper gather up their courage, step out of their comfort zone, and launch their first arrow, build their first one-match fire, or pass their swim test to the next level. The camper who might be too nervous to even approach the archery range at the beginning of the week, is the camper begging for extra arrows by the end of the week!

Getting the chance to participate in activities like swimming and archery are one of the biggest draws of attending camp, but building up a camper’s self-confidence through doing those activities is what Girl Scout camp is all about. I’m thrilled to be able to deliver the confidence-building camp experiences unique to Girl Scouts to our campers. As kids continue to rebound from several years of pandemic-related stress, it’s no wonder families are looking for positive outdoor experiences for their children that go far beyond the classroom. If you haven’t already signed up for a camp session (or sessions!) at Camp Bonnie Brae, Green Eyrie, Laurel Wood, or Lewis Perkins, find everything you need to know on our summer camp page! We’re already hard at work preparing our camp properties and our staff teams for the 2023 camp season and we can’t wait to see you there.

Natalie Lucker is a GSCWM Program Specialist and the Camp Director for Camp Green Eyrie. Before relocating to Massachusetts and joining GSCWM in 2022, Natalie was an Outdoor Program Specialist and Camp Director for Girl Scouts of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Starting at age 6, she attended Girl Scout Camp Whispering Winds every year until she completed the CIT program and joined the staff team, continuing as a seasonal staff member for three Girl Scout camps in Oregon and Washington before moving into a Camp Director role in 2016. Despite being an Oregonian at heart (go Blazers), she is adapting to New England weather and is looking forward to her second summer at Green Eyrie.

Pattie Hallberg,
CEO Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

We researched and asked for guidance in making land acknowledgements from local indigenous communities and to Native Nations forcibly removed from the areas that are known now as Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts camp properties and Leadership Centers. The following will be incorporated in signage and spoken at the beginning of gatherings and events as a way of  acknowledging the original stewards of the land, showing respect, resisting the erasure of  history, and importantly, a starting point for further action.  Territory acknowledgements are one small part of disrupting and dismantling colonial structures. Acknowledgement is a first step in a long education. At the end of this blog post is a recommended reading list for all ages.

Nipmuc Nation: Camp Laurel Wood, Spencer, MA; Camp Green Eyrie, Harvard, MA; Worcester Leadership Center, Worcester, MA
It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are learning, working, and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Nipmuc people, who are the indigenous peoples of this land.
Made with the guidance of Chief of Nipmuc Nation,
Chief Cheryll Toney Holley

Mohican Nation –Stockbridge-Munsee Community: Camp Bonnie Brae, East Otis, MA
It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are learning, working, and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Mohican people, who are the indigenous peoples of this land. Despite tremendous hardship in being forced from here, today their community resides in Wisconsin, and is known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. We pay honor and respect to their ancestors past and present.
Made with guidance from Bonney Hartley, Historic Preservation Manager and member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community

Nipmuc Nation and Pocumtuc Nation: Camp Lewis Perkins, South Hadley, MA and Holyoke Leadership Center, Holyoke, MA
It is with gratitude and humility that we acknowledge that we are learning, working, and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Nipmuc and the Pocumtuc people, who are the indigenous peoples of this land.
Made with the guidance of Chief of Nipmuc Nation,
Chief Cheryll Toney Holley

Recommended Book List for continuing education:

Picture Books
We Are Water Protectors by Claire Lindstrom
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell and Frane Lessac
The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Paul Goble

Middle Grade Fiction
Ancestor Approved by Cynthia Leitich Smith
The Sea In Winter by Christine Day
Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac

Middle Grade Nonfiction
An Indigenous People’s History of the United States: Young Readers Edition by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin

Young Adult Fiction
Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Young Adult Nonfiction
Apple by Eric Gansworth
Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask: Young Readers Edition by Anton Treuer

Adult Nonfiction
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer
The Mourning Road to Thanksgiving by Larry Spotted Crow Mann.

You can watch an interview with Larry Spotted Crow Mann and Massachusetts State Senator Jo Comerford here.

Please welcome this month’s guest blogger Desiree Butler! Desiree’s bio follows this post.

Why You Should Consider Being a GSCWM Board Member

How many teens can say they served on a board of directors?

Hello! My name is Desiree Butler and I am a lifetime member of Girl Scouts. I have been a member for 15 of my 21 years! I had so many amazing experiences in my time as a Girl Scout and one of the most powerful opportunities I had was the honor to serve on the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts Board of Directors as a girl board member.

Just for clarification, according to Bloomerang, “a board of directors is the governing body of a nonprofit.” What does that mean? It means that its members “focus on the high-level strategy, oversight and accountability of the organization” as opposed to the day-to-day operations conducted by the employees. “The individuals who make up your board of directors are responsible for making key decisions that address the organization’s mission, strategy, and goals.”

While serving on the board I was able to see the thought process behind the decision making that all the directors went through in order to achieve what they felt was the best solution to whatever the high-level issue was going on at GSCWM at the time.

When discussing these issues, as a girl member, the other board members would ask for my input. This meant not just being allowed to have a voice in the conversation but being encouraged and prioritized. I learned that it was really important for the GSCWM board members to feel they came to the best decision based on what was best for the Girl Scout council but also what would be the most beneficial to the Girl Scouts the council serves!

Being a board member taught me that I had a bigger voice in Girl Scouts than I thought. What I had to say mattered to these important people I was sitting next to. Being present in such an important setting gave me confidence to keep moving forward in my journey of having and using my voice and it made me realize that I could feel important in other ways, in other settings, and it made what I had to say have meaning in being heard by others.

I had access to GSCWM financial reports and learned what all those numbers actually meant when previously they’d just be numbers on a page. Being a part of the Board of Directors taught me that the field of business is quite complex and fragile. Decisions must be made in the best interest of the people the business is trying to serve. And Girl Scouts is in the business of serving girls. Rash decisions can shatter a company or compromise its brand identity that is established. Financials play a vital role in that complexity. Financial documents can be extremely difficult to follow but with practice, such as I had while serving on the board, they can be consumed and interpreted like a second language. My time on the board of directors influenced my career path to college. It sent me into a spiral of researching business schools I would apply to. I applied to Nichols College as my first choice and was lucky enough to be accepted. I listed my stint as girl member of the board of directors on my college application and it came up in my admissions interview. I believe it was one of the larger scale items on my application that helped me get into Nichols Business Administration program for my bachelor’s degree. I will graduate in May 2023.

My time serving on the GSCWM board of directors, and being a Girl Scout in general were both fantastic experiences that I believe every girl should have a chance to experience. Whether it be for exploratory career purposes, or just to find and use her voice. I strongly recommend serving on the board to any girl who loves a challenge and is not afraid to speak her truth.

Desiree Butler was an active Girl Scout from Brownie to Ambassador and is a registered lifetime member. During her time as a Girl Scout she served on the GSCWM Board of Directors and a member of the Girl Leadership board. She earned her Gold Award with a project called Fields of Gold in 2019 that helped give back to her high school softball teams. Desiree is a senior at Nichols College majoring in business with focuses in entrepreneurship, marketing, and human resources and 3 minors in history, psychology, and criminal justice. In addition to academics Desiree is the President of the Paranormal Club, a member of The National Honor Society for Leadership and Success (Sigma Alpha Pi), and a member of the History Honor Society (Phi Alpha Theta). Desiree recently completed an internship with the Worcester Boys and Girls Club with the Master Social Worker. She works part time at the Dudley Boys and Girls Club center and part time at Dunkin Donuts. She aspires to getting her Master’s degree in Clinical or Counseling Psychology and become published in the psychology field. 

The Girl Scout Gold Award is more than a prestigious honor - it opens doors to many scholarship opportunities, job interview conversations, networking, connection and commitment to community, all while discovering new things about yourself. It offers a sense of pride and a sense of place. And as guest blogger Gabriella Wilkerson points out, lessons learned that stick with you well beyond the finished project. She offers inspiration for anyone considering going for Gold and even a little advice for those in process. Gabriella’s bio follows this post.

Girl Scouts, the Gold Award, and My STEM Journey

These past two summers, I worked at Camp Lewis Perkins. It was such fun to work with the campers. Returning to that space as an adult had me looking back on my Girl Scout memories: the troop meetings, the camp songs, and the Gold Award, which, for me, summarized it all.

Girl Scouts was a formative part of my growth from elementary school through adulthood. In my Brownie troop, we cooked a dinner for sixteen and learned about math, storytelling, and silhouettes. As Cadettes, we bundled up for our mid-winter cookie booths: raising funds so we could later sleep beneath the triceratops skeleton at the Boston Science Museum.

Amidst the fun and friendship, we were finding confidence in our own leadership: incorporating the values of the Girl Scout Promise into how we approached the world.

In middle school, we helped lead activities for Brownies at service unit campouts and I took my first CPR/First Aid certification course in the dining hall of Camp Laurel Wood.

In high school, on the Girls Leadership Board, we practiced networking, elevator pitches, and public speaking. I learned about how our local council runs and the logistics of a non-profit with the Board of Directors.

Concurrently with all of this, I was going through school. The infamous end of it loomed ahead, accompanied by a question. What do you want to do next? The answer at the time was, 'I have no idea.'

The advice I received was to look at what I loved to do. This left me looking to a field populated by men and genius women who, through unique talent, had broken glass ceilings: physics.

I loved physics. My joy in the subject came from my curiosity and fascination. I wasn't the smartest in the room. I possessed no prodigious skill. Based on observed patterns, simply enjoying a subject did not indicate success in the field. I felt that physics could not be my answer.

At the moment that I needed it, Girl Scouts transformed itself into an outlet of representation. Through GSCWM, I met many women in STEM, including aerospace engineers, an astronaut, and ecologists. I learned that, like myself, they loved their various disciplines. Each woman I spoke with was relatable and real. She had worked diligently to be as smart and as talented as she was. She was also a regular person, like me.

When I began my Gold Award project a year later, its goal had been foreshadowed. I wanted to create a resource to reassure youth interested in science, that it was a space for them, just as Girl Scouts had done for me.

I had been a summer intern in the Astronomy Department of the Springfield Science Museum and worked with the department director, Michael Kerr as my project advisor.

The first plan was to develop a set of six science experiment kits for late Elementary-aged kids in partnership with the Springfield City Library. 'Do Try This At Home' kits would be borrowed like a library book.

During this project, the pandemic broke out. Physically shared kits were no longer an option. The new plan and ultimate result of my Gold Award project was the creation of six virtual science kits with directions written in both English and Spanish. The kits were posted on the museum's website. The free resource reaffirmed the concept that the point of science is not knowing the answer but reveling in curiosity; aligning the project in its new form with the original purpose.

I learned a lot from working on my Gold Award. If I were to try the same project over again, I would be more direct in my communication. I tended to worry about being bossy or demanding in projects. The Gold Award helped me realize that in collaborative spaces, delegation is positive and productive. I would also reach out to others more, cast a wider net, and collaborate with more groups to reach more individuals. While the Gold Award is an individual project it is not done in isolation and is strengthened by many connections with the community.

As I find my way through my college years, researching non-hermitian waves in a physics lab, helping lead an on-campus women's organization, and facilitating the Wesleyan Society of Physics Students, I take the lessons I learned from my Gold Award experience with me.

So, let us zoom back out. Back to this summer. Back to the loose pine-needle dirt under the rain-dampened picnic tables. As the Junior camp-group races to complete the art-stacle course during their craft block, I see how they are all learning and leading. As they grow they are making the world better and being sisters to one another.

Armed with these same values, the Gold Award wrapped up my Girl Scouting adventures as a girl and punctuated my Girl Scout journey to adulthood. Then, it served as an outlet to help my community. Now, it is a suitcase to carry the moments with me. Whether I’m talking with girls at camp or navigating through college and beyond.

Gabriella Wilkerson was an active Girl Scout from Brownie through Ambassador. During her time as a Girl Scout, she served as a girl member on the GSCWM Board of Directors, was a delegate to the GSUSA 2017 National Council Session, and was on the GSCWM Girls Leadership Board. She earned her Gold Award in 2020, on a project regarding stem accessibility.

She is now a junior at Wesleyan University, double majoring in physics and dance. In addition to classes, she leads the university’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students and has started doing research that she hopes to develop into a Thesis by the end of her senior year. These past two summers she returned to Camp Lewis Perkins as a unit counselor and then a program specialist.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts 

We asked five current Girl Scout volunteers the same 4 questions on what being part of a Girl Scout Leadership team means to them. This exercise reinforced to me the diversity of experiences a Girl Scout leader has as well as the diversity of who a Girl Scout volunteer is. They offer a variety of perspectives but an underlying theme of commitment and true appreciation and admiration for the children in their midst. What follows are exerts of their replies.

Chrissy –Girl Scout Leader for 4 years
Christina – Kindergarten teacher and Girl Scout Leader for 5 years
Debbie – Pre-school teacher and Girl Scout Leader for 18 years
Jessica – Communications professional and Girl Scout Leader for 7 years
Theresa – Girl Scout Leader for 5 years

1. As a Girl Scout Leader, we know girls get a lot from you. What do you get from them?

Debbie – As a troop leader, working with the girls puts a smile on my face every time we meet! They make me happy and keep me feeling young. Watching the joy in a girl's face when we sing Girl Scout songs, or go on a trip, play games and work on our badges, is really worth it for me. Giggles, and smiles make my heart melt.

Christina – It warms my heart to hear the girls acting out lessons from our meetings when I'm in the [school] hallway or [school] cafeteria. The joy it brings me, knowing that they might not have that knowledge or perspective if we hadn't begun this journey together is insurmountable.

Chrissy – I’m always impressed with the girls - they see solutions in places we leaders don’t always think to look. They point out times we are using the promise and law, even when we aren’t in meetings (park play dates, after school, etc.).

Jessica – Girl Scouts was an important part of my childhood and I learned so much from my experience back then — leadership, service, new skills, and traveling. I am still learning, not only by helping my troop plan and execute activities, but from the girls in my troop.

2. Looking back on your first year as a Girl Scout Leader, what would you tell yourself now?

Jessica – Having seasoned leaders as mentors is so invaluable to getting a troop started. Ask questions, discuss challenges. You have an amazing support network!

Debbie - If I could give myself some advice, it would be to take more pictures and label them!

Christina - Today I would go back and tell myself that "this is so much more than you think it is! These girls are going to transform in front of your eyes, they are going to step up and become amazing ambassadors of the values you are instilling today. Hold onto your heart because when you see it happen it's going to burst!"

Chrissy – Girl-led is best-led! Things aren’t ‘perfect’ but they are certainly amazing, inspired, and the choices are the girls’. (Age appropriate of course!)

3. What are your observations from day one in the new troop year to the end of the troop year or bridging ceremony? How have the Girl Scouts grown? What have they gained? How have they changed? What are they bringing to their everyday life that they didn’t have before?

Jessica - I love starting out the troop year having the girls look at the different badge options and talking through what goals they would like to achieve for the year — and then reflecting back at the end of the year. They often grow by trying new things out of their comfort zone, honing skills for things they may have done before, and leading/participating in community service. These kids are bringing their leadership and service to their everyday life — in the classroom, in sports, plays and other extracurricular activities, as well as home.

Debbie - I love looking back at photos at the end of the year, as we get ready for bridging and noticing how much the girls have changed. Not only physically, but in so many other ways too. The beginning of the year, many have just turned 5, so they are not reading yet, or are shy and not comfortable in groups. By May, many can now read, some have become more comfortable speaking up in the groups, some are willing to try something new, watching friendships grow, and just seeing how comfortable they are in their own world is wonderful. Anyone who doubts how a cookie booth can affect a girl, hasn’t seen the joy of them making their first inperson sales and waving at cars, with the posters they made.

Theresa – What have they gained? They have gained people skills, how to speak up, how to foster an idea into a project into a completion. They have learned how to showcase their accomplishments.
How have they changed? Oh dear. They have changed, by growing up right in front of our eyes. I remember the day we met for the first time, each little girl peeking out behind their mom, shy and scared...To boldly telling a customer they gave the wrong amount of change, to organizing a council-wide crafts drive for Camp Bonnie Brae. The courage and self-assurance they possess is amazing.
What are they bringing to their everyday life that they didn’t have before? They bring a “can-do" attitude. And they question appropriately. Just this week one of my Girl Scouts noticed a Veterans Memorial that said “We honor our sons” and she immediately asked: "What about daughters?" We talked about it and she asked me to take a photo so that she could write a letter to the Mayor of the town and ask her some questions about it.

4. What is your favorite Girl Scout tradition and why?

Theresa - Making S’mores of course!! My other favorite Girl Scout tradition is reciting the Girl Scout Law. It reinforces our values and reminds us of our true North. It keeps us steering toward that point.

Jessica - Singing! I love to sing and it’s been fun to share the gift of Girl Scout songs with my two children.

Christina - Our troop’s favorite tradition is closing-circle with the Make New Friends Song. They say it's a reminder of what we are all about. Everyone is welcomed in our circle, member or not. We are a family, supporting and caring for each other.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

It’s a great big world with endless opportunities to explore it and Girl Scouts gives girls unprecedented access to travel. Cases in point: As I write, Ambassador Girl Scout Addison is at the tail end of her nine-day journey through India; Twenty-three Girl Scouts are packing their bags for tomorrow night’s flight to Reykjavik, Iceland and 18 Girl Scouts are gearing up for a Galapagos Islands adventure in just a few weeks.

Experiencing different places, people and cultures will expand any traveler’s world view but for teens it’s especially eye opening. It can bring to life what they study in school – think history, geography, geology and literature; it teaches them self-care and selfreliance on a whole new level; perspective to look outside what they already know and it affords the opportunity to look at the world through a different lens.

Girl Scouts gives girls access to travel through Girl Scout Destinations - such as Addison’s experience - across the United States as well as overseas. These trips are for individual girls in grade six and older and range from riding horses in the Rocky Mountains to canoeing the north woods of Minnesota and Canada or catching a sunrise over the Taj Mahal.

Girl Scout Council travel is for girls or troops in seventh grade and older. Iceland and Ecuador are just two of the recent trips. We have five more trips already on the calendar through 2027. We plan multiple years in advance which gives Girl Scouts ample time to fund their travel through the Girl Scout Cookie Program and other money-earning opportunities. You can join us in Peru next summer where Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley are just two highlights and London, Paris and Barcelona is on tap in 2024 and includes a visit to * Pax Lodge in Hampstead, London.

I encourage you to explore these and other trips just for Girl Scouts on our website and make plans that include broadening your horizons and building connections, maybe even building your global Girl Scout sisterhood.

*Pax Lodge is one of five World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) World Centers. As a Girl Scout, you’re automatically a member of WAGGGS, which means you can visit the WAGGGS World Centers on one of our trips or with your family. These five World Centers—created just for Girl Scouts—are fun, affordable, and safe places to stay while you broaden your horizons and make new friends. The other centers are located in Mexico, Switzerland, India, and across the African continent.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

Hello Girl Scouts! It’s Sofia Chang, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. As we kick off Volunteer Appreciation Month, I want to thank all of our 700,000+ dedicated volunteers who work to bring the Girl Scout experience to life for girls each and every day. As a passionate Girl Scout mom and volunteer myself, I know firsthand the impact that our volunteers have—and all the hard work that goes into championing, encouraging, and inspiring girls to be the leaders and changemakers of the future.

110 years ago, the founder of Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, imagined a movement where all girls could come together, explore their worlds, and embrace their unique strengths and passions—and, as Girl Scouts has done ever since, she worked hard to turn that vision into reality, engaging countless enthusiastic supporters and volunteers along the way.

I’m excited to have Margaret Seiler, Juliette’s grandniece—a dedicated volunteer herself—join me in celebrating our volunteers and their commitment to our Movement with this guest post for Girl Scouts.

Thank you, Margaret! And thank you, Girl Scout volunteers, for all you do on behalf of the girls you serve!
April is National Volunteer Month! When our new CEO, Sofia Chang, asked me if I could write something to honor volunteers for the Girl Scout Blog, I enthusiastically said yes. Volunteers, who make up a large portion of Girl Scout membership, are the lifeblood of this organization. Without the dedication, creativity, and generosity of so many troop leaders, service unit managers, delegates, and many others, we would not have the very foundation upon which Girl Scouts resides. Our volunteers nurture girls and young women, challenging them to find new passions, set and achieve new goals, form firm bonds of friendship with other Girl Scouts, serve others in their communities, and be their best selves.

I am privileged to be related to our founder, Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low. Aunt Daisy (as my mother, her youngest niece, always called her) was raised in a family that valued service to country and community. I was a Brownie, a Girl Scout, and finally a mother to two Girl Scouts. Now I serve as a volunteer on the Birthplace Advisory Committee for the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace in Savannah. I’m also a member of the Juliette Gordon Low Society. And I love to visit with girls of all ages, to share stories about my Great-Aunt Daisy, the whimsical, artistic, headstrong woman who never took “no” for an answer as she built the Girl Scout Movement.

My family cares deeply about preserving our Great-Aunt Daisy’s history and legacy. She is a role model for all those who believe in female empowerment and inclusivity. I am proud to serve as a volunteer to uphold her ideals, and I applaud all the many volunteers who serve Girl Scouts during this National Volunteer Month!

Join us in welcoming our March guest blogger, Neliana Ferraro. A decade after she represented Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts in Washington, D.C., Neliana reflects on the staying power of Girl Scouts. Her bio follows this post.

Creating our future: Celebrating 110 years of Girl Scouts

The true staying power of Girl Scouts became clear to me when, as a high school student, I went to Washington, D.C. for the 100th anniversary celebration as a representative for Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. Not only did I meet so many amazing girls my age who were already making a difference in their community, but I also learned just how many leaders in our Nation’s Capital had been Girl Scouts themselves. I was able to see the future and the legacy of the organization at the same time.

Now, as we add another decade to the anniversary count, it's clear why so many of these girls and women chose Girl Scouts as the organization to launch their passions and careers.

Girl Scouts helps you find out what kind of girl you want to be. It proves there is no "one size fits all" path to success.

If you dream of becoming a fashion designer, there's a badge for that. You get to explore what the industry is actually like, rather than a glamourized version portrayed in movies and magazines.

If you want to become an engineer, there's likely a college in your area partnering with Girl Scouts to offer a day camp. You can explore fun STEM activities and talk to people in the field.

If you've always wanted to learn archery, you can go to an archery lesson or spend a few weeks exploring that and other fun pursuits at Girl Scout summer camp.

If you want to really take a deep dive into your spiritual life, there are religious awards and medals to earn through study and contemplation.

If you feel called to make a lasting difference in your community, you can plan and execute a project as part of the Girl Scout Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards.

Girl Scouts shows girls that you can be anything. You choose your own path, and Girl Scouts is there to provide those critical opportunities that light the way.

I personally had so many opportunities because of Girl Scouts, everything from cofounding the Girl Leadership Board to getting a summer job as a bank teller out of high school.

I learned about all kinds of career paths, and my Gold Award project even helped fuel my ambition to become a news reporter. Even after deciding to leave my dream career, I knew my activities with Girl Scouts had given me the leadership skills to adapt and find a new passion in marketing.

Girl Scouts will continue to exist as long as there are girls who are driven to find the best version of themselves. And knowing our girls, that will be another 110 years.

Neliana Ferraro served as a Girl Member-at-Large on the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts Board of Directors, helped found the Girl Leadership Board, and represented Girl Scouts during the 100th anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C. She earned her Gold Award, encouraging her community to remember the tragedy and heroism that occurred on September 11, 2001.

After graduating from Quinnipiac University, Ferraro became a news producer and reporter in Vermont and upstate New York. In 2019, she took a position at Baystate Health as a digital content coordinator. She lives in Chicopee with her husband and rabbit. In February, they welcomed their first child, Bruno, into the world. In her free time, she manages her rabbit’s social media empire, teaches Faith Formation classes, and gets crafty.

Please welcome this month’s guest blogger, Hannah Schur! Hannah was an active Girl Scout from Daisy through Ambassador in central and western Massachusetts and is a Site Civil Engineer at Langan Engineering. Her full bio follows this post. We asked Hannah to share her STEM thoughts ahead of International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

STEM. Science, technology, engineering, & math.

When I was little, STEM was an acronym I heard thrown around a lot. I always imagined men in white lab coats and safety goggles moving green liquids from one test tube to another. Through my K12 schooling, college education, and the beginning of my career, I have come to learn that STEM is so much more than that. Not only is it more than lab work, but it is also more than just men.

There has been a misconception in the past that girls are not interested in STEM. From my experience, I believe girls are interested, but they don’t know what it is until they are exposed to it. Learning about STEM is more than taking math and science classes in school. It’s seeing all the different ways STEM careers influence our everyday lives. STEM careers don’t just include doctors, biologists, engineers, and computer scientists. They also include meteorologists, veterinarians, therapists, zoologists, and financial analysts. There are so many ways for girls to become involved in STEM fields when the opportunities are presented to them early and often.

Girl Scouts is definitely the way I was introduced to most STEM fields. My time as a Girl Scout can best be described as a smorgasbord of eclectic experiences. From cookie sales to camp, I was involved in many aspects of the council which assisted me to find my passions and become who I am today. One of my favorite things to do was feverishly flip through the GSCWM Program Guide and highlight the events I wanted my mom to sign me up for. I read that thing cover to cover every time a new one was released. Going to all of these different programs and participating in the varying activities encouraged me to study a STEM discipline. From visits to the Ecotarium and overnights at the Museum of Science, I had so many opportunities to learn about different fields and ask questions.

One of the most influential programs I attended as a Girl Scout was a program at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). We were guided through activities to complete badges by women in the WPI engineering program. At the time, it felt so organic working with other girls on science projects with the oversight of these women. Looking back, I can definitely pinpoint this as one of the first times I saw girls like me succeeding in STEM. Experiences like this were instrumental in choosing what I studied and ultimately what became my career.

Already, it’s incredible how many women I’ve seen in STEM in just the first four years of my career. I can’t wait to continue encouraging the next generation of STEM women to join us.

Hannah Schur is a Site Civil Engineer at Langan Engineering in their Boston office. She graduated from the University of Delaware in 2018 with a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and minors in Business Administration, Civil Engineering, and Integrated Design. She joined the Girl Scouts in kindergarten as a Daisy and continued through her final bridging ceremony from Ambassador to Adult. During her time in Girl Scouts, she was a delegate to the GSUSA National Convention, a girl member of the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts (GSCWM) Board of Directors, and CoPresident of the GSCWM Girl Leadership Board. In high school, she was fortunate enough to visit Juliette Gordon Low’s birthplace in Savannah, Georgia. Additionally, she and her mom visited two of the WAGGGS World Centers in London, England and Lucerne, Switzerland. She attended Day Camp at Camp Laurel Wood and overnight camp at Camp Green Eyrie and Camp Bonnie Brae and most importantly, she sold Girl Scout Cookies every season

What most people know about Girl Scout Cookies:

They’re delicious.

Girl Scouts sell them.

They come around once per year.

Here’s what I know and love about Girl Scout Cookies:

Girl Scout cookies are about courage, confidence and character.

Girl Scouts learn and practice 5 very valuable skills through the cookie program (goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics).

The skills learned stay with a girl forever.

The number one thing girls anticipate when first joining Girl Scouts is the opportunity to sell cookies.

Selling cookies is the very first business transaction most girls make.

I’ve heard from many adult business women that selling Girl Scout Cookies was their start in business and what put them on the path for career success. And I believe it. Girls learn so much through the cookie program! While another child might set their sights on attending their first Broadway show, she’ll likely rely on an adult in her life to make it happen. A Girl Scout on the other hand, is an active participant in making it happen. She sets the goal, figures out how much it will cost to buy a ticket for each troop member and how much to transport the troop to New York City; then figures out how many boxes she’ll need to sell to make it happen. Along the way she’ll devise a strategy for where to sell her wares, when and how often. She’ll include clever signage in her marketing plan and oh, how much sweeter the reward when she’s in control of making it happen!

Girl Scout cookies can bring out the confidence in a girl. It’s no easy task to ask a stranger to buy something. It takes courage to look them in the eye and speak up. It takes confidence to believe in what you’re doing and believe in yourself.

With every season of Girl Scout cookies, another generation of girls learns to set goals, make a plan, and manage money. As women, they’ll need these skills whether their goal is to start a business or start a family.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program is more than a cookie sale. It’s a fun way for girls to build self-esteem and fuel their dreams. The next time you buy a box of Thin Mints, think about the value of the cookie program, what it represents for girls and how it contributes to the community. And enjoy!

The Power of Girl Scout Cookies in her own words.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO

In my mind, Girl Scouts is synonymous with service. From making and donating no-sew blankets to local animal shelters, to educating a community on the opioid epidemic and how to administer Narcan, a Girl Scout learns early the value of service to others and giving back.

Engaging in service to others helps girls become active community members and affords them the recognition they are vital and valued members of that community. It has a lasting impact on the girl and on the community. It takes a lot of dedication and a willingness to try new things, work hard, and remain flexible. Girl Scouts prove time after time they are committed to working toward their goals and improving the world around them.

I very recently attended an annual event that I love being part of – The presentation of the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Ten Girl Scouts from our council were honored this year with this prestigious and national award from the President of the United States. I’m all for any opportunity to honor a girl’s commitment to her community and recognition of the impact she makes. It makes a difference for the girls on their resumes and college applications too.

This is an award that so many Girl Scouts should be getting and aren’t. It’s another opportunity to be recognized for the work a Girl Scout is already doing. You can learn more and apply for next year here.

In the spirit of the season and giving back, I call your attention to Girl Scouts’ National Service Project, Fighting Hunger. It’s a national action to support families experiencing food insecurity. The Fighting Hunger Project supports hunger relief efforts by supporting food drives, Thanking a Food Bank Hero, or volunteering at food distribution programs. You can find more information on how to participate here.

I sincerely thank you for all you do in supporting girls on their personal journeys and helping them discover all they can do and be.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO

Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts recognizes the unique, enduring, and sacred relationship that exists between land and Native American and Indigenous peoples. With gratitude and humility we acknowledge that we are learning, working, and gathering on the ancestral homelands of the Mohican, Nipmuc and Pocumtuc Nations.

November is Native American History Month and November 26 is Native American History Day. I hope that you learn more about those who came before us and honor Native American heritage.

The “I am a Girl Scout!” Native American Heritage Month Patch is designed to provide Girl Scouts and volunteers of all backgrounds with an opportunity to learn more about the cultures, histories, and traditions of over 574 tribes and communities honored during Native American History Month.

Other resources to explore:

Pattie Hallberg, CEO

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 through October 15 each year. The celebration begins in the middle of the month because it coincides with the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, followed by Mexico on September 16, Chile on September 18 and Belize on September 21. Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the histories, cultures, and many contributions of U.S. Latinos who are of Spanish, Mexican, Caribbean, and Central American or South American origins.

Hispanic or not, it’s a great time to educate ourselves about the cultures and learn more about Hispanic friends, colleagues, and communities; explore the many cuisines and listen to an abundance of great music.

The “¡Yo soy una Girl Scout!” Fun Patch is designed to provide Girl Scouts and volunteers of all backgrounds the opportunity to learn more about the cultures of the 21 Spanish-speaking countries and territories honored during Hispanic Heritage Month. Activities delve into art (learn a Hispanic or Latin dance and teach it to a friend), community traditions (think food and folklore) or dive deeper to learn the difference between Hispanic and Latina/o, for example or learn all you can about Our Cabaña in Mexico, one of 5 Girl Scout World Centers. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) has a great documentary series on Latino America or check out the podcast “Latino USA”.

In the words of Girl Scout alum, and the first U.S. Supreme Court Justice of Hispanic heritage, Sonia Sotomayor, “It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.”

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

Have you heard about the Girl Scouts Love the Outdoors Challenge? This inspiring initiative kicked off this spring and ends with Girl Scouts Love State Parks Weekend on September 11 and 12. It’s the perfect opportunity to explore the outdoors whether it’s right outside your window, or your backyard or a back country trail. Beyond the snazzy new patch a girl can earn (don’t get me wrong, the patch is cool!), it’s about appreciating the beauty in nature and protecting our environment and saving the world. A tall order! But if everyone does a little it can make a big difference.

I recently spent 10 days exploring National Parks out west. The trails were challenging, the scenery was breathtaking and the importance of protecting everything I was seeing for future generations was always top of my mind. I felt truly inspired. I hope you will take the opportunity to participate in Girl Scouts Love the Outdoors Challenge. Here are just five of the 50 suggested activities:

Make a nature map of your neighborhood.

Make a list of the single-use plastics your family uses in one week, then commit to replacing three of them with reusable items.

Play in the rain.

Make a tree bark rubbing.

Learn the seven principals of Leave No Trace

Find the rest here.

You know what else I find inspiring? GSUSA just announced the launch of uniform components and apparel made from recycled and eco-conscious materials! And, old components will be upcycled into new items in an effort to be a more sustainable brand.

Girl Scouts has always done a great job connecting girls to nature and inspiring girls to develop a lasting commitment to the environment. Here’s to continually finding more ways to use resources wisely.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

Who needs one more virtual meeting in their present life? Cue me, NOT raising my hand. Still, I’m incredibly excited about GSCWM’s upcoming Annual Meeting on Zoom and here’s why:

The Annual Meeting for a non-profit organization is all about connection. It’s my opportunity as CEO - and our Board’s opportunity as the governing body - to connect with our membership who we don’t get to see on any regular basis to say hello, report on our work and share with our members all the things that happened in the year. We fill you in on the state of the organization. We get to make a personal connection and it’s one of the special things about Girl Scouts. Our ‘sisterhood’ is all about our membership. We want to share how we’re doing as a member organization and the impact we are making thanks to you.

Governance sets the foundation for everything we do. It’s Oversight. Governance sets policies, adopts the budget, and manages large assets (think property) and investments. As a GSCWM member, the annual meeting is your opportunity to interact with governance. You’ll be voting on eight board members. Does the slate represent us? Are they geographically diverse? Are they racially diverse? Do they have diverse experiences to represent us? The process is important, and so is the process of reporting out to our members. We share our vision, direction, impact and thinking with those who work alongside us in an effort to make the world a better place. The annual meeting is your opportunity to engage with the process and I hope that you will.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

April can be fickle, weather-wise, so it is in May that I feel like I’m really emerging from winter’s shell and moving headlong toward summer. I start remembering how much I love being outside. I know that it won’t be long before we are all freed from our winter jackets and hiking, walking or running through the great outdoors.

My summer schedule ever since I started working for GSCWM included many days at our four summer camps. And I love it. I love the beauty of the land whether it’s forest or waterfront or open fields. The minute I get out of my car the air feels and smells different and I can hear girls singing. I love walking around camp, day or resident, and seeing all the groups of girls laughing and carrying on, or sometimes being seriously serious. I love watching them being silly in the swimming pool and I love seeing them practice the boating skills they’ve learned on the lake. I love watching girls in the archery range. Everyone is having a unique experience and getting the experience they want.

I can’t tell you how excited I am that we have figured out how to safely open and run day and overnight camps this summer. There are so many extra details to consider and attend to, on top of the already rigorous safety protocols we always have in place, but it’s all worth it. It’s all worth it when I consider the thought of girls getting the break they need and deserve to step away from their homes and their desktops and laptops and cellphones. Time at camp for a girl is a life-changing event, I have heard this from so many.

Adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines and mandates in place, this will be the first summer in thirteen years that I can’t visit Girl Scout camp. Of course I’m feeling a little sad about that but safety of the girls and camp staff is paramount. No visitors means no visitors!! I will relish my memories of summers past knowing that another season of campers gather together in camaraderie to make their own lasting summer memories.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

Dear Girl Scout Leaders,

You have been nothing short of amazing.

YOU are absolutely the ones who have kept things going.

You figured out Zoom and Google Classroom and Facebook Live; you got even more creative than you were previously; you dropped off supplies on doorsteps and porches and patios; you really stepped up for the Fall Product Program and for cookies.

When everywhere everyone was saying ‘no’, YOU said yes.

YOU opened the doors of possibility for girls this year when so many doors were closed.

We’ve all read about the entrepreneurs and small business owners who’ve reinvented themselves and well, Girl Scout Leaders have done exactly the same thing.

YOU are unsung heroes.

Thank you for volunteering this year. Thank you for being leaders, and for supporting the girls of central and western Massachusetts. Happy Girl Scout Leader’s Day and THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts!

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

The month of March holds two very significant observances that pertain specifically to girls and women; International Women’s Day and Girl Scout’s birthday.

International Women’s Day (IWD), marked annually on March 8, celebrates women’s achievements and marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. The 2021 theme for IWD is “Choose to Challenge”. From the IDW website, “A challenged world is an alert world. Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.” “We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women's achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world.”

We’ve lived through turbulent times both historically and indeed more recently. For far too long women’s achievements have gone unnoticed and uncelebrated. I applaud a day devoted to shedding light on all women who take a stand and raise the bar and I’m all in on calling out bias and challenging stereotypes. I wholeheartedly raise my hand and choose to challenge. And you know where my deep inspiration comes from? It comes from Girl Scouts. While I raise one hand and choose to challenge, I raise another hand with three fingers held aloft and pledge to be responsible for what I say and do and to respect myself and others. To make the world a better, more equitable place. Girl Scouts has been lifting girls up and celebrating their achievements for 109 years.

I invite you to take 3 minutes and 49 seconds to watch spoken word poet Anisa Nandaula deliver this brilliant “Choose to Challenge” piece. In it she reminds us that gender is an unwritten book and we have a chance to add our own chapter. “Call out racism and sexism and use courage to rub it out.” Happy International Women’s Day. Happy Birthday Girl Scouts.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

I confess. Despite being a Girl Scout as a girl, and despite being a Girl Scout leader to some of my daughters, I never heard of World Thinking Day before coming to GSCWM as CEO.

I did hear Girl Scouts referred to as a “sisterhood”. But as a Girl Scout member, girls are literally connected to other girls across the world as part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

Since 1926, every year on February 22 Girl Scouts and Girl Guides from 150 countries celebrate World Thinking Day. It’s a unique and special day when girls explore the global dimensions of Girl Scouting and celebrate with girls all over the world by exploring activities around a shared theme. This year’s World Thinking Day theme is Peacebuilding.

What I find so fabulous about World Thinking Day is that I’m part of an organization that cares enough about the world, about the global community, that they have their very own holiday to celebrate our connection. It’s important and it’s easy to be wrapped up in your own community but how cool to take the time, on a special day once each year, to pause and think about what the rest of the world is up to. It says a lot about our organization.

I hope you will take some time to think about what you can do to make your home, your community and the world a more peaceful place. And definitely check out the World Thinking Day 2021 activity pack.

Happy World Thinking Day!

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

Amanda Gorman stole the show on Inauguration Day. I tuned in, as I do every four years on January 20, to watch the ceremony. Witnessing a new president or reelected president take the oath of office is something memorable. This year, I tuned in to also bear witness to the history-making moment of the first woman, the first African American, and the first person of South Asian descent to be sworn in as the Vice President of the United States.

And then Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet ever, took the stage to deliver her poem, “The Hill We Climb”. Her powerful words, her eloquent grace, poise and enthusiasm, blew me away.

“We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.”

“Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.”

A girl cannot be what a girl cannot see. In Amanda Gorman and in Vice President Kamala Harris girls see promise and possibility. Indeed they see what they can be.

May we all keep climbing.

Pattie Hallberg, CEO
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

We celebrate two end of year holidays in my house. We celebrated the first one physically distant but together each night, lighting candles on the Menorah over Zoom. It was actually very pretty with all of those candles burning in four different homes. And the next one will be over Zoom too. I am not sure how I am going to get to taste those traditional Christmas cookies but regardless we will find a way to celebrate together - apart. Holidays for me mean family and connection. People the world over celebrate different holiday’s at all different times of the year. I hope that whatever you celebrate, you will get to really connect with the ones you love, however that looks this year. My very best wishes to all for a healthy and joyful holiday season.

Pattie Hallberg,
CEO Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

It’s the season of thanks giving. It’s the season of reflection and gratitude; of generosity. Love thy neighbor; feed the hungry and pay attention to all that COVID has laid bare. But the divisiveness. So much divisiveness. How do we navigate that? How do we help girls navigate that? What do girls need to see now?

They need to see their adults model friendly and helpful; considerate and caring.

Girls need to see us responsible for what we say and do and respectful of ourselves and others.

We’ve got what we need to emerge from the divisiveness with kindness and understanding. Courageous and strong, we have no choice but to take care of each other. To listen generously. To share more than words. When we care for each other all our lives become better.

On my honor, I will do my very best.

Pattie Hallberg,
CEO Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

There is a lot to admire about the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. High on the list for me is access to civic engagement.

Girls need to learn early about civic responsibility and in Girl Scouts they do; from the littlest Daisies earning their Good Neighbor badge to the older Girl Scouts earning their Behind the Ballot or Public Policy badges. When girls get involved with their community – whether it’s their school, their town or their state – they become actively engaged citizens who are working to affect change.

The more you know about your community the more you feel a responsibility to take care of it, and its citizens, and one of the ways to take care of your community is to vote.

I haven’t missed voting in an election since I was 18. Did you know girls can register to vote at age 16 so they are ready at age 18? Everybody’s voice counts. Every girl’s voice counts. Girl Scouts is setting girls up to be lifelong voters.

I’ve already voted in November’s election. Have you?

Pattie Hallberg,
CEO Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

verb 1. freely offer to do something.
"he volunteered for the job"

Well that doesn’t do it justice. It is said, to be a Girl Scout volunteer is to be a change maker. Yes, that’s more like it. A Girl Scout volunteer has the power to change lives. To change the shy, withdrawn child cocooned in her lack of confidence into the girl who is unafraid to stand up and speak her truth. A Girl Scout volunteer is a powerful, lasting influencer who opens the doors of possibility for girls who will make the world a better place. A Girl Scout volunteer helps girls discover the world around them and the spark within them. And odds are many of you wield this power unaware of the lasting impressions you will leave, the memories you will weave, or the lifelong gratitude the girls will hold in their hearts for you, forever.

Take it from Autumn Cohen who penned the following words and spoke them at her beloved Girl Scout leader’s funeral this past winter:

”Molly devoted her life to Girl Scouts. She had many troops over many years and brought her passion and devotion as a leader to all of them. Mine was Troop 209 and even sharing that feels special, this magical part of my childhood that was mine, made sacred by the values and lessons that Molly brought to it. Starting when we were young, Molly opened her home to us and gathered us together for meetings that, at their core, were about relationship building, respect, leadership and preparing for our future selves, all while honoring who we were in that moment. She expanded our worlds, taking us on many adventures both near and far. She was this constant presence in our lives, offering more and more so we could grow and grow, strengthening our roots while giving us wings and knowing we could soar. “

"To be honest, I don’t remember many of the badges that I earned in Girl Scouts. Which isn’t to say that we didn’t work hard for them - we did - but what I realize now is that the hard work was the reward, not the badge itself. Molly never emphasized what we earned, instead she gave us the process, the experience, and the immense dedication of her time, patience and joy for life. So, in retrospect, I realize that this was really what she was working on with us: badges of dignity, respect, compassion, fortitude and friendship, and those I remember very well and carry with me daily."

“As an adult and a mother, I have a whole new perspective on what I gained from Girl Scouts and from Molly. It’s almost hard to separate it from the girl who went through those experiences - to see one without the other. I remember the dinners at her house and then sitting and laughing with friends in her living room. I remember bike trips and overnights at Smith College, cookie sales and playing on the beach."

“Molly was there to be a leader to girls, to give of herself in order to help us to grow stronger. She was patient and kind to us, always. She never coddled, never talked down, never treated us like we were anything but capable. She was an absolute gift to us and we were so lucky, so very lucky, that we had her in our lives. I can only hope and wish that my own children will have someone who believes in them the way that Molly believed in me."

“One particularly fond memory to share is that of our ceremony crossing over from Brownie Girl Scouts to Junior Girl Scouts. I was young, but remember a bridge of stepping stones that Molly set up for us in our school cafeteria. I can imagine myself now, walking over it, stone by stone, feeling the change inside me as I became something bigger than I had been, and knowing it was a special moment in my life. I think now of Molly as she crosses over into her next place, and I know that she carries with her the many, many girls and women who she changed, helped to grow, who she truly empowered. And as we all continue to walk over our stepping stones in life, we will carry our Girl Scout leader Molly with us, stronger in step and fuller in our hearts because of her.”

Autumn Cohen is an eastern Massachusetts resident, a mom of 3 and forever a Girl Scout at heart, thanks to Molly.

Molly Robinson led a succession of Girl Scout troops in western Massachusetts empowering a multitude of girls from first grade through high school.

If you have a story to share about your Girl Scout leader, or about being a Girl Scout leader, I’d love to hear it. Reach out to me at

Pattie Hallberg,
CEO Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

She was an artist and a philanthropist. She was a skilled blacksmith who forged the elaborate iron gates that graced the entrance to her Georgia estate; she used her deafness to her advantage to pretend she didn’t hear refusals from anyone who said no to helping her form her beloved Girl Scouts. She was a figure of enormous fortitude who weathered personal setbacks and found her calling in life at age 50.

While she never had children of her own, Juliette Gordon Low devoted her life to them.

She was a woman of fierce determination and she was light years ahead of her time in terms of providing equal access for all. In the early 1900s she was determined to provide girls the same opportunities boys had to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. Juliette Gordon Low was a visionary. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually. She encouraged girls to believe that they could be anyone they could imagine or do anything they could dream.

“Right is right even if no one else does it.”

Juliette admired Sir Robert Baden-Powell for his seeming success at instilling values of self-discipline and personal honor to boys. But it troubled her that he could not find a place for girls in his plan. So the woman who grew up in upper-class society took it upon herself, with her own wealth and on her own property, to create the Girl Scouts of the USA with the first troop of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.

She had the first 18 girls playing basketball in their bloomers in a cordoned off tennis court, instilling the virtues of physical fitness. She took them on long camping trips and taught them appreciation of nature and how to survive in the wild. Girls went on to earn badges like Electrician, (think battery connections and fusions and how to rescue and resuscitate someone who has been electrocuted); Signaler (send and receive a message using Semaphore and Morse code and be able to code more than 50 letters per minute) and Matron Housekeeper (use a vacuum cleaner or stain and polish hardwood floors).

“We shall make [Girl] [S]couting so much a part of our life,” proclaimed Juliette Low, “that people will recognize the spirit and say, ‘Why, of course. She is a Girl Scout.”

Juliette designed a space for an intricate, multi layered experience for personal skill building, for giving back, for embracing differences in each other and for setting up girls for a lifetime of success.

World War I elevated the Girl Scouts in stature and lent a new respect for the organization. Juliette had girls helping in the war effort by assisting the Red Cross as messengers and helping overworked nurses; planting vegetables in their backyards in masse; and selling millions of Liberty Bonds.

Juliette remained an activist for the Girl Scouts until her death in 1927 at the age of 66. There were 167,000 Girl Scouts in the United States. Her vision of Girl Scouts being a place for every girl regardless of class, race, background or ability had been realized and expounded upon. She accomplished a major service not to just girls but to people of all classes and races and she made her indelible mark on the world.

“This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing...but doing…not just doing, but being.” –Juliette Gordon Low

Pattie Hallberg CEO,
Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts

A celebration unique to Girl Scouts, the significance of World Thinking Day is reflected upon by Girl Scouts of Central & Western Massachusetts Board Members Bonnie Walker and Carla Carten for this installment of A G.I.R.L. Journey.

World Thinking Day is a unique and special Girl Scout holiday celebrated each year on February 22. It’s a time when we remember we are part of a worldwide movement as girls celebrate international friendship in camaraderie with Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the globe. Locally, Girl Scouts across central and western Massachusetts engage in multicultural celebrations to learn about a country's history, customs and people as they develop awareness about their sisters around the world, explore cultural similarities and differences, and learn about issues that girls and women everywhere face. The 2020 World Thinking day theme is Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Nonprofit organizations, such as the Girl Scouts, who specifically support girls and young women, are created to improve society. As such, from a moral and market perspective they should be diverse, inclusive, and equitable; creating spaces for girls of all backgrounds to feel an integrated sense of belonging. The Girl Scouts mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. To achieve this mission, Girls Scouts focus giving girls and young women opportunities to participate in adventure and outdoor skills, entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and financial literacy, and through these opportunities their individuality is valued and celebrated. A mindfulness for diversity, equity, and inclusion, allows for their differing needs to be met as they develop important skills and competencies that will empower them to thrive in an ever changing, diverse and competitive world. Celebrating diversity and supporting equity and inclusion in Girl Scouts, supports girls to become competent and confident global citizens with the knowhow to navigate in a global economy.

The month of February includes several month-long observances that pointedly support diversity, equity and inclusion. They are:

  •  Black History Month: In February, celebrate the accomplishments of Black Americans, past and present.
  • National youth leadership month: This celebration aims to encourage young leaders to get involved in their community.

The month of February also focuses on health and wellbeing paying particular attention to underrepresented & underserved populations regarding social justice and social services in health care. These populations include women, people of color, and those of low socio-economic status:

  • American Heart Month: Hosted by the American Heart Association. Many local medical centers have activities and health fairs, including walks and "Go Red for Women," a movement to end heart disease and stroke in women.
  • National Children's Dental Health Month: Hosted by the American Dental Association. Use this month as a good time to discuss good oral care habits. 
  • Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: Discuss this important topic with your sons and daughters. 

We encourage you to take time this month to celebrate World Thinking Day and to engage in the other aforementioned month-long observances. We also ask you to think critically about how social justice relates to these celebrations. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” And from the Founder of the Girl Scouts, “To put yourself in another's place requires real imagination, but by doing so each Girl Scout will be able to love among others happily.” -Juliette Gordon Low

Carla L. Carten, PhD, MSOD is Executive Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy at Partners Healthcare

Bonnie J. Walker, M.A. is the Interim Director of Equity and Inclusion at Worcester Academy

Four Reasons You Should Let Her Travel as a Girl Scout

We’re not talking field trips. We’re talking access to life-changing opportunities to explore different locales and cultures and flexing her risk-taker, do-gooder muscles. Did you even know, as a Girl Scout, she has opportunities to travel not available to non-Girl Scouts? From Meghan Schafer, GSCWM’s Volunteer International Trip Coordinator, here are the top four reasons you should let her travel as a Girl Scout:

1. Courage, confidence and character. Travel helps girls grow in unique ways. When girls travel to new places they open themselves up to experiencing new cultures, connecting with new people, experiencing new adventures and so much more. 75% of Girl Scouts who travel on big trips stay in Girl Scouts and 78% use their travel experience on their college resume. As one girl said, "Absolutely go! It's an amazing experience to get pushed outside of your comfort zone in the best way possible and in a safe environment with other Girl Scouts."

2. Connections. She'll build connections and relationships. Girls get a chance to connect with others who are unlike anyone else they have ever met. This gives them a chance to gain new and global perspectives and ways of doing things. It allows them to learn how to connect on different levels and solve conflict in healthy ways. These new skills will transfer to their experience when they are thrust into the college world in just a few years and make them far more prepared to take on this new challenge.

3. Self-care. She'll learn to take care of herself. Travel offers girls a chance to learn how to be fully responsible for themselves often for the first time on their own. Group travel requires girls to be mindful of their own belongings, get themselves up and ready each day, make decisions about meals and activities and much more. It allows them to learn how to deal with situations when their decisions are not always the best. They learn new coping skills and ways to problem solve. These will translate into lifelong skills.

4. Experience. She'll have amazing new experiences. Travel gives her a chance to see more of our amazing world. She’ll get to try activities she may not have access to at home such as snorkeling with giant turtles, climbing 14,000 foot mountains or seeing Broadway Shows. She'll meet people she would have never met which often leads to lifelong friendships. She’ll try food she’s never imagined (food can be a great way to experience new places and gain a new sense of the world around her). Her experience will change her for the better. Everything she sees, does, eats and experiences will make an impression. The girl who sets off on the adventure won’t be the same girl who returns. She’ll have set the stage for adventure and transformative experience.

Future travel destinations include Iceland, Peru, Spain, France, Japan and more. The next information session is April 9, 2020. Contact to register. For more on all the ways she can travel as a Girl Scout visit our webpage.

When she’s not leading Girl Scouts to fabulous places or zip lining through the jungle, Meghan Schafer is Director of the Playspace Program at Horizons for Homeless Children.

Ah, November. We marked the transition back in time. Just one hour, but still.

Election Day. Moving communities forward and bringing gratitude for our great democracy.

National STEM Day. Moving girls forward and grateful to be doing our part to inspire girls to become interested in and even love science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Veteran’s Day. The ultimate giving to Country.

Women’s Entrepreneurship Day. “Accelerating and educating the world on the importance of why it’s pivotal to empower women in business globally.”

National Camp Day. Instilling an appreciation of the great outdoors and fostering a commitment to protect nature.

Thanksgiving. Thanks giving. Thank goodness for Girl Scouts.

As November draws to a close we give thanks for the opportunities we have on a daily basis to effect change, one girl at a time. Introducing her to her bravery when she sleeps outside for the first time; exposing her to business skills she’ll use later to run a company or a household; providing a backdrop to honor those in her community who serve with a selflessness she might not yet grasp. But it’s coming. Teaching her the wonders of programming robots and watching her pride when it heads just where she intended; helping girls and young women unleash their inner leader by instilling the courage, confidence, and character that lets her raise her voice and advocate for what she believes.

May you take the opportunity to reflect on the extraordinarily important contribution you bring to make it all happen.

Pattie Hallberg CEO,
Girl Scouts of Central and Western MA