Monday, December 16, 2013

Senior volunteers helping GSAK create tomorrow's female leaders

Alaskan seniors are lending their time, talents, skills and expertise to Girl Scouts of Alaska.

Seniors play an integral role in helping non-profit organizations such as GSAK fulfill their missions. According to data released this year by the Corporation for National and Community Service, senior volunteering is at a 10-year high – one in three volunteers is a senior age 55 and older. These men and women tap a lifetime of experience to help a variety of faith-based, social service, health, educational and civic organizations. 

“Volunteers are an important part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience,” GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. “Adult volunteers act as cheerleaders, guides and mentors for girls, helping them develop skills and confidence. Our senior volunteers are especially valued because they can share the skills and talents they’ve developed over a lifetime with our girls, helping shape tomorrow’s leaders.”

Leading a troop is one way to participate. GSAK senior volunteers also coach LEGO robotics teams, present at Women of Science workshops, lend administrative support in our council office, and help out at summer camps.

A volunteer leads a kite-making activity

For 44 years, Anchorage resident Judy Weimer has volunteered with Girl Scouts. A retired elementary-school teacher, Weimer currently leads three troops and serves as treasurer of her Service Team. Service Units are neighborhoods or regions comprised of troops and managed by Service Team volunteers.

“Working as a troop leader, I see the difference Girl Scouts makes in the lives of girls. The younger girls learn the basics of being a good, moral human being, and the older girls learn to give back to their community and why it’s important. Girls of all ages learn leadership skills, which makes them stronger people and capable of doing things they may not have tried otherwise. I’ve seen shy girls develop the confidence to organize and lead an event for 400 people. Girl Scouts gives girls opportunities they simply don’t get elsewhere,” Judy said.

Combining her love of travel with her passion for volunteering has taken Girl Scout troop leader Kim Ballard to Japan and Ireland, with a European excursion planned for 2016. Ballard was a Girl Scout herself, having achieved the organization's highest achievement. (The highest achievement is currently called the Girl Scout Gold Award, but it has been known in the past as the Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, and First Class.)

“I always say, ‘Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout,’” Kim said. “Unlike many people my age I still work full time, but I volunteer with Girl Scouts because the organization’s values are ones I want to perpetuate. I think it’s very important for girls to have something that builds their self-esteem. The activities we do as a troop, the girls take it one step further. They’re so enthusiastic. That’s what I love about the organization.”

In November 11-year-old Sarah Mixsell, a member of one of Kim’s three Girl Scout troops, received the "Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy" award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Alaska Chapter, for her Alaska Kids for Kids charity. Sarah thanked Kim during her acceptance speech.

Kim herself was recently appointed to by the World Foundation for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, Inc., to serve a three-year term on the Friends of Our Chalet Committee of the World Foundation. Our Chalet, located in Adelboden, Switzerland, is one of four Girl Scout world centers. The other three are in located in Hampstead Village, England, Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Pune, India.

Darryl Royce, director of community outreach for AARP Alaska, said senior volunteerism was a driving force behind the creation of AARP. “Our founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, had a motto: ‘To sere, not be served.’ Volunteerism was a founding tenant of our organization. The thing I try to drive home to seniors is that their experience is relevant. No matter your age, you can use your life experiences, skills, and passions in your community today.”

Volunteers at 2013 Encampment

Ola Williams has helped manage the Girl Scout Cookie Program for the Mat-Su Valley for 13 years. She was never a Girl Scout herself and did not have daughters in the program, but she started managing her best friend's daughter's troop in the late 1970s in upstate New York. Ola became involved with the Cookie Program as a troop leader, and later served as cookie depot manager in Ithaca, N.Y. When Ola moved to Alaska in 1999, she knew she wanted maintain her involvement with the program.    

"The Girl Scout Cookie Program is such a worthwhile program for the girls. I own my own business and in the spring I pretty much schedule my time at work around the cookie sale. For myself, not having kids of my own, it's a way to keep in contact with younger people. I've touched hundreds of girls’ lives because of my involvement with the program. Girls will stop me in the grocery store and say, 'You’re the cookie lady!'” 

With the help of more than 1,500 adult volunteers, Girl Scouts of Alaska serves nearly 6,000 girls in communities from Bethel to Ketchikan. To volunteer, contact the member service specialist in your area:

  • Anchorage (midtown, Sand Lake, south-side, and west-side): Amanda Morgan, 907-273-0310
  • Anchorage (north-side, east-side, JBER, Eagle River): Sarah Guthrie, 907-273-0314
  • Bethel and Southwest Alaska: Amy Von Diest, 907-273-0317
  • Kenai Peninsula and Copper Center, Cordova, Glennallen, Kenny Lake, Kodiak, Valdez: Roslyn Lack, 907-602-8619
  • Juneau and the upper Southeast region: Taralee Ellis, 907-586-1710
  • Ketchikan and the lower Southeast region: Victoria Lord, 907-617-2160
  • Mat-Su: Julie Alexander, 907-376-3822

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Adult Learning Summit Draws Volunteers from Across the State

They came from Bethel, Kodiak, Ketchikan and Homer. They learned how to conduct ceremonies and traditions, work with youth with disabilities, lead environmental education programs, and even basic bow and arrow skills. 

GSAK's fourth annual Adult Learning Summit, held November 8-9 in Anchorage, taught adult volunteers about GSAK, strengthened their youth-development skills, and allowed them to network with other volunteers. This fun and educational two-day event also included an awards ceremony and addresses from U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and state Rep. Mia Costello.

 GSAK CEO Sue Perles (left) with Anchorage Rep. Mia Costello 

“Our goal is to better prepare our adult volunteers,” Director of Program & Membership Tasha Nichols said. “When adults gain skills and strengthen their techniques, it creates a better and more positive experience for our girls.” 

Valerie Peace is a troop leader in Anchorage. This was her second year attending the Adult Learning Summit. “When I found out Girl Scouts was holding the event again, I was ecstatic,” Valerie said. “Last year I was desperate for information. I’d just become a troop leader and I needed basic information on what do to and how to do it. An unanticipated benefit was meeting incredible volunteers from across the state; I was mesmerized by their talent, experience and think-outside-the-box approach. This year I was able to connect more with these volunteers. They shared experiences my girls are champing at the bit to do. I came away feeling hopeful and energized.” 

A volunteer from Kodiak (left) and Victoria Lord, member service specialist for Ketchikan and the lower Southeast region, attend a "Journey to Girl Scouting" learning session

GSAK works with 1,500 adult volunteers to help create a safe, inclusive environment for Alaska’s diverse population of girls. Guided by these volunteers, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives. 

More than 60 volunteers attended the 2013 Adult Learning Summit. Ten individuals and four Service Units received awards for their volunteer contributions to GSAK. Service Units are neighborhoods or regions comprised of troops and managed by volunteers.  

  2013 Adult Award recipients 

Anne Kurland, who volunteers as GSAK's Juneau Service Unit manager, was both an attendee and presenter at this year’s Adult Learning Summit. “This is my third time attending the summit. I love connecting with volunteers from all over the state and sharing ideas and stories," Anne said. "Everyone has so much to offer, and I always go home feeling more enthused than ever about all the possibilities of Girl Scouting.” 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Anchorage Forget-Me-Not Group Builds Bonds, Strengthens Ties

For a group of former and current Girl Scouts, the bonds they developed and nurtured over the years have led to lasting friendships. Known as the Forget-Me-Not Breakfast Group, these Anchorage-based women meet once a month to chat and reminisce. 

From left: Janice Baber and Joy Kutz. From right: Benita Colyar, Cheryl Lovegreen, and Mickie Pascar.  

The group was started by former GSAK (then Girl Scouts Susitna Council) Executive Director Marjorie Bailey upon her retirement in 1982. There are currently 20-plus members, "though not all the members come to every meeting - every time we meet, the group is different," member Janice Baber said. 

GSAK Communications Director Carly Horton Stuart attended the Sept. 19 Forget-Me-Not meeting. In addition to Janice, members Benita Colyar, Cheryl Lovegreen, Mickie Pascar, and Joy Kutz were present.

Benita is an original member of the group. She arrived in Alaska in 1954 and served as council president 1980-1984. Cheryl is a second generation Alaskan Girl Scout, having been a Girl Scout herself and later a troop leader with her mother. Cheryl's daughter, now grown, was also involved. "I started dropping in on the Forget-Me-Not group with my mom, and then I started coming on my own. These are all good people; there's not a bad one in the group. Since my mom passed away, these women have become like mothers to me," Cheryl said. 

Micki leads a Cadette troop in Anchorage. "I'm involved, my daughter was a Girl Scout and now leads a troop in Barrow, and my granddaughter is involved. That's three generations," Micki said. "My husband was even a registered member. For us, Girl Scouts has been something we can do as a family."

Joy's Girl Scout experience was also a family affair. Her father and husband were both members, and her daughter was a Girl Scout. In the early 1990s, Joy and her family were transferred to a military base in Germany where Joy led a troop of Brownies and Juniors. She also served as a Girl Scout trainer and age level consultant. "It was a different world," Joy said. "We didn't do cookie pre-sales, for instance - you just had to guess how many boxes you might need. Amazingly, we always managed to order the correct number of boxes!" 

Joy's travels have taken her to two of the four Girl Scout world centers: Pax Lodge in Hampstead Village, England, and Our Chalet in Adelboden, Switzerland. (The other two world centers are in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Pune, India.) 

Cheryl, Micki, and Joy were all involved in Girl Scouts growing up and earned the organization's highest achievement. (The highest achievement is currently called the Girl Scout Gold Award, but it has been known in the past as the Golden Eaglet, Curved Bar, and First Class.) Unlike these three women, Janice was not a Girl Scout growing up. "I was actually recruited as an adult by another troop leader in Arizona. My son was always a tag along to Girl Scout events, which got him interested in Boy Scouts. I didn't have a daughter, but it was fun to be involved on my own," Janice said.  

Janice has attended every Encampment in Girl Scouts of Alaska history. She is known for leading "TLC" and "Craft Cash" activities. "I've made so many friendships in Girl Scouts," Janice said. "The Forget-Me-Not group is a way of ensuring those friendships last."

The Forget-Me-Not Breakfast Group meets the third Saturday of the month at Denny's Restaurant, 3850 DeBarr Road, Anchorage. For information or to get involved, contact Janice Baber at     





Thursday, October 24, 2013

Celebration and Tour of Camp Singing Hills

GSAK had a great turnout for our Camp Singing Hills celebration and tour! Girls, troop leaders, community members, and legislators - including U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Rep. Geran Tarr of Anchorage, and Rep. Bill Stoltze of Eagle River - helped make the day a success. 

  GSAK CEO Sue Perles (left) and Sen. Murkowski with Troop 690

The event was held 2:00-4:00 p.m. Saturday, October 19 at our 40-acre Camp Singing Hills property in Chugiak. Reporter Samantha Angaiak covered the event for KTUU Channel 2 News. Attendees enjoyed Girl Scout Cookies and hot drinks while they toured the camp. They also witnessed a flag ceremony conducted by Cadette Troop 407, were treated to a skit put on by Brownie and Junior Troop 690, and heard speeches by GSAK CEO Sue Perles, Singing Hills Capital Campaign Chair Jane Angvik, U.S. Sen. Murkowski, and Rep. Stoltze.  

Sen. Murkowski, a Girl Scout alumna and member of honorary Congressional Girl Scout troop Troop Capitol Hill, spoke to the girls about the importance of STEM education. Once completed, our 6,500-square-foot Singing Hills lodge will be fully wired for interactive distance learning and will serve as Alaska’s first STEM Center for Girls. Sen. Murkowski serves as honorary chair of GSAK’s Singing Hills Capital Campaign.

Camp Singing Hills lodge

In addition to the lodge, Camp Singing Hills will have four yurts and a shower house for year-round camping; two trail systems, plus camping locations and outdoor environmental education sites; and a waterfront area with canoe storage and an environmental education dock.

Saturday's celebration and tour launched the public phase of our capital campaign and accounted for more than 40 new donors. The primary structure on the Camp Singing Hills property was destroyed in 2009 by an act of arson. In 2010, project teams came together at Encampment to consult with girls, adult volunteers, and board members to determine the camp features and facilities that would best serve Alaska’s girls. 

From left: Michael Fredericks, president of RIM First People; Wayne Flesch of Cornerstone General Contractors; Jane Angvik, Singing Hills capital campaign chair; Bryce Klug of RIM First People; Lynda Zaugg, GSAK first vice chair; and Cricket Gartrell of ARCADIS. 

In 2011, the Alaska State Legislature appropriated $2.1 million to assist with Camp Singing Hills planning and development. With support from the State, and Sen. Murkowski as honorary chair, GSAK launched a $4 million capital campaign to rebuild Camp Singing Hills. In addition to the State of Alaska, we have received support from the Rasmuson Foundation, BP Alaska, ConocoPhillips Alaska, the Mat-Su Valley Health Foundation, and a host of community leaders. 

The rebuild of Camp Singing Hills is due to be completed by the end of 2014.Once completed, we expect the camp to serve 2,000 unique girls, attract 4,500 in-person girl visits each year, and reach many more girls employing interactive technology.

A big thank you to all those who turned out for our Camp Singing Hills celebration and tour! 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Girl Scouts Builds Bonds that Transcend Time and Space

A shared love of adventure, song, and the great outdoors created an indelible bond between former Girl Scout camp counselors at Camp Chalk Hills in White Rapids, Wisconsin. Some of the women have been friends nearly half a century, meeting every four years to reconnect and reminisce. Three members currently live in Alaska. CC Travers, who resides in Juneau and volunteers with GSAK, says Girl Scouts "has made me who I am today." CC even met her husband of 26 years while on a Girl Scout international opportunity in Australia!   

The group calls itself GROG, which stands for the “Gathering of the Royal Order of the Green.” Since the women share memories of the same camp, many of the relationships cross generational boundaries. Mary Julia Knox – or “Stringbean” to her fellow counselors – credits Anne Bishop (“Annie B.”), a retired professional Girl Scout and former director at Camp Chalk Hills, with creating a camp atmosphere that fostered lasting friendships.

"Annie's Girls" outside Annie's Place in Ketchikan. "Stringbean" is second from left.

“Annie B. really instilled in us the Girl Scout ideals, particularly ‘be a sister to every Girl Scout.’ We've shared so much over the years. These women feel more like sisters than friends,” Mary said.

The group decided to come to Alaska this summer because Mary and a fellow member hadn't yet seen the 49th state. “She hadn't been to Alaska and a few of the Southern states, and I hadn't been to Alaska and Hawaii. Since Alaska was the state we had in common, we decided to plan a trip,” Mary said.

At Skagway Centennial Statue

The group traveled to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Fairbanks and Denali National Park, Anchorage, and the Kenai Peninsula. The women shopped, talked, dined, and most importantly, sang. “That was part of the bond that Annie B. created, the singing,” Mary said. “We would sing after we put the kids to bed, often until it was time for us to go to bed. That’s what we still do when we’re together. We sing.”

Hiking in Denali 

CC, or "Ceesco," is a mother of three and a high-school math teacher. She credits Girl Scouts with "contribut[ing] to my professional development and teaching me how to be a leader and giving me lots of experience working with kids.

"Of the group that came to Alaska, I really only knew one of them... But that didn't matter. They were GROG... We feel like we know each other because we have the same common experience and common values even though we don't know each other. It really makes the 'sister to every Girl Scout' ring true. Eight of them stayed at my house for the weekend, and we had a great time." 

CC's two daughters are involved with Girl Scouts of Alaska in Juneau, one as a Senior and one as a Cadette. CC is co-leader of her daughter's Cadette troop. When the troop attended Encampment at Camp Togowoods last summer, CC was struck by "how wonderful and amazing to me how similar Girl Scout camps are... So much fun to remember and tell how awesome my Girl Scout experiences were and still are!"    

In addition to travels far afield, the group hosts “mini-GROGs” throughout the year. Recent mini-GROGs include a leaf-raking event, marching together in a Fourth of July parade, and a weekend at Mary’s lake house this summer.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Volunteers Brighten up GSAK Anchorage Office

Climbing ladders, wielding paint rollers, trimming hedges, and exhuming fencing - it sounds like labor-intensive work that would a inspire a fair amount of grumbling, but the volunteers who showed up at Girl Scouts of Alaska's Anchorage office Wednesday, Sept. 11 brought with them a positive energy that was contagious. 

Seven female Alyeska Pipeline Service Company employees donated their time, energy, and enthusiasm to GSAK as part of United Way of Anchorage's Day of Caring program. The program helps businesses and volunteers connect their energy and talents to their community passions. 

Frances Wesley tapes and paints a wall in the conference room

2013 marks the 20th year of Day of Caring. On Sept. 11, more than 600 volunteers from 17 companies worked on 43 service projects for Anchorage-area non-profits and parks. "By mobilizing and uniting, these skilled volunteers and dedicated corporate partners not only make an immediate difference, but they instill the value of volunteering all year long," said Sandy McClintock, director of marketing for United Way of Anchorage.

GSAK had a lot of work for the volunteers, but they proved up to the challenge. The women painted the walls in the conference room, doctored water-damaged ceiling tiles, pulled weeds and performed landscaping duties (in the pouring rain, no less), and took out an old fence that was obstructing the property.

Volunteers dispose of outdoor debris

Dawn McQuay, a telecom specialist, served as the volunteer team leader. Dawn had been a Girl Scout growing up in Illinois, so she was happy to donate her time to GSAK. "I worked out at Singing Hills last year [a GSAK camp property in Chugiak], and it was a ton of fun. When I saw Girl Scouts on the list again this year, I knew it's where I wanted to volunteer."

Frances Wesley, an oil movement analyst, has been participating in Day of Caring since Alyeska Pipeline joined as a corporate partner. "I'm a non-profit person. I volunteer a lot," Frances said. "Alyeska has always supported me in my volunteer efforts, so now it's my turn to do it for them." 

Like Dawn, Frances also participated in Girl Scouts growing up. Her daughters, now grown, were also members, and she plans to encourage her granddaughters to join the organization once they reach school age.

The painting crew!

Alyeska Pipeline Service Company formed in 1970 to design, build, maintain, and operate the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. Today the company provides safe, environmentally responsible, reliable, and cost-effective oil pipeline transportation from the North Slope of Alaska.

United Way of Anchorage is a non-profit organization whose goal is to mobilize the resources of individuals, companies, government, and labor to achieve positive and lasting change in the lives of the people in the Anchorage community.

GSAK extends a big thank you to Alyeska Pipeline and United Way of Anchorage for helping make our Anchorage office a little brighter!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

United Way Grant Allows GSAK to Reach More Girls in Southeast Alaska

Alaskans know that that travel within the state can be more complicated and expensive than travel to the Lower 48. This is especially true in Southeast Alaska where only three towns – Haines, Skagway, and Hyder – are connected to a railway to the Lower 48. The two most populous cities, Juneau and Ketchikan, are accessible only by air or sea.   

Girl Scouts of Alaska (GSAK) serves 26 communities in Southeast Alaska. With the help of more than 200 volunteers, Member Service Specialists Taralee Ellis and Sheila Miller deliver Girl Scout troops, camp, and year-round events to more than 600 girls. 

Taralee serves Juneau and the upper Southeast region, while Sheila's efforts are concentrated on Ketchikan and the lower Southeast region. 

Outdoor education in Ketchikan

"Travel costs are a big issue for us," Sheila said. "In order to deliver our programs, we need to be able to physically reach remote communities.”     

Thanks to a Community Impact Grant from United Way of Southeast Alaska, GSAK will be able to deliver education and health initiatives to Southeast Alaska. These initiatives include:

  • Women of Science events in five major Southeast communities;
  • Friendship, fun, and age-appropriate activities through troop membership;
  • The Girl Scout Leadership Experience, which engages girls in discovering themselves, connecting with others, and taking action to make the world a better place; and 
  • Camps and outdoor education. 

Sitka day camp

“It’s great to be working with United Way of Southeast Alaska,” Taralee said. “They have been continually supportive of youth in this area. The grant will help us offset travel costs and deliver programs and activities in our region." 

Girls involved in Girl Scouts contribute to the improvement of their communities through their abilities, leadership skills, and cooperation with others while making friends and having lots of fun. 

Mary Becker, chair of United Way of Southeast Alaska, said, “We always have more demand and requests for funding than we are able to give, but in this competitive grant process Girl Scouts of Alaska ranked high in meeting targeted needs in the community. We are happy to partner with Girl Scouts to meet community needs.”

United Way of Southeast Alaska is an independently governed, non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening lives, helping people, and improving community conditions in Southeast Alaska. For information, visit

Friday, August 23, 2013

Meet Kayla Bowdoin: Former Girl Scout now helping construct Camp Singing Hills

It seems only natural Kayla Bowdoin would pursue a career in the construction industry. As a child, she spent the majority of her free time camping, fishing, and exploring the Alaska wilderness. Kayla belonged to a Girl Scout troop in Ketchikan as a young teen, which further solidified her love of the great outdoors.   

In high school, Kayla decided to pursue a career as a welder. She enrolled with the Alaska Job Corps upon graduation, but the welding program was full. She took CISCO courses instead, “but computers never really felt right. I wanted to be outside building things. I was very hands-on as a kid; making models was a favorite hobby. Working in construction is like creating models, but on a much bigger scale.”

Kayla secures a roof truss on the shower house at Camp Singing Hills

Kayla bounced around the Lower 48 awhile, uncertain what to do career-wise before her mother intervened. An office administrator with the Southern Alaska Carpenters Training Center, “my mom said, ‘You know, you should really check out the apprenticeship program. It might be good for you.’”

Kayla now works for the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America as a pile driver. Currently, she is helping construct the new lodge at Camp Singing Hills. The 6,500-square-foot lodge will be outfitted to offer state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) programs, and a variety of other Girl Scout programs and adult training. It will also have a sleeping loft, a commercial kitchen, restrooms and showers, and storage space for canoes, kayaks, and other items. 

Cornerstone General Contractors serves as the general contractor for the Camp Singing Hills project. Cornerstone collaborated with the carpenters union to provide labor. Kayla and her fellow employees will work to complete the exterior of the lodge this summer. The interior will be finished by the end of 2014. 

Kayla with Sue Perles, CEO of Girl Scouts of Alaska

Being a woman in the male-dominated Alaska construction industry isn't always easy, Kayla said, but the values Girl Scouts instilled in her have helped her meet those challenges head on. “I grew up in a household where I was taught to have kindness and respect for others, and my dad drove home the importance of a strong work ethic,” Kayla said. “Girl Scouts teaches you to be independent, but to ask for help when you need it. I learned that if you don’t work in cooperation while pulling your weight, the whole project can fall apart.”

This is certainly true in construction, where completing a project on time and within budget requires teamwork from all participants. Pile drivers lay out, cut, splice, and drive wood, metal, or concrete piling embedded into the ground for purposes of supporting a load or compacting soil. It’s physically taxing work that often requires more than one set of hands.    

Kayla said her experience working at Singing Hills has been a good one. “As a woman, it’s tough – you’re working in a man’s world. It’s only over the last 20 or 30 years that men have started seeing women in the hard-labor jobs. The mentality of ‘Women should be at home cooking and cleaning and having kids’ is still around, but I really haven’t gotten any of that at Singing Hills. Everyone is nice; they’re not complaining, because I’m showing up and getting things done.”

As for the future, Kayla wants to keep working in construction. “I come home covered with dirt and bruises, but I do enjoy it. At the end of the day, I can point to a finished project and say, ‘I helped build that.’ I want to keep working and doing what I’m doing as long as I can.” 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Juneau Girl Scout Up for Gold Award: Raising public awareness of the importance of art in schools

Identifying ways to better serve one's community, organizing a team to support betterment efforts, taking action, and inspiring others - Girl Scouts of Alaska (GSAK) Gold Award recipients make a lasting difference in their local community, their region, and beyond.  

The Gold Award represents the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Open to Girl Scout Seniors (grades 9-10) and Girl Scout Ambassadors (grades 11-12), this prestigious award challenges girls to make a difference in their world. 

In fiscal year 2013, in order to balance expenditures with estimated revenues and other available resources, the Juneau School District made many reductions to its expenditure budget. One significant reduction included the elimination of one full-time elementary art specialist.

Nicole Nelson is a Girl Scout Ambassador and 2013 graduate of Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau. Prior to her graduation this past spring, she was president of her high school's art club.  

Nelson stands in front of her "Fuel the Spark for Art" student art exhibit

"Nicole really loves art and she's always been an excellent student, but she knows that for some students, art is the only reason they come to school," said Anne Kurland, GSAK's Juneau service unit manager. 

In light of the budget cuts, Nelson "wanted to raise public awareness of the importance of art in schools while celebrating student artists. That was the impetus for her Gold Award project," Kurland said.   

Nelson worked with the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, the K-5 art specialist for the Juneau School District, and the Juneau International Airport to develop and implement a permanent, rotating student art exhibit called "Fuel the Spark for Art." The exhibit will live at the Juneau airport. 

Nelson's family friend and adult mentor, Liza Diebels Paramore, assisted her in executing the project. To drive home the importance of art at every age, elementary, middle school, and high-school students will each be allocated one of three four-month exhibit rotations throughout the year.  

Nelson and her adult mentor, Liza Diebels Paramore

Nelson was publicly honored for her exhibit Wednesday, Aug. 14 at the Juneau International Airport. Her final paperwork will be reviewed at the next GSAK Gold Award Committee meeting. If Nelson receives the award, she will be formally recognized at the GSAK Young Women of Distinction banquet in March in Anchorage. 

To receive the Gold Award, girls must complete a project that takes a minimum of 80 hours. The project has to be sustainable (no one-time events), and girls must measure the impact of their project quantitatively. For information about the Gold Award, visit

Friday, August 9, 2013

2013 Summer Camps a Success!

It seems just yesterday we kicked off the Girl Scouts of Alaska 2013 summer camp season. And what a season it was! With record-high temperatures across the state, campers left their cold-weather gear and rain boots at home and canoed, hiked, and explored in glorious weather not often experienced in the 49th state.

Day camp in Juneau

At summer camp, girls experience vital engagement - with themselves, their communities, and the environment. They grow in their personal skills and self-reliance, nurture relationships and develop community-living skills, and learn ways to respect and care for the environment.

Trash pickup in Kotlik

In 2013, Girl Scouts of Alaska served more than 2,500 girls ages 5-18 through our resident and day camp programs. Camps were held at 34 urban and rural locations in Anchorage and Mat-Su, Southeast Alaska, Southwest Alaska, Kodiak Island, and the Kenai Peninsula.

Because Girl Scouts of Alaska feels the camp experience should be made available to ALL girls regardless of their ability to pay, we offered assistance (up to 90 percent of the camp fee) to any girl who wished to attend camp.

Here are a few examples of what girls said they learned/gained at camp this summer:
  • "One thing I learned about myself is that I have the power to do anything." (age 7)
  • "I accomplished raising my self-esteem a notch." (age 9)
  • "I learned that looks don't define a person." (age 10)
  • "At camp, I don't feel so misunderstood." (age 11)
  • "I am grateful that my counselors taught me valuable lessons that I can use in life." (age 13)
  • "I am grateful that there are people outside my family that care for and respect me." (age 15)

A big thank you to the Girl Scouts of Alaska staff, parents, and campers for making the 2013 summer camp season a success!

Campers from the Mat-Su Lead On program

Friday, April 26, 2013

Girl Scout Camp Builds Character

By Amanda Block and Anne Gore

When you were a kid, did you go to camp?  If so, you probably remember having lots of fun, making new friends, sleeping in a tent or cabin, swimming or canoeing, performing silly skits, singing songs, and telling stories around a campfire at night.  

Girls enjoying s'mores at Camp Togowoods near Wasilla.

There's no question, camp is fun.   

But, for girls who attend Girl Scout camp in Alaska, there's also important work happening – the work of character development. 

Although program activities like canoeing, conquering the climbing wall, and learning to build a fire certainly contribute to a camper’s confidence and growth, often it is the small, seemingly insignificant events that can most impact a child's development.  

At Camp Togowoods, girls not only learn how to paddle but also how to right an overturned canoe.

Through free play and daily chores for example, girls build character of the type that is vital to future success.  

Helping plant a garden during a Day Camp session in Angoon.

Christopher Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, identified seven critical character traits that children need to develop into successful adults. 

·      A sense of wonder/curiosity about the world:  Our natural, inborn fascination with the world that makes us want to explore, learn and discover all we can about it; The delight we take in seeing the wonders of the world revealed to us.

·      Social intelligence: The ability to read other people’s emotions and connect with them in meaningful ways; Our awareness of others; Knowing when and how to negotiate, collaborate and compromise with others. 

·      Zest/love of life: An exuberance or upbeat feeling about life and the opportunity to witness the wonders of the world; Zest is key to a positive outlook on life.

·      Optimism:  The ability to see the positive opportunity in situations; Optimism is key to self-confidence and a positive outlook on life. 

·      Grit:  The ability to hang in there, to tough it out, persevere and recover from a setback.

·      Self-control:  The ability to regulate feelings and impulses; to recognize and manage them, edit them, and not be run by them.

·     Gratitude:  An essential feeling of recognizing and being appreciative of what we have been given; Gratitude is key to a positive outlook on life. 
At Girl Scout camp, counselors are specially trained to help girls develop and recognize these character traits.  

For example, when girls live together at resident camp or spend all day together at day camp, character issues are bound to arise.  Imagine the grit it takes a camper to face a 35-foot-tall climbing tower for the first time. Picture the self-control a camper develops when trying to light a fire in the rain. Consider the zest/love of life a camper experiences when she canoes across the lake and sees a loon with babies riding on its back. 

How girls experience these situations (with the support of their counselors), is how character is built.

A new friendship develops at Girl Scout's Camp Togowoods.

Girl Scout camp counselors not only point out when girls express one of the seven traits but also spend time reflecting on them at the end of each day. For example, girls may be asked to think about one thing they are grateful for, or give an example of a time they or another camper showed self-control.

Here are some examples of how campers have expressed their character growth:

“I learned that I can stay strong even when times are hard.”  A 7th grader expressing grit.

“Never juje [judge] somwon [someone].”  A 4th grader expressing self-control and social intelligence.

“I think when our group was the happiest was rock clim[b]ing because we all were cheering each other on and encouraging [each] other to climb higher” A 5th grader expressing social intelligence and gratitude.

At Girl Scout camp, we are committed to the highest levels of excellence in health, safety, and programming.  We hire staff that are great with kids and know how to make camp fun. But, we also work hard to ensure that in the course of each day, girls experience opportunities for the kind of character development that is essential for children.  We want girls to leave our camps having had not just fun, but having developed the character traits that will help her succeed in life, and do great things!

A young camper on a hiking trip during Girl Scout camp on Prince of Wales Island.

The mission of Girl Scouts is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.  Through our series, events, camps, and troop activities, we promise every girl the chance to discover the leader she can be.

To register your daughter for Girl Scout camp go to to view the camp catalog and register online.  

To find out about other ways to participate in Girl Scouts, call 907-248-2250, 800-478-7448, or visit

Girl Scouts is available to any girl in Kindergarten through High School. Scholarships and financial assistance is available.

Amanda Block, Girl Scouts of Alaska Camp Director, is an American Camp Association certified camp director with fifteen years experience working with American Camp Association camps, mostly Girl Scout camps.  Amanda recently completed her Master’s Degree in Camp Administration.  Anne Gore is Communications Director at Girl Scouts of Alaska.  Anne experienced grit when she attended her first sleep away camp and survived a serious case of homesickness.  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Girl Scout Cookies Through the Years

Girl Scout Cookies are an icon of American culture. For nearly 100 years, Girl Scouts, with the enthusiastic support of their families, have sold cookies to earn money for troop and community service activities, in the process having fun and developing valuable life skills.

On National Girl Scout Cookie Day, as we celebrate the incredible success of what has become the world's largest girl-led enterprise with $790 million in annual sales, here's a look back on how it all began.

Early Years

Girl Scout Cookies had their earliest beginnings in the kitchens and ovens of our girl members, with moms volunteering as technical advisers. 

The sale of cookies as a way to finance troop activities began as early as 1917—just five years after Juliette Gordon Low started Girl Scouting in the United States—when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project.

In July 1922, The American Girl magazine, published by Girl Scout national headquarters, featured an article by Florence E. Neil, a local director in Chicago, Illinois. Miss Neil provided a cookie recipe that had been given to her council's 2,000 Girl Scouts. She estimated the approximate cost of ingredients for six- to seven-dozen cookies to be 26 to 36 cents. The cookies, she suggested, could be sold by troops for 25 or 30 cents per dozen.

Cookie recipe published in American Girl magazine, 1922.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Girl Scouts in different parts of the country continued to bake their own simple sugar cookies with their mothers. These cookies were packaged in wax paper bags, sealed with a sticker, and sold door to door for 25 to 35 cents per dozen.

First Lady Mrs. Coolidge eating a Girl Scout cookie in 1923.                 Source: Georgia Historical Society.

In 1933, Girl Scouts of Greater Philadelphia council baked cookies and sold them in the city's gas and electric company windows. The cost was just 23 cents per box of 44 cookies, or six boxes for $1.24. Through this new effort, the girls developed their marketing and business skills and raised funds for their local Girl Scout council. A year later, Greater Philadelphia took cookie sales to the next level, becoming the first council to sell commercially baked cookies.

In 1935, the Girl Scout Federation of Greater New York raised money through the sale of commercial cookies. Buying its own die in the shape of a trefoil, the group used the words “Girl Scout Cookies” on the box. In 1936, the national Girl Scout organization began the process of licensing the first commercial baker to produce cookies that would be sold nationwide by girls in Girl Scout councils.


Girl Scout Cookies were sold by local councils around the country until World War II, when sugar, flour, and butter shortages led Girl Scouts to begin selling calendars to raise money for activities.

After the war, cookie sales resumed, with the national organization licensing local bakers to produce and package cookies. By 1948, a total of 29 bakers were licensed to bake Girl Scout Cookies.


In 1951, with the growth of the suburbs, Girl Scouts began selling cookies at tables in shopping malls.

Girl Scouts sold four basic types of cookies: a vanilla-based filled cookie, a chocolate-based filled one, a shortbread one, and a chocolate mint. 

Girl Scout poster, circa 1960s.  Image from here.


During the 1960s, when Baby Boomers expanded Girl Scout membership, cookie sales increased significantly. Fourteen licensed bakers were mixing batter for thousands upon thousands of Girl Scout Cookies annually. 
By 1966, a number of varieties were available. Among the best sellers were Chocolate Mint (now known as Thin Mints), Shortbread, and Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies.

Girl Scouts show off the Peanut Butter Sandwich cookies circa 1973 - 1980.
Photo from here

In 1978, the number of bakers was streamlined to four to ensure lower prices and uniform quality, packaging, and distribution. For the first time in history, all cookie boxes—regardless of the baker—featured the same designs and depicted scenes of Girl Scouts in action, enjoying activities such as hiking and canoeing. 

Photo from here

The cookie boxes also began promoting the benefits of Girl Scouting.


In 1982, four bakers still produced a maximum of seven varieties of cookies—three mandatory (Thin Mint®, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos®, and Shortbread/Trefoils®) and four optional. Cookie boxes depicted scenes of Girl Scouts in action.

Photo courtesy of Girl Scouts of the USA


In the early 1990s, two licensed bakers supplied local Girl Scout councils with cookies for girls to sell, and by 1998, this number had grown again to three. Eight cookie varieties were available, including low-fat and sugar-free selections that never sold well enough to continue producing.

GSUSA also introduced official age-appropriate awards for Girl Scout Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors, including the Cookie Activity Pin, which was awarded for participating in cookie activities.


Photo courtesy of
Little Brownie Bakers
New cookie box designs, introduced in fall of 2000, were bold and bright, capturing the spirit of Girl Scouting. Two licensed bakers produced a maximum of eight varieties, including three that were mandatory (Thin Mints®, Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos®, and Shortbread/Trefoils®). All cookies were kosher. And, even our youngest Girl Scouts -- Daisies -- were now able to sell cookies.


As of 2013, all boxes of Girl Scout Cookies have a new look and a new purpose: to elevate the significance of the Girl Scout Cookie Program. 

The new Girl Scout Cookie package showcases the five financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills that the Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls, skills that will last them a lifetime: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.
The decision to update the package came about in 2010 as part of an overall brand refresh in advance of the organization's 100th anniversary on March 12, 2012. The package needed to be more contemporary to reflect the new brand identity and to embody the spirit of Girl Scouting, while showing customers how their cookie purchase is making a difference in girls' lives.

Where to Find Cookies

In Alaska, public sales of Girl Scout cookies will begin March 1 and continue through March 30.  You can find out where girls will be selling by visiting and typing in your zip code to see a list of times, dates and locations.

If you can't find cookies being sold in your area, call the Girl Scouts of Alaska office and we'll do our best to make sure you get some!  You can reach us during business hours at 907-248-2250 or 800-478-7448. 

For some great tips on how to buy cookies, check out this video.