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