Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Adult Learning Summit and Camp Singing Hills Grand Opening

November was a busy month for GSAK! 

The week of November 10 started with "In Week," where GSAK staff from across the Council traveled to Anchorage for training, team-building exercises, and fun. 

Our 2014 Adult Learning Summit was held November 14-15, and we ended the week with the Grand Opening of Camp Singing Hills November 16! 

2014 Adult Learning Summit

More than 50 adult volunteers turned out for the fifth annual Adult Learning Summit. Held in Anchorage, attendees participated in sessions such as "How to Choose Your Battles," "The Power of Gratitude," "True Voice," and "State of Possibilities." 

 Volunteers participate in a course on astronomy

An awards dinner was held Friday evening. The dinner kicked off with keynote speakers Bruce Sexauer, all-girl LEGO robotics coach; Anne Kurland, Juneau Service Unit manager; and Judy Weimer, long-time GSAK volunteer and Volunteer of Excellence awardee.

  2014 Adult Learning Summit award recipients

Thank you to all our volunteers and congratulations to the following award recipients: 

Volunteer of Excellence
Megan Carr
Jasmine Dirkes
Tracy Fishbach
Deanna Gudgell
Maryjane Hinman
Melissa Jones
Gail Moorehead
Bright Nygard
Valerie Peace
Judy Weimer

Appreciation Pin
Amy Arsenault
Debra Boland
Stephanie Davenport
Mary Graber
Laura Ison
Barbara Knaak
Amanda Light
Sabrina Partridge

Honor Pin
Kim Ballard
Teresa Bleakley

Camp Singing Hills Grand Opening

More than 130 girls, adult volunteers, and community leaders turned out for the grand opening of Camp Singing Hills, held November 16 in Chugiak. 

Anchorage Troop 65

The event opened with Troop 65 ringing the new camp bell. Troop 647 conducted a flag ceremony and Troop 690 led attendees in the Girl Scout Promise and Pledge. The crowd then moved into the new STEM lodge and heard from the following speakers:   

  • GSAK CEO Sue Perles
  • Jane Angvik, Camp Singing Hills Capital Campaign chair
  • Senator-elect Bill Stoltze
  • Senator Anna Fairclough
  • Jayson Smart, program officer for the Rasmuson Foundation 
  • Michael Fredericks, president of RIM First People
  • U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, honorary Camp Singing Hills Capital Campaign chair

Senator Murkowski served as keynote speaker. Senator Murkowski was a Girl Scout growing up in Ketchikan. In addition to serving as honorary chair of the Singing Hills Capital Campaign, the senator is a member of the honorary Congressional Girl Scout troop called Troop Capitol Hill.

Jane Angvik, left, with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski

The Camp Singing Hills capital campaign was launched in August 2012. Construction at Singing Hills began in spring 2013 and was completed this fall. The project was made possible thanks to GSAK’s many partners including the State of Alaska, Rasumson Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Mat-Su Health Foundation, ConocoPhillips, BP Alaska, and First National Bank Alaska. 

 The new Singing Hills STEM lodge

Camp Singing Hills has been a very special part of childhood for generations of girls growing up in Alaska. The “new” Camp Singing Hills features include: 

  • A 6,500-square-foot lodge fully wired for STEM activities and interactive distance learning,
  • Yurts for year-round camping, 
  • A waterfront area for environmental lake education and canoeing,
  • A playing field,
  • Outdoor education sites, and 
  • A trail system, including Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible trails.  

Thank you to our 2014 Adult Learning Summit and Camp Singing Hills grand opening attendees for help making these events a success! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 National Convention Wrap-Up

Celebrating and discovering ways to better connect girls to leadership opportunities was the purpose behind the 2014 National Council Session/53rd Convention, held October 16-19 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Our adult delegates and girl representatives experienced an array of thought-provoking conversations, inspiring speakers and entertainers, and fun with friends old and new during the three-day event.

"Discover, Connect, Take Action: Girls Change the World" was the theme of this year's convention. GSAK's adult delegates included:
  • Sue Perles, GSAK CEO
  • Allison Mendel, GSAK board secretary
  • Deb Boland, Anchorage
  • Anne Kurland, Juneau 
  • Leila Pyle, Kodiak (currently attending college out of state)  
GSAK CEO Sue Perles flew to Salt Lake City two days before the convention to meet with Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts USA; GSUSA Board Chair Kathy Hopinkah Hannan; and other council CEOs to discuss and vote on three key administrative decisions. 

Sue left the convention early so she could speak at the Alaska Women's Summit in Anchorage on the topic of redefining "Like a Girl." This gave college student Leila Pyle the opportunity to step in and serve as one of our convention delegates. 

The convention also included a Girl Scout Leadership Institute. Our GSLI representatives included:
  • Kharissa Chasse, Palmer
  • Jordan Cooper, Juneau 
  • Lacey Davis, Juneau 
  • Rebecca Hassler, Juneau 
GSLI representatives were chosen based on an application and follow-up interview.

GSAK historian Cindy Littell and staff members Lisa Mead and Tasha Nichols also attended the convention. Allison Mendel's granddaughter, Zoraleda Mendel, attended as a guest.

GSAK had four girl representatives at the convention.
L to R: Kharissa Chasse, Rebecca Hassler, Jordan Cooper, Lacey Davis

"The convention provided an incredible opportunity for our girls and adult delegates to connect, explore, create, and celebrate," GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. "From theme dinners to Girl Scout University sessions, there was something for everyone."

Jordan, Kharissa, Lacey, and Rebecca took part in the 2014 Girl Scout Leadership Institute, during which the girls learned about seven different global issues, like education and gender equality, along with ways to make changes in those areas. The girls also heard from inspiring keynote speakers such as:
  • Dr. Tererai Trent, president and founder of Tererai Trend International Foundation, which works to provide quality education and improve the livelihoods of communities in rural Zimbabwe;  
  • Candice Kislack, the founder of TOMS' Shoes "One for One" brand; and  
  • Elizabeth Smart, founder of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which works to prevent and stop predatory crimes. 
"The GSLI really gave the girls a chance to learn about key issues, identify partners or allies, go beneath the issues to identify root causes, and lead Take Action projects with passion to help change the world," GSAK Program & Travel Specialist Lisa Mead said.

Zoraleda Mendel answers the question 
"What can't you wait to do with Girl Scouts?"

Kharissa, Lacey, and Rebecca chose Take Action projects that focus on body image, while Jordan chose education. During the convention, the girls learned skills that will help them implement their Take Action projects in their communities. As they implement their projects, the girls will receive assistance and mentorship from Lisa and Anne Kurland.

Thank you to the delegates, girls, and staff for representing GSAK at the 2014 National Convention!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Product Sale Gives a ‘Boost’ to Troop Earnings

Each year, troops and individual girls take orders from friends and family for delicious nuts and candies as part of the Fall Product Sale. By participating in this program, troops can get a head start on funding their activities for the year!

Girls can earn fun patches during 
the 2014 Fall Product Sale

The GSAK Fall Product Sale program goes beyond the enjoyment of some great products – it gives girls the experience of:

  • Goal setting 
  • Decision making
  • Money management
  • People skills 
  • Business ethics  

This is a "friends and family" sale (no booth sales) that provides troops with the opportunity to earn startup funds for the new Girl Scout membership year. As products arrive and girls begin delivery the week of November 12, it’s also a great way kick off the holiday season! 

Last year Bethel Troop 17, comprised of Brownies (grades 2-3) and Juniors (grades 4-5), sold 500 Fall Product Sale items - more than any other troop in our Council. 

Troop Leader Crystal Garrison said the sale “gets girls back in the spirit of Girl Scouts and injects money into our troop bank account. As troops earn $1 for every product sold, it really is a great money-earning opportunity.” 

In 2013, Bethel Troop 17 sold 500 items during the 
Fall Product sale - more than any other GSAK troop

Crystal said GSAK’s Goal-Getter Contest inspires her girls to really get out there and sell. For every 30 items a girl sells, her name will be entered into a drawing to win an iPad Mini. 

“Last year my daughter, Bryn, actually won the iPad!” Crystal said. “You hear about these contests and you never think you can actually win, but she did. And she sold 40 products, so her name was only entered once.” 

For every 30 items a girl sells, she will be entered 
to win an iPad Mini! 

After paying the manufacturer, all proceeds from the Fall Product Sale stay within GSAK to benefit local girls. This year’s theme is “Shine with Girl Scouts.”

"The Fall Product Sale really is a great money-earning opportunity for troops," GSAK Product Sales Manager Tricia Matyas said. "Not only do girls develop important financial literacy skills they will be able to use throughout their lives, but it encourages them to work toward a goal. 

"Make sure the girls know what the troop's goal is so they can work as a team toward achieving it, whether it's a troop trip, a Take Action project, a community-service project, or an activity," Tricia added. "Also, encourage each girl to set an individual goal. When your troop works as a team, achieving your goals is easier and more fun!"   

When must I sign up? And what are the dates of the 2014 Fall Product Sale?

Troops and individual girls should sign up for the Fall Product sale by 5 p.m. Friday, October 10.

  • Girls will take orders October 3-19.
  • Troop orders are due to the Council/Service Unit October 22.
  • Deliveries to the Council and Service Units will take place the week of November 12 (tentative).
  • Troops must have all money deposited into the troop bank account on December 3 and the first Automated Clearing House (ACH) takes place December 5 (100% of the total amount due to Council).
  • Additional ACHs will take place the month of December (on an as-needed basis).

What are this year’s sale items? 

Chocolate-mint trefoils with “Shine with Girl Scouts” tin – $10
Chocolate-covered pretzels with penguin tin – $10
Cashews – $8
Chocolate-covered almonds – $8
Pistachios – $8
Chocolate-covered raisins – $7
Cranberry trail mix – $7
Dark chocolate sea-salt caramels – $6
Peanut-butter monkeys – $6
Honey-roasted peanuts – $6
Spicy Cajun mix – $6
Gummy fruit slices – $6
Care to Share product – $6

For a list of Recognition Items and Program Certificates for individual girls, check out our website

Remember, troops and individual girls should sign up for the Fall Product sale by 5 p.m. Friday, October 10. 

If you have questions, contact Product Sales Manager Tricia Matyas, 907-273-0302. 

With our troops' help and participation, we look forward to a fun-filled and successful Fall Product Sale! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Courage, confidence, and character at 2014 Girl Scout summer camp

Whether girls are new or returning campers, there's something for everyone at Girl Scout camp! 

Girls may canoe or kayak for the first time, gaining paddling skills as they tackle progressively challenging adventures. 

'Wet and Wild' campers at Camp Togowoods, Wasilla

They may learn outdoor survival skills on an overnight hike, taking them out of their comfort zone and putting them in a place where they must stretch to grow – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

There are, of course, the activities we commonly associate with camp - singing songs, playing games, arts and crafts, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and making new friends.

Arts and crafts in Petersburg

"Camp matters because it gives girls vital engagement," GSAK Statewide Camp Director Amanda Block said. "It not only teaches them skills they can use in the future, but it allows them to practice those skills today."

Whether new and challenging or familiar and comforting, the activities girls partake in at Girl Scout camp help them develop the character traits youth need to develop into successful adults: 
  • A sense of wonder about the world
  • Social intelligence
  • Zest for/love of life
  • Optimism
  • Grit
  • Self-control
  • Gratitude
"We don't just create leaders for the future," Amanda said. "We are creating girls, today, who are practicing in little ways how to change the world so that when they grow up, they can change it in big ways."  

'Free dog wash' community-service project in Angoon

This year, GSAK served more than 2,650 girls ages 5-18 through our resident and day camp programs. Camps were held at 36 urban and rural locations in Anchorage and Mat-Su, Southeast Alaska, Southwest Alaska, Kodiak Island, and the Kenai Peninsula. 

Because we feel the camp experience should be made available to ALL girls regardless of their ability to pay, we offered financial assistance (known as "camperships") for up to 90 percent of the camp fee to any girl who wished to attend camp.

Friendship in Scammon Bay

In several communities in Western Alaska, we offered camp at a significantly reduced cost. Our key sponsors included Alaska Commercial Company, Calista Corporation, ConocoPhillips, and Donlin Gold. 

GSAK wishes to thank the girls, parents, volunteers, camp staff, and donors who helped make the 2014 Girl Scout camp season a success!

Day camp at Singing Hills, Chugiak

Friday, August 8, 2014

Girls grow through Girl Scout troop membership

There are many Pathways to becoming a Girl Scout. Girls can participate in a series, such as an all-girl LEGO robotics team; attend an event, such as ice skating, a volleyball clinic, or an overnight at the planetarium; or attend summer camp. 

When most of us think of Girl Scouts, however, we think of troop membership. Girls in troops have the advantage of participating in a variety of activities, generally over a span of nine to 12 months. Girls in troops share so much as they attend Girl Scout events, go on trips, sell Girl Scout Cookies, earn badges, and volunteer in their communities. 

A Girl Scout Daisy (grades K-1) attends 
Women of Science & Technology Day in Anchorage

Troops are formed by adult volunteers. A Girl Scout troop consists of at least two non-related adult volunteer troop leaders and at least five girls of the same age and grade level. Troops meet together regularly, usually for the duration of the school year. 

Troops provide an opportunity for girls to learn the Girl Scout "Keys to Leadership" of Discover, Connect, and Take Action: 

  • A girl Discovers her special skills and talents, finds the confidence to set challenging goals for herself, and strives to live by her values. This includes being proud of where she came from as well as where she's going.
  • A girl Connects with others, which means she learns how to team up, solve conflicts, and have healthy relationships. These skills help her in school right now and prepare her for any career she chooses in the future.
  • A girl Takes Action and makes the world a better place, learning a lot about her community and the world along the way.

“Any girl in grades K-12 can join a Girl Scout troop,” GSAK Director of Program & Membership Tasha Nichols said. “Girls join for fun and friendship, but they also learn about building character and self-esteem and serving their communities—the core qualities of Girl Scouting. In partnership with committed adult troop leaders, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives, like strong values, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.”

A Girl Scout Junior (grades 4-5) troop makes a poster 
for an American Cancer Society event 

Cat Bras (pronounced “brass") of Soldotna leads a troop of girls in grades K-5. The start of the 2014-2015 academic year will mark Cat’s fourth year as a troop leader. A former Marine, she got involved when her daughter, Gracie, joined a troop as a kindergarten Daisy. 

“I love being a troop leader,” Cat said. “And I get such awesome feedback from parents – their daughters love Girl Scouts!” 

Recent past troop events include an overnight stay at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, a hotel sleepover, and a hike in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. In keeping with her military roots, Cat’s troop participates in the U.S. Marines “Toys for Tots” program and the American Red Cross “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.

A love of travel has been a driving force behind Anita Smyke’s dedication to Girl Scouts. Anita became a troop leader when her now 21-year-old daughter, Jessica, joined Girl Scouts as a kindergartner. 

Anita’s troops have visited three of the four Girl Scout World Centers – Our Cabana, Mexico, in 2006; and Our Chalet, Switzerland, and Pax Lodge, England, in 2010. Her Ambassador troop will visit the fourth World Center, Sangam in India, this winter.

Based in Cordova, Anita currently leads her two younger daughters’ Cadette and Ambassador troops. 

“Girl Scouts teaches girls how to work together and see the good in one another, and travel keeps the girls motivated and focused,” Anita said. “We travel for fun, but there’s always a community-service aspect to our trips. When we went to Mexico, we spent two days helping in an orphanage and worked on a Habitat for Humanity project. When we go to India, we’ll participate in the Gifts for Change program. My hope is to teach the girls not to take things for granted and help them develop a global perspective.”

Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. If your daughter in interested in joining a troop for learning, relationship-building, and fun, contact the Member Services & Program Specialist for 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: Tasha Nichols, 907-273-0312
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: Tasha Nichols, 907-273-0312

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Girl Scouts broaden their horizons through travel

Every girl dreams of a chance to see the world. Girl Scouts offers many different travel opportunities so girls can broaden their horizons, meet others, learn about other cultures, and have fun while doing it!

The Girl Scouts Travel pathway:

  • Is available to any girl, regardless of previous Girl Scouting involvement or economic resources;
  • Incorporates the Girl Scout Leadership Experience processes of girl led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning;
  • Follows the three leadership keys of Discover, Connect, and Take Action; and 
  • Presents girls with opportunities to prepare, plan, earn money, and engage in travel opportunities and Take Action projects.

Several GSAK troops took advantage of travel opportunities this spring, and with good reason: “Travel offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for girls,” Anchorage troop leader Dione White said. “It’s something they will treasure forever.” 

Dione’s troop traveled in May to California to work at the Incredible Edible Farm, an urban farm in Irvine, Calif., where Second Harvest Food Bank grows fresh produce to feed the hungry. “In Orange County, where Second Harvest is based, approximately 400,000 people are hungry every year. Second Harvest feeds about 200,000 of those. Thinking about those numbers in terms of our state population really put the issue of food insecurity into perspective for the girls,” Dione said. 

Troop 163 at the Incredible Edible Farm in Irvine, Calif.

The girls also spent several days at Disneyland Resort where they attended the Disney Youth Education Series (YES). The YES program consists of guided, in-park educational field studies. Dione’s troop elected courses in leadership, physics, and animation. “It was the coolest ‘field trip’ you can imagine,” Dione said. “I attended the animation course with the girls, and it was incredible. We worked with story boards and flip books, saw a demo of the Toy Story zoetrope [a device that flashes a series of still images to produce the illusion of motion], and even learned how to draw Pluto.” 

Dione’s girls range in age from fifth grade to 12th grade. She values travel because it “extends the girls’ desire to be in Girl Scouts. Particularly for the older girls, it gives them something to look forward to and keeps them engaged. The fundraising and planning are a lot of work, but I don’t even see it as work because the reward is so fabulous.”

Anchorage Troop 198 just returned from Hawaii, but the troop is no stranger to travel. This is the third trip the girls have gone on, having previously visited San Francisco and Europe. The girls spent 10 days in Maui, where they made Memorial Day leis for veterans’ headstones and toured Girl Scout Camp Pi'iholo. “Prior to our arrival at Camp Pi'iholo a sewage pipe burst, so it was a bit of a Murphy's Law moment for us," troop leader Bright Nygard said. "They closed the camp and cancelled all campouts, but we did get to explore the property. It's much smaller than Togowoods – with eight main bunk cabins, a main kitchen cabin, and a bathroom – but they had lots of stuff to do like ziplines and volleyball, so it was still cool to see!”  

Bright’s troop travels bi-yearly so as not to conflict with Encampment. “Travel is what bonds the girls,” Bright said. “They’re already talking about where they want to go in 2016.” 

Troop 198 at Camp Pi'iholo in Maui, Hawaii 

Sitka Troop 4140 recently spent a jam-packed week in Washington and Idaho where the girls volunteered with Special Olympics and Food Lifeline, a not-for-profit organization that supplies food to food banks; attended an etiquette class in Seattle; and went horseback riding and visited Silverwood Theme Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This was the troop’s first trip outside Alaska. 

“It went really well,” troop leader Retha Winger said. “There ended up being five adult chaperones for nine girls, which was great - groups could break off and do different things. We’re already planning our next trip.”  

Planning your Girl Scout travel experience  

Troops can opt for short, extended, or international trips. Short trips are two nights and usually start at the Brownie level (grades 2-3). Extended trips are three nights or longer and can take place anywhere in the U.S. International trips occur outside the U.S., including Canada. 

Troops plan their own trips but are required to submit the appropriate paperwork to GSAK. Paperwork is due anywhere from two months to a year prior to the trip, depending on the time frame and destination. All forms can be found on our website.  

Questions? Contact Program & Travel Specialist Lisa Mead, 907-273-0308

Friday, May 30, 2014

'Weidner Cares' volunteers spruce up GSAK's Camp Togowoods

More than 120 Weidner Apartment Homes employees traveled to Camp Togowoods, a Girl Scouts of Alaska-owned camp property in Wasilla, to rebuild tent platforms, clean camp buildings, rake gardens and grounds, and perform general repairs to buildings and utilities to ready the camp for the 2014 Girl Scout summer camp season. The all-day Weidner Cares event took place May 22. 

Wediner volunteers rebuild tent platforms 

"Weidner is dedicated to giving back to the communities we serve through our Weidner Cares program,” said Greg Cerbana, Weidner’s public relations director. “We chose GSAK to be the recipient of our inaugural outreach due to their commitment to serve Alaska’s girls, and provide them with opportunities for leadership development in a safe and nurturing environment. We are proud to partner with the Girl Scouts to help prepare Camp Togowoods for this summer's attendees.”

A Weidner volunteer sets up a tent

Camp Togowoods is located on 400 beautiful acres along the shores of Three Mile Lake in Wasilla. It encompasses five ecosystems, including a wetlands boardwalk. Campers enjoy nature hikes, environmental education, swimming, canoeing or kayaking, and a 35-foot climbing tower. Campers sleep in platform tents, bringing the outdoors within reach. Along with Camp Singing Hills in Chugiak, Camp Togowoods is accredited by the American Camp Association. GSAK is proud to own Alaska’s only accredited camps just for girls. 

GSAK Camp Director Amanda Block and CEO Sue Perles (bottom row, far left) 
with more than 120 'Weidner Cares' volunteers

“We were amazed at the amount of work these dedicated Weidner volunteers were able to accomplish,” said Sue Perles, CEO of Girl Scouts of Alaska. “This is the first Weidner Cares event in Alaska, and we were thrilled Weidner selected GSAK. At camp, girls experience vital engagement – the type of engagement that allows for deep learning and meaningful relationships. Summer camp is one way GSAK is investing in Alaska’s girls, our future leaders.”   

About Weidner Apartment Homes:
Founded in 1977, Weidner Apartment Homes is a privately held real estate company headquartered in Kirkland, Wash. As of February 2014, Weidner is ranked No. 30 on the National Multifamily Housing Council’s top 50 list of apartment management companies. The company owns more than 215 buildings, comprised of more than 38,000 units, throughout the U.S. and Canada. For information, visit

Monday, May 5, 2014

Girl Scouts of Alaska committed to STEM education for girls

Girl Scouts believes that every girl needs a chance to explore the fascinating world of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Girl Scouting encourages girls of all ages by offering "fun with purpose" through its K-12 national program curriculum resources: National Leadership Journeys and National Proficiency Badges.

Women are faring better, academically, than ever before. A study entitled Generation STEM: What Girls Say about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, released in 2012 by Girl Scouts of the USA, found that the majority of college graduates (57 percent) and master’s-level graduates (60 percent) are women, and nearly half (48 percent) of this country’s work force is comprised of women. However, there are some fields in which female representation has remained low. Within STEM fields, women are better represented in life sciences, chemistry, and mathematics; women are not well represented in engineering, computing, and physics. Women account for about only 20 percent of the bachelor’s degrees in engineering, computer science, and physics, and regardless of specific area of STEM, only about 25 percent of these positions are held by women.

“Boosting the number of women in STEM fields would expand our nation’s pool of workers, educators, and innovators for the future, bring a new dimension to the work, and potentially tackle problems that have been overlooked in the past,” said Sue Perles, CEO of Girl Scouts of Alaska.

GSAK is committed to offering affordable STEM education councilwide. Our unique programs include: 

Women of Science & Technology Day. A GSAK signature event, Women of Science & Technology Day (WSTD) allows girls to experience STEM subjects through fun, hands-on workshops led by women working in STEM careers. This year's presenters were drawn from an array of career fields, including aeronautics, biology, botany, chemistry, dentistry, ecology, engineering, environmental science, robotics, and veterinary medicine.

 Girls learn about primatology (study of primates) at WSTD, Dillingham

WSTD events are open to all girls, regardless of Girl Scout membership. Depending on the community, girls pay either a nominal fee (no more than $9) or events are held free of charge. 

The processes used in WSTD provide quality STEM experiences for girls:

  • Girl-led: Girl Scouts offers a safe, supportive place for girls to seek challenges. The girl-led process encourages girls to decide which topics they want to explore and how they want to go about it.
  • Learning by doing: Research shows that, particularly with STEM, youth need to be hands-on, active learners. The learning-by-doing process encourages this approach. In addition, Girl Scouts' learning-by-doing process involves a reflection step that asks girls to think about how a given activity worked and what they would do differently in the future—a key skill in scientific testing and conducting experiments.
  • Cooperative learning: In general, girls prefer a collaborative leadership style. The cooperative learning process gives girls the opportunity to develop leadership and STEM skills in a way that might feel most comfortable.

This year, GSAK held WSTD events in 10 communities: Anchorage, Bethel, Dillingham, Homer, Juneau, Kodiak, Mat-Su, New Stuyahok, Seward, and Soldotna.  

Natural Resources Patch Roll-Out Events. Along with Alaska Resource Education (ARE), GSAK is in the process of launching four new Alaska natural resources patches: energy, minerals, forestry and natural resources. The energy patch was unveiled at a patch and pizza launch party, held March 29 in Anchorage.  

A Girl Scout Junior examines a core sample of the earth 
at the GSAK/ARE patch and pizza launch party 

Approximately 100 girls attended the event, during which they participated in a "Layer Cake of the Earth" activity that taught them about the location of fossil fuel deposits beneath the earth's crust. Joe Balash, natural resources commissioner for the State of Alaska, served as keynote speaker. The girls also heard from state Rep. Eric Feige, co-chair of the Resources Committee, and Lynnette Sullivan, wife of Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. 

Thanks to the generosity of BP, Donlin Gold, USKH, and other industry partners, there was no cost for girls to attend the event and a free pizza lunch was provided. There are future patch roll-out events planned for later in the year in the communities of Bethel, Juneau, and Kenai.  

Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Fifteen ExxonMobil Alaska women engineers introduced girls in grades 6-8 to engineering fields through fun, hands-on workshops such as “Feeling the Pressure” (physics), “Composition of the Earth” (reservoir engineering), and “Go with the Flow” (civil engineering). The girls also participated in a marble rollercoaster competition, attended a Q&A session with ExxonMobil’s women engineers, and heard from Exxon Mobil’s Joint Interest Manager Karen Hagedorn and GSAK CEO Sue Perles. 

Girls in grades 6-8 participate in hands-on STEM activities at Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day

“Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” was held April 26 in Anchorage. Nearly 90 girls turned out for the event. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of ExxonMobil Alaska, the event was held free of charge. All girls received breakfast and lunch, a t-shirt, and a goodie bag. 

All-girl LEGO robotics teams. Girl Scout all-girl LEGO robotics teams the Electronically Overdressed Survivors and the Glacier Girls won big at the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) state championship tournament, held January 25 in Anchorage. 

The FLL is a robotics program for 9- to 16-year-olds. Led by at least one adult coach, teams composed of up to ten youth design, build, and program an autonomous LEGO robot to score points on a thematic playing surface, creating an innovative solution to a problem as part of their project. GSAK had five all-girl LEGO robotics teams compete in the FFL state championship tournament: Disaster Dissolvers, Juneau; Electronically Overdressed Survivors, Anchorage; Glacier Girls, Anchorage; Junior Bots, Anchorage; and Obscure Natural Phenomenon Response Team, Juneau. 

The Electronically Overdressed Survivors beat out more than 50 LEGO robotics teams to be crowned the overall state champion. The girls, led by coach Bruce Sexauer, earned the chance to compete at a national LEGO robotics tournament later this year. 

The Electronically Overdressed Survivors earned the title of overall state champions 
at this year's FFL tournament 

In addition to the robot matches (games), teams are evaluated on the three FFL elements: project, core values, and robot design. The Glacier Girls, led by coach Nikole Nelson, took home a trophy for scoring highest in the project category. This year’s theme was “Nature’s Fury,” which required teams to identify a community that could experience a natural disaster; identify a problem that happens when a natural disaster occurs; create an innovative solution that helps people prepare, stay safe, or rebuild; and share their problem and solution with others. 

In addition to unique programs, GSAK is in the process of building a 6,500-square-foot lodge fully wired for interactive distance learning and STEM education at our Camp Singing Hills property in Chugiak. The lodge is due to be completed at the end of 2014. 

The exterior of Singing Hills' STEM lodge, March 2014

“Expertise in STEM fields promotes inventiveness, scientific discovery, and efficiency in the way things are done, while also opening up new job and economic opportunities,” Perles said. “Through program partnerships with organizations such as Alaska Resource Education, BP Alaska, ExxonMobil Alaska, the Alaska SeaLife Center, the University of Alaska and many more, GSAK is committed to providing STEM programming to girls through activities aimed at engaging and cultivating interest in STEM fields.”

Monday, March 31, 2014

Young Women of Distinction Luncheon and Twenty-Second Annual Southeast Auction Draw Crowds, Support Girl Scouting in Alaska

Most charitable nonprofits, including Girl Scouts of Alaska, rely on the generosity of corporate and individual donors for some or all of their funding. GSAK is fortunate to have many generous donors! Donors who give to Girl Scouts of Alaska are investing in the next generation of female leaders. Their money supports Alaska's girls through a variety of pathways including troop membership, summer camp in 35 communities, council events, and series such as our Girl Scout all-girl LEGO robotics teams.

Young Women of Distinction Luncheon 

The highest achievement in Girl Scouting, the Girl Scout Gold Award challenges Girl Scout Seniors (grades 9-10) and Ambassadors (grades 11-12) to improve their world. Girls who pursue the Gold Award aspire to transform an idea into an actionable plan with measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching results.    

This year GSAK honored its eight Gold Award earners at a luncheon in their honor: Sierra De La Cruz, Anchorage; Ellie Hakari, Palmer; Emilyanne Lohrey, Juneau; Sarah Miller, Chugiak; Diane Murph, Petersburg; Nicole Nelson, Juneau; Margaret Wallace, Chugiak; and Lydia Weiss, Chugiak. The event was held  March 26 at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage. 

L to R: GSAK CEO Sue Perles, Sarah Miller, Ellie Hakari, 
Sierra De La Cruz, Diane Murph, and Deborah Bonito

More than 300 attendees turned out for the event, which featured speeches from four of the Gold Award earners. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Girl Scout alumna and member of honorary Congressional Girl Scout troop Troop Capitol Hill, addressed the girls via video. “I wanted to say thank you for all that you have done in your communities around Alaska,” Murkowski said. “The [Gold Award] is an excellent opportunity to highlight the dedicated young women who are influencing their towns and neighborhoods in positive ways.”

Deborah Bonito, wife of U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and a former Girl Scout, presented the girls their Gold Awards. GSAK CEO Sue Perles, GSAK Board Chair Mary Siroky, and GSAK Board Second Vice Chair Beth Nordlund addressed the girls and luncheon attendees. 

GSAK Board Chair Mary Siroky (L) with Jane Angvik, 
our Camp Singing Hills capital campaign chair 

“We had an impressive group of Gold Award earners this year,” GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. “Their projects required them to think deeply, explore opportunities, and challenge themselves. The Gold Award shapes leaders for today and the future. The work these girls will do – be it in public service, business, science, education, or the arts – will make a positive mark on their communities that create a lasting impact on the lives of others.”

The 2014 YWOD luncheon drew more than 300 attendees

Though there was no charge for the luncheon there was a suggested minimum donation of $100, and many donated more. Corporate donors included Alaska Commercial Company, ConocoPhillips, Donlin Gold, and Wells Fargo.

Twenty-Second Annual Southeast Auction 

GSAK's Annual Southeast Auction is a can’t-miss event that supports Girl Scouting in Southeast Alaska. This year's auction featured a silent and outcry auction and, as always, delicious hors d’oeuvres and libations. It was held Feb. 15 at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. 

Volunteers in Juneau worked to gather a variety of desirable auction items. Silent auction items included furs, purses and jewelry; a vacuum cleaner and chainsaw donated by The Home Depot; a flight to and hotel stay in Gustavus; a day of sailing; and a geoduck dinner for eight. Outcry auction items included round-trip Alaska Airlines tickets and an ocean voyage to Seattle aboard a TOTE ocean freighter.

GSAK board member Shari Paul bids on a silent auction item

“The Southeast Auction is one of Juneau’s premier annual events,” said Mary Siroky, GSAK board president and Southeast Auction committee member. “This fun and exciting event draws community members and Girl Scout supporters from across the state. Our supporters help make the Girl Scout Leadership Experience – which helps girls to discover themselves, connect with others and take action to create positive change in their communities – available to all girls in Southeast Alaska, regardless of socioeconomic status or ability to pay.”

The Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, all decked out for the 22nd Annual Southeast Auction

The Southeast Auction committee is composed of Juneau residents Susan Cox, Cherry Eckland, Sharon Fishel, Cori Mills, Shari Paul, Margaret Pugh and Mary Siroky. GSAK received corporate support from BP and event support from Abby's Kitchen & Catering, Viking Lounge & Pull Tabs, and KTOO Public Media. 

We thank our board members, volunteers, and community members for their support at both the 2014 Young Women of Distinction luncheon and the 22nd Annual Southeast Auction! If you would like to give to GSAK directly, please visit the donor page on our website. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

‘Bling your booth’ to boost cookie sales, have lots of fun, and win prizes!

Girl Scouts of Alaska girls, parents, and troop leaders know that the Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls invaluable skills such as goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics—aspects essential to leadership, to success, and to life.

One-hundred percent of the money girls raise through the Girl Scout Cookie Program – every penny after paying the baker – stays in Alaska with the council and troops. Cookie proceeds benefit girls across the council by keeping Girl Scouting affordable for all girls; subsidizing the registration cost of GSAK camps; supporting girl programming, curriculum and events; and providing scholarships to girls and troops experiencing financial barriers.

What girls, parents, and troop leaders might not know is that selling cookies is just plain fun! Girls spend time with their friends, earn great items when they reach their sales goals, and attend exciting events centered around the Girl Scout Cookie Program. For example, in January, Mat-Su Girl Scouts attended a Cookie Kickoff Party where they spent the night at the local community center and enjoyed a taco dinner, Cookie Program learning stations, games, community service projects, movies, and more.

One way girls can reach their cookie-selling goals while flexing their creative muscles is through “bling your booth” efforts. Setting up fun, blinged-out booths communicates both professionalism and excitement to potential buyers. Anything fun, bright, colorful, energetic, and creative will attract customers – just be sure to follow the guidelines set by your booth sponsor. Ideas include posters, background music, balloons and tablecloths, a theme, and costumes. You’re limited only by your imagination, so brainstorm with your troop and troop leader creative ideas you would like to implement!

For inspiration, check out Pinterest and what girls in the Girl Scouts of Connecticut council did to bling out their booths.  

We want to see what girls across the Girl Scouts of Alaska council are doing to bling out their booths! E-mail us a picture of your booth and include your troop number and the troop leader’s name and contact info. Submissions must be received by 5 p.m Friday, March 28 to be considered. The winning troop will receive a $25 gift card to the GSAK council store (good for store credit only). Submissions will be judged by GSAK staff. The winner will be posted to the GSAK Facebook page by 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 2.

With your help, we look forward to a fun and successful 2014 cookie season!         

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Gearing Up for the 2014 Girl Scout Cookie Season

What do goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics have in common? They are aspects essential to leadership, to success, and to life, and they are acquired through participation in the Girl Scout Cookie Program!

Cadettes unload cookies

One-hundred percent of the money girls raise through the Girl Scout Cookie Program – every penny after paying the baker – stays with the council and troops. Girl Scout cookie sales fund programs, camps, and activities for Alaska's girls. Along the way, girls discover fun and friendship and acquire the values that will guide them along life’s path.

“The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl financial literacy program in the world,” GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. “One of the most important lessons you can teach a girl is how to set a challenging goal and reach it. The cookie program allows girls to set two kinds of group goals: What can we do with our cookie money to help others, and what can we do with our cookie money for fun and learning? Girls also set personal-learning goals, such as money-management skills or business ethics. Nationwide, an incredible 80 percent of women business owners were Girl Scouts. Our alumnae are living proof that what we teach girls today impacts them tomorrow."     

Girls earn recognition items and cookie credits, which can be applied toward a girl's camp registration fee. What’s more, the Girl Scout Cookie Program benefits girls across the council by:
  • Keeping Girl Scouting affordable for all girls;
  • Subsidizing the registration cost of GSAK camps;
  • Supporting girl programming, curriculum, and events; and
  • Providing grants to girls and troops experiencing financial barriers. 

Girl Scout Cookies are an icon of American culture. For nearly 100 years, Girl Scouts, with the enthusiastic support of their families, have helped ensure the success of the annual sale. From its earliest beginnings to its current popularity, selling Girl Scout Cookies has helped girls have fun, develop valuable life skills, and make their communities a better place. It’s a time-honored program that works!

If you want to know more about cookies, ask a Girl Scout - she would love to give you the scoop!

Barbara Knaak serves as the Chugiak/Eagle River Service Unit cookie manager. She also leads a Cadette troop. Barbara initially got involved with the Girl Scout Cookie Program four years ago because there was a need, but she has stayed involved “because the rewards are awesome. My daughter, who’s now in eighth grade, sold nearly 250 boxes of cookies last year so she was able to go to camp. Our troop used the money to attend Encampment. When the girls earn the money themselves and then figure out what to do with it, it empowers them and boosts their confidence.”

Barbara’s daughter, Janna, has Prader-Willi syndrome, which causes developmental and cognitive delays. “Selling cookies is really good for her,” Barbara said. “I don’t even take the order form to work – she calls my friends and co-workers herself. She has to tally up the total boxes of cookies, figure out who’s paid and who still owes her money. Janna will sit there all day selling cookies. It puts her out there. I’ve seen it with the other girls too – once they find their groove, they excel.”   

2014 booth sales will run Feb. 28-April 6 in select communities 

2013 Cookie Facts
  • 2,725 girls in our council sold Girl Scout cookies
  • Girls in our council sold more than 500,000 boxes of cookies
  • Last year’s top-selling individual was an Anchorage girl who sold 3,138 boxes of cookies
  • Last year’s top-selling troop was a Mat-Su troop that sold 12,725 boxes of cookies
This year we are selling the “Super Six” cookie varieties: Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Trefoils, Do-Si-Dos, and Savannah Smiles. Thin Mints are the top-selling Girl Scout cookie in America, while Samoas are the top-seller in Alaska.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Alaskans support GSAK through Pick.Click.Give.

Pick.Click.Give. allows Alaskans to share their Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) with causes they care about. Girl Scouts of Alaska is pleased to announce we are part of Pick.Click.Give. for 2014.

Based on the program’s history of success, GSAK is excited to participate this year! Money received through Pick.Click.Give. will enable GSAK to expand leadership opportunities for girls, help send girls to camp, reach more girls in underserved communities, and develop volunteers to ensure high-quality program delivery.

"Courage" in Hooper Bay

Spearheaded by the Anchorage Youth Development Coalition, GSAK has joined other youth-serving organizations to establish a joint marketing campaign called “LovealaskaYouth.” “Anchorage’s youth represent 30 percent of our population and 100 percent of our future,” said Deborah Williams, executive director of the Anchorage Youth Development Coalition. “Our youth are our most important natural resource, and investing in them through Pick.Click.Give. is both critically important and rewarding.”

Chugiak resident Gretchen Wehmhoff donates to GSAK through the Pick.Click.Give program because she believes “Girl Scouts is one of the best organizations for empowering young women.” A retired educator and current troop leader, Gretchen is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts (she started as a Brownie when she moved to Alaska in 1966) who received 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.) As an adult Gretchen received the Honor Pin, which recognizes an individual’s exemplary service in support of delivering the Girl Scout Leadership Experience in two or more geographic areas. “Pick.Click.Give. is so easy because I look at the PFD as ‘free money.’ I donate to three organizations every year, and Girl Scouts is always one of them,” Gretchen said.

Embracing the possibilities in Metlakatla

Anchorage resident Karen Jordan served on the GSAK board 2010-2013. Currently, she serves as a member of our Finance Committee. “I usually give my big donation to Girl Scouts at the Young Women of Distinction luncheon, but in 2012 I decided to donate through Pick.Click.Give. I wanted to set an example and encourage folks who might not be able to attend the luncheon to give. What’s great about the Pick.Click.Give program is it gives participants the opportunity to not only seek out new organizations, but make an additional gift to those organizations they already support.”   

The 2014 PFD filing period runs Jan. 1 through March 31. Donating is easy:

1. Complete your PFD online 
2. Choose "Participate in Pick.Click.Give." 
3. Search for "Girl Scouts of Alaska" 
4. Choose "Girl Scouts of Alaska"
5. Contribute 

For information about the Pick.Click.Give. program, visit