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