It was the fall of 1987 in small town Ord, Nebraska. Extracurricular opportunities for elementary students did not exist. Sarah was an inquisitive and smart first grader, and her mom knew she needed experiences outside traditional school programming to keep her engaged. Sarah became a Brownie after her mom saw a flier for Girl Scouts and signed her up.
Her first year included all the traditional Girl Scout activities such as exploring the outdoors, crafts, and selling cookies. She really enjoyed spending time with the girls in her troop and her sister, Melissa, noticed. Melissa, who is a year younger than Sarah, was jealous. She says with certainty that the reason she became a Brownie in 1988 was because she wanted to sell Girl Scout Cookies like Sarah.
The pair continued Girl Scouts throughout their school years and each received a lifetime membership as a graduation gift. When asked why they stayed involved, Sarah says her mom was a big motivating factor, explaining that she “got it.” Sarah now understands that her mom knew their family could not provide the opportunities she and Melissa got in Girl Scouts.
Without Girl Scouts, Sarah and Melissa would have never taken several 18-day, council-sponsored bus trips throughout the United States; attended the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia; or learned about cultures outside of what they knew in Ord.
Sarah remembers summers she spent at Timberlake Ranch during council-sponsored campouts. As a child who was firmly against getting dirty, she pushed her own boundaries to try paddle boating, archery, and horseback riding. She even went in a lake she describes as “dirty” (because it wasn’t clear like a swimming pool) for the experience, but just once.
As a child, Sarah Trotter wouldn’t have known she was missing out on opportunities, but as an adult she knows how important they were for her.
“I can’t imagine girls not being a part of this organization or not participating in all the adventure I did,” Sarah says about why girls should join and stay involved in Girl Scouts. As a parent now, she knows there isn’t anything else out there offering programming comparable to that of Girl Scouts.
Melissa Woitalewicz has fond memories of camping, traveling and learning about other cultures as a girl, but her favorite Girl Scout memory was as an adult.
It was 2001 and Melissa was a freshman at Mizzou in Columbus, Missouri. On a whim, she volunteered to be an “Alternative Girl Scouts” leader to a group of girls in middle school. (We now call this our Community Outreach Program). She describes it as heartbreaking but rewarding.
Melissa led girls who, without the program, wouldn’t have been able to participate in Girl Scouts. She recalls learning that one of the girls in her troop couldn’t read, and the steps she took using the council as a resource help get the girl back on track.
Proudly, Melissa describes her girls as the “Troop Beverly Hills” of Nebraska. When participating in council-sponsored programs, she describes her troop as “a wild, unorganized, hot mess (especially their uniforms),” but they were there to have fun, and she was honored to be a part of it.
She has never forgotten the girls, and her experience with them is a big reason she continues to be engaged in Girl Scouts today. She is adamant that involvement as an adult re-centers and reminds us of values we sometimes become detached from.
Sarah says that today she values what Girl Scouts offers more than ever before. As a mom to young boys, she says it bothers her that most superheroes are men. She regularly describes herself to her sons as Wonder Woman because she is invested in making sure they are raised to “appreciate, love, support, and promote strong, independent women.”
Melissa knows Girl Scouts broadened her perspective on life. She is open to travel, relationships, ideas different than her own, and diverse cultures because of her experience. She says, “Girl Scouts allows us to make mistakes and not be reprimanded, rather guided by supportive women to become more worldly #WomenBuildWomen.”