Leading Girl Scouts to the Silver Award and Beyond

Dear Daisy/Brownie/Junior/Cadette Leader:

I’m giving you advice today to inspire you to become a leader who will lead girls to one of the Girl Scout finish lines – a GSUSA High Award. Your troop will eventually enter high school, which will mean you were there to watch them blossom from scissor and crayon-wielding kindergarteners to confident young ladies that will make a difference in their community. So, stop rolling your eyes at this, because I’m about to give you the best advice you’ll ever get.

Throughout your journey as a troop leader, you will feel underappreciated and want to quit. There are days you will lose sight of why you volunteered for this role, especially when you have nightmares of incomplete health history forms and emails to parents that go unread for days, if not weeks. Take heart, the Girl Scouts will surprise you beyond your wildest expectations.

It will start with nature walks around your meeting place and advance to outdoor scavenger hunts. You will lose/gain/lose/gain assistant leaders. Perhaps because of those very messy bird feeders or your Type-A personality. Then your little Brownie “elves,” with all that kinetic energy, will start their own Food Bank that surpassed anyone’s expectations.

…you must trust them to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to lead their own experience. Although it may be a different path than you expected, the outcome will be positive, interesting, and beautiful…

You were right to get them outside as much as possible. Social media will soon take over their lives. Fight that with camping, canoeing, and archery that will get them focused on the here and now. The musical play, Wicked, that you took them to will reward their hard work as did the trip to Busch Gardens. Then the day-to-day activities like tea parties, Flag Day, adopted road cleanups, watching the eclipse, horseback riding, zip-lining, and hosting guest speakers all will be remembered.  

You don’t know it yet, but there will be a lot of attrition. It may be hard to get 19 girls to focus in a “cooperative learning environment,” especially right after elementary school. Don’t take it personally. Soon after, there will be only 12 that can commit to the meetings. In a blink of an eye, they will bridge to Juniors, all without an accident form, although there were a few close calls. Nosebleeds, vomiting, lice, and even worse, homesickness does happen.

Regular meeting times will be tricky as you compete with many demands upon their time, especially girls who are athletic and join travel teams. Follow their lead and slow your pace when necessary. Consider participating in Journey in a Day as much as possible, as they are exposed to other troops and come away formulating their own rules for their bonding group.

Whenever possible, allow the girls to make decisions and express their opinions; don’t stand in their way.  Take lots of pictures and cheer as they earn their Bronze Award. You don’t know it yet, but this will be the last award for many because their Girl Scout journey ends here.  Before you know it only 9 will respond to your Early Bird email for Cadettes…then, as Seniors, just two.

There is no easy way to say this, but there will be a global pandemic. Belt out all your favorite tunes in the car and/or shower as you mean it, but “Let it Go” to you right now, is making sure those girls know that there are hurdles to tackle along the way in life. Things will jump out at you when you least expect it. But, like them, you’ll come through it. Trust me.

You will watch the girls mature, get much taller, and look you in the eye, seemingly overnight! Look to artwork as an easy way to get them to share their thoughts and feelings. You once had goals of earning every badge at younger levels and crushing every cookie sale. Now, you must trust them to plan and make key decisions, allowing them to lead their own experience. Although it may be a different path than you expected, the outcome will be positive, interesting, and beautiful.

Undoubtedly, there will be stressful moments and, yes, some teary drama. Mistakes will be made, but you’ll learn from them. Worry less. Let go. Be the best leader you can be. Remember, you will create a safe space in which girls feel as though they can be themselves, without explanation, judgment, or ridicule. So be patient and know that is the best award you can give them.

Yours sincerely,
Kara Baxter
Troop 20646

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