A Tribute To Local Girl Scout Leaders
To mark the organization's 100th anniversary, Patch asks a local mom about being a Girl Scout leader.
There are about 110,000 Girl Scouts in New Jersey and some 3.2 million throughout the United States. This year, in 2012, the organization celebrates its 100th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Montclair Patch is asking some local Girl Scout leaders to talk about why they volunteer their time—and what they get out of being involved. Here is our first Q&A—with Jennifer Pine, Glen Ridge Troop #20145, Service Unit #23, Glen Ridge/Montclair.
1) What made you want to be a scout leader?
I became a leader because I was never a Girl Scout (had a working parent) and I wanted my daughter to have other experiences than school and sports. I wanted her to have a chance to be a leader, learn basic life skills and enjoy a range of friends, AND I wanted the chance to see it happen in person! I also wanted a chance to participate in ‘outdoor’ activities again as I loved to do as child.
2) Is there anything you'd change about the Girl Scouts?
From a National Perspective, I would like to see some more basic life skill Scouting and a HUGE emphasis on community service. I know they are trying to ‘keep up with the times’ with new badges, journeys and workbooks—but outdoor activities, serving others and team dynamics are fading lessons in today’s culture. I wouldn’t even mind a more focused Scouting path similar to the Boy Scouts where practically every detail has been outlined for the leaders. That being said, there are some very creative leaders who have brought current styles to Scouting that are quite fun.
3) Why do you think more people don't volunteer to be a leader?
Girl Scout leading can seem very daunting and time consuming to many adults—especially those who work. Delegation, research and supporting families (yours and your scouts) are keys to having a functioning, well-oiled wonderful troop. Co-leadership and parent volunteers are what has saved me from hours and hours of solo planning. Some may also fear the prospect of outdoor activities—with planning, training and adventurous chaperones, it truly is a highlight of every Scouts’ memory from year to year!
4) What would you tell someone thinking of being a volunteer leader?
If you are contemplating being a leader but just aren’t sure about it—talk to another leader one-on-one. You will see the passion and joy they have received at watching their daughter blossom and have the time of her life. Communicating with leaders of an older established troop and the Internet are the two most valuable resources for planning a great year. My leader and I meet a couple times of year to plan months of activities in advance. Our calendar is set for practically the entire year and we fill in the gaps as we go—this helps us and the parents. If you can only meet once a month, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. or every two months on a Sunday—then that is the design of your troop. Each troop's schedule should be customized to the leaders ability to make it work best for her. I would also council that parents be required to participate in one activity a year so they can see firsthand how great it all is. This would possibly encourage the parent to be supporting in any way they can over the year.
5) How many hours do you put in?
The amount of time used to have a successful Girl Scout troop will vary by year. I have an amazing co-leader (Meredith Eaton) and we are very fortunate to have very supporting and cooperative Scout families. My co-leader and I sometimes each own the planning for a specific meeting and sometimes we share it. Our first year was more time consuming because we were establishing procedures and getting to know the girls likes, dislikes and personalities. Now entering our 6th year together (our troop size has varied from 21-16), we meet approximately every three weeks, have two to three overnight events and two to three fieldtrips all during the school year. We each put in two to three hours before each meeting and maybe three to four hours before each overnight (or offsite) activity. This includes paperwork, communication with parents and creating agendas, activities and games. It truly gets easier and easier. And, as the Scouts gets older, by design and choice—they start leading and you start supervising.
6) What do the kids get out of it?
I think my daughter will reflect on her Girl Scout years and think: first about how much fun she had; how many camping activities she participated in from maple sugar tapping to fire building and of course s’more eating; how many fieldtrips that schools and families can’t always take together like serving the poor and old, aerospace training, women’s career day, and pen pals; and lastly that her mom was with her all along the way. It has been a blessing in our family for us to go off together and just hang out!