More Than Just Cookies: Why being a Girl Scout was one of the most important experiences of my life

I know what you're thinking from reading the title: Leda, you're such a nerd. Let's be honest, though- those of us in Girl Scouts weren't exactly the coolest girls in school. I know that because I was one for 12 years. But what does that matter? Being a Girl Scout was among the most significant experiences of my childhood and adolescence. It helped to shape the woman I am today. And I don't think I ever fully realized that until now.

Let's rewind to the early years of elementary school. Everything was new and exciting, everyone was friends with one another, and everyone was a Girl Scout. It was the thing to do- at least, as far as our parents were concerned. We sewed quilts for charity, we sold cookies in the freezing cold, and we sang silly songs that I can still remember to this day. It was like school without the homework, where the fun parts of learning earned you badges that you could wear on your oversized vest with pride.

Sporting our ever-so attractive vests in Savannah- the home of the Girl Scouts!

But then middle school came around. In this vulnerable transition, cliques became the overriding social structure, and all that anyone cared about was how many bar mitzvahs you got invited to. Being a Girl Scout quickly became the "uncool" activity of choice, and my troop's numbers dwindled to less than ten.

But despite my avoidance of selling Girl Scout cookies to my non-scout school friends at the risk of seeming lame, I realize that my preteen years in the troop helped me to form some of the strongest friendships I would ever have. These girls, while not always in my core friendship group, were the ones I could count on when the going got tough (and, sometimes even in middle school, it did get tough).

Necessary Starbucks (most likely hot chocolate) on our way to Savannah.

My reserved demeanor was challenged when I knocked on the doors of neighbors I had never even met before to ask them if they wanted to buy cookies. I was greeted with smiles for the most part, but also had to learn to deal with rejection when someone wasn't interested. When we sold cookies in the freezing cold, I learned to manage money through some very tricky transactions (shoutout to the guy who gave us a $100 bill that one time).

Singing along in the blazing heat at the Washington Mall for the Girl Scout's 100th anniversary. 

By the time I had entered high school, I had gained enough confidence to take my business skills (something I'd never thought I'd have or enjoy) to the next level and make use of social media to sell Thin Mints and Caramel DeLites to the masses. And boy did they sell- over 500 boxes to be exact. Suddenly, being a Girl Scout was cool again, because selling the coveted treats out of the trunk of my car certainly made me popular.

Between selling cookies to my hungry classmates, my troop and I (now down to about 5 girls) did what Girl Scouts are truly meant to do- teach and mentor other girls. This came in the form of organizing the campout we had been attending for years. Our chosen theme was Disney Princesses- and that was before all the gender-political hype surrounding them was trending on Buzzfeed. We dressed up as the Princesses we most closely resembled (#typecast) and set off to teach younger girls that you can be a beautiful princess, have a job, and be successful. We were clearly ahead of our time.

Pretending to be princesses at the annual campout- I was Snow White of course.

But perhaps the most rewarding experience I ever had during Girl Scouts was doing my Gold Award- an independent project in which we essentially sought out to solve a problem within our community. I chose to create a running camp for elementary school kids because I felt that not many kids that age even knew running was a sport. It was a lot of work to even get the project off the ground because there aren't a ton of parents out there who wanted to send their kids to a makeshift camp run by a bunch of high schoolers. But the nine kids that did join us were absolutely phenomenal, and I'll never forget the smiles on their faces while they ran around the track on our "Olympics Day."

My Gold Award meant I got to employ my friends as counselors.

In the end, I was glad that I stuck it out through Girl Scouts for 12 years. It may not have been the most popular after school activity for an 18 year old, but I genuinely loved it. From selling cookies to running my own summer camp, being a Girl Scout brought out a confidence in me that I don't think would have surfaced without going through those experiences. I owe a lot to my incredible troop leader as well as the Girl Scout organization as a whole for making me the person I am today.

So if you're a Girl Scout now, or you were one at one point in your life, I want you to know that being a Girl Scout is important and it does make an impact. The Girl Scout Law sums it up perfectly, because it really is about "making the world a better place and being a sister to every Girl Scout."

Our last ever booth sale!

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