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Girl Scouts and Building Character – So Much More than Girl Scout Cookies

September 9, 2012

By: Katherine Utsumi, Girl Scout Leader Troop 32595

Eight years ago this month I made one of the best decisions of my life. This decision would help eight young girls become the incredible middle schoolers they are today, as well as help establish friendships which will last a lifetime. In September 2005 my daughter Karyn, then a first grader at Frederiksen Elementary School, came home with a flyer and announced, “Mom, I want to be a Girl Scout.” I was not a Girl Scout growing up so had little to no knowledge of the organization. However, there was no harm in attending the informational meeting so I marked my calendar. The last words my husband spoke to me as I headed out to hear what Girl Scouts had to offer were, “Don’t volunteer to be a leader!” Two hours later I entered our home with a sheepish grin and announced that I was the new co-leader of a Brownie Girl Scout troop which was eight girls strong. Troop 32595 was born and today they are 8th grade Cadettes.

Our troop’s journey is not unique, but our story is one we hope will inspire other girls and families to consider Girl Scouts. As my girls enter their last year at Wells Middle School, we have five of the original members and continue to be eight girls strong. Sadly some members moved away, while others had to make a decision between Girl Scouts and other extracurricular activities. Two of our current members joined us when they moved to Dublin in third and fourth grade and were looking for a way to meet new friends. Our latest member joined us when she transferred to Wells Middle School last year. The activities, interests and personalities of the girls in our troop are diverse; however, Girl Scouts is their commonality. They consider themselves Girl Scout sisters and are always there to support each other, as well as their fellow Girl Scouts.

They have had incredible role models in recent Dublin High School graduates who are off to college this fall. My scouts thoroughly enjoy mentoring younger girls and I am confident they too will be excellent role models. They are not afraid to let the world know they are Girl Scouts and often wear their various Girl Scout shirts/sweatshirts to school. Every girl in the troop has earned her Bronze Award (highest award a Junior Girl Scout can achieve) and are now working on their Silver Awards (highest award a Cadette Girl Scout can achieve). They do all this and more while maintaining academic excellence. These girls are an ambitious lot who believe they can and will change the world. They believe that you can have it all if you are organized, prioritize, and have the support of your Girl Scout sisters. These are common attributes in all the Girl Scouts I have met through the years.

We’ve spent many evenings in our home working on badges which fill their Girl Scout vests. Those evenings are loud, creative, crazy, and filled with laughter. The girls are committed to community service and have organized food drives, helped at holiday parties for foster children, sang Christmas carols at the Senior Center, handed out clothing to the homeless, plus shopped for and donated meals and holiday gifts to families in need. They love the time they spend outdoors and all have been lucky enough to attend residential Girl Scout camp (Camp Butano Creek) during the summer where they have gone horseback riding, kayaking, back packing, mastered archery, made a zillion crafts, sang around a campfire and were able to be themselves in a non-threatening, welcoming, fun-filled environment. And yes, they have sold cookies. A lot of cookies. But that’s a good thing as through cookie sales (and the fall nut and candy sale) they have learned their profits help finance many of their activities. In fact, they determine what they want to do, how much it will cost and then calculate how much they need to sell to reach their goal (it makes my co-leader, Melissa Silva, who is also a math teacher at Wells Middle School weep with joy). Girl Scouts has taught these girls the value of working towards a goal and the thrill of achieving it. Girl Scouts has surrounded them with women, and men, who encourage them to achieve their full potential.

Yes, I have a great love for the Girl Scout organization; however, you need to hear it from the girls themselves what Girl Scouts mean to them, so I asked Troop 32595 and here are some of their responses:

How has your life been enriched because of Girl Scouts?

“Girl Scouts has enriched my life by showing me skills that I will need in life; skills like responsibility and communication. It has also expanded my horizons, and encouraged me to do things that I normally might not do.” ~ Rebecca Hoffman

“My life has been enriched by Girls Scouts because it has taught me how to give back to people in different ways.” ~ Rebecca Silva

“Girl Scouts has made my life better in so many ways. I have gotten to meet so many different people, and connect with them throught Girl Scouts. Girl Scouting has also given me so many great opportunities to spend time with my friends while sharing some great experiences and making great memories. One of the best things about being a Girl Scout is being able to say, ‘Remember when we did that?!’” ~ Hailey Lampi

“Girl Scouts has enriched my life in a number of ways; I got an extensive course in selling cookies, got a chance to help the community in a variety of ways and met people from all over the world. Most importantly, I got seven awesome friends.” ~ Alexandra Stassinopoulos

What is your favorite activity/event associated with Girl Scouts?

“Attending Camp Butano Creek is my favorite Girl Scout activity because it lets you experience things you would probably not do without camp. Like horseback riding, surfing, overnight backpacking, mountain bike riding, kayaking, photography, archery scrapbooking and lots of crafts.” ~ Karyn Utsumi

“My favorite activities, in general, are the ones where we are physically serving others. It makes me feel an indescribable joy knowing that I can and chose to make a difference in someone’s life.” ~ Kera Hunsaker

“I think some of my favorite events associated with Girl Scouts are going to Butano Creek Camp, or going to Thinking Day, because you meet and make friends with so many new people. At Butano, I always find that I have so much in common with the girls in my unit. It is crazy sometimes how much I relate to a person I barely know! At Thinking Day, whenever a younger girl comes up to my troop’s booth, I always try to make them feel like they are amongst friends and family, because that is what we all are.” ~ Hailey Lampi

“My favorite event associated with Girl Scouts is the Holiday Extravaganza, because not only are there a lot of people you see at other events in the Dublin/Pleasanton area, it’s just far enough that you get a chance to meet a lot of new people.” ~ Alexandra Stassinopoulos

What makes your troop special?

“What makes my troop special is all the people in it. Without them we wouldn’t be doing a lot of the activities we do. And the girls in our troop are very special (in a good way) because they have such bright, brilliant, and creative minds.” ~ Rebecca Silva

“My troop is EXTRA special because of all of the awesome people in it!” ~ Cassidy Hearne

“The fact that all of us care about the same things and value our Girl Scout experience makes our troop so special!” ~ Ashley Hedt

“Every girl is one of a kind. Not to mention the leaders and troop moms. A troop should act like a big family, support each other in times of need and love and care for each other.” ~ Karyn Utsumi

Why would you encourage girls to join Girl Scouts?

“I encourage other girls to join Girl Scouts because it is something that you can do to make bonds with people that you will know and remember for the rest of your life. And you can help yourself as well as other in the events and things that you would do as a Girl Scout, and be yourself 110% of the time.” ~ Rebecca Hoffman

“I would encourage other girls to join Girl Scouts because it makes you a better person, you are able to help your community more and learn about new things you never knew about.” ~ Ashley Hedt

“I would encourage other girls to join Girl Scouts because this organization is truly one of the greatest opportunities for not only younger girls but also young women to learn essential skills to help them through the rest of their lives.” ~ Kera Hunsaker

“I would encourage girls to join Girl Scouts because it makes your entire [youth] experience even better!” ~ Cassidy Hearne

Girl Scouts would not be possible without adult volunteers. These are the men and women who lead troops and organize events. I have met some amazing adult volunteers in the eight years I have been involved in Girl Scouts. Like me, many of them have full-time jobs, as well as go above and beyond for their schools and communities. But it’s worth it. There is nothing more rewarding than mentoring young ladies to become women of courage, confidence and character. It’s hard for me to believe that our troop only has five more years until my girls graduate high school. Although the time will fly, I can guarantee that we’ll make the most of it.

Related articles:

Girl Scouts of the USA is the largest organization for girls in the world. Through activities in science and technology, business and economic literacy, and outdoor and environmental awareness Girl Scouting provides girls with opportunities for fun and friendship while fostering the development of leadership skills and self-esteem. Girl Scouts in Dublin, Pleasanton and Sunol are members of the Crossroads Service Unit ( who sponsors numerous events for the scouts in our area. Crossroads Service Unit is part of Girl Scouts of Northern California (

The Girl Scout year runs from October 1st through September 30th. There are four Informational Nights over the next two weeks being sponsored by the Crossroads Service Unit for parents/guardians who have a girl in kindergarten or first grade – visit for more information. If you have a girl in second grade or older who is interested in Girl Scouts, email and provide your contact information, as well as the name, school and grade for your daughter.

One Comment
  1. Cecelia Caston aka Grama CeCe permalink
    September 10, 2012 7:57 am

    God bless you for making these wonderful things happen for Girl Scouts….ours and those future ones that will develop through Troop 32595!!

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