On Sat., Sept. 24, Girl Scouts from the Western New York council participated in the 47th annual Skills and Chills event. The event took place at Camp Seven Hills Goodyear located in Holland, NY.

Skills and Chills is a yearly competition in the GSWNY council that allows Girl Scouts that are sixth-grade Cadettes through twelfth-grade Ambassadors to test their abilities and earn awards. A committee organizes the event and chooses judges that are subject matter experts in each field. This year, ten new volunteers were trained as subject matter experts and added to the judging panel.

Nancy Grimes, chairperson of the outdoor committee, stated, “It’s important to know these skills. It gives girls a sense of strength in the outdoors. They can say, ‘I can do this. I can accomplish this. I don’t need to wait for someone else to do it.’ Part of the philosophy of this program is not just having the skills, but being willing to try and give it a shot.”
Ann Marie Lesnewski brought Cadette troop 30143 to the event. She commented, “We try to do the skills throughout the year. Whenever we go camping we try to incorporate fire building. With first aid, we talk about it all the time and what you should do if certain situations come up. It’s an ongoing process for us and we don’t just do this to prep for Skills and Chills.”

Troops collectively decide on a team name and often create costumes to match their theme. This adds to the fun and helps to unite the troop even further with a visual element of camaraderie.

Lesnewski explained how her troop chose their theme. “We came up with a Christmas theme because I ride in a scooter, so the girls were trying to figure out how we could incorporate that. I’m Mrs. Claus in a sleigh, the leaders are elves, and the girls are all reindeer.”

Girls face off in events such as archery, orienteering, canoeing, tent pitching, log sawing, knots and lashing, and field sports.

Grimes explained, “Points earned are based more on common sense and safety than speed. It’s about understanding what’s required to be safe if you use these skills while camping. We’re out here to make sure they enjoy it and can act as leaders to be able to light a fire or perform first aid. Team building and communication are important for the girls to learn and use, too.”

Teresa Buchner of troop 70400 said that her troop didn’t have access to canoes to practice, but came up with an alternate plan instead. They got paddles and set up dining room chairs to practice on, pretending they were in a canoe and working on skills such as turning and stopping momentum. She and teammate Josie Ostrowski earned second place in the canoe skills competition showing that a little Girl Scout ingenuity holds great value.

Dayonna Tester from troop 70923 said, “Today, I did archery, first aid, knots and lashing, and compass. My troop practices every week as part of our troop meetings. First aid was my best event. We had to wrap an arm with an ace bandage and make a splint. My team worked really well together.”

Tester had to step in for a troop member that was unable to make it to the competition. The girl that couldn’t attend the event had been signed up for archery. Tester had never touched a bow before, but was willing to do her best. Afterward, although she didn’t score any points, she said, “I want to take archery lessons! That was really fun!”

At the end of the evening, all the points were totaled and award ribbons were given out. Volunteers beamed with pride as all the girls cheered on the winners.

Grimes said, “Part of why this is a success is we keep doing what the girls need. This is about these kids having fun and having an experience they won’t forget.”

To learn more about Girl Scouts of Western New York, visit gswny.org


1Caption: The girls broke into groups to discuss topics that affect driving such as bad weather, construction, personal distractions, and more. 

On Sat., April 2, the Girl Scouts of Western New York partnered with GEICO car insurance to deliver a car maintenance and safety program called Car Care with GEICO. The event was targeted at Girl Scouts that are about to become new drivers or have only been driving for a short period of time.

Melanie Bloodworth, Director of Program at GSWNY, commented, “All the girls are earning their Car Care badge. That’s including an opportunity to learn some basic car maintenance skills, how to jump a car, how to change a tire, how to check your oil. They’re also participating in activities around safe driving and how to drive for a greener Earth. At the very end, they’re coming up with safety jingles that they’re sharing with everybody.”

This is the second year that GSWNY has offered the program with GEICO. Last year, the program was only available in Buffalo, but because of its success, it was brought to the Rochester area. Approximately 40 girls along with parents and troop leaders attend the programs.

“These are some basic life skills that girls often don’t learn at school or maybe even at home if their parents aren’t comfortable with car maintenance,” said Bloodworth. “These are very important things for girls to learn as they become drivers, so that they can be safe and do some basic checks to make sure their cars are in good working condition. I think it’s something about Girl Scouts that’s unique. We provide girls these opportunities to learn these skills that they really don’t have another venue where they would be learning this in an organized program that’s also fun and interactive.”

A team from the Management Development Program in the GEICO Claims Department led the event at the Al Sigl Center in Brighton. At GEICO there is a committee for Girl Scouts that gets together to ensure that all the requirements for the Car Care badge are met. The team then takes that information and puts their own twist on it to make it even more fun.

2Caption: The GEICO staff explained what tools and safety equipment are great to have in your car. They explained that it is better to have it and not need it, rather than need it and not have it.

Erin Dorozynski from GEICO had her first experience working with Girl Scouts at the event.

“Their creativity is just amazing,” she said.” It’s nice to see them thinking outside the box and taking a different look at distractions or ways to be more safe as drivers.”

Katherine Warth, an Ambassador Scout from Monroe County troop 60420 commented, “I learned a lot about what kind of tools you need to keep in your car, how to change a tire, when your battery dies how to jump your car. My dad recently had to do and I was like ‘Oh my gosh! I never want to be stuck in that situation and not know what to do. So it’s good things to know as a new driver. I learned some things at home, but it was a little bit here and there. This put everything together in one cohesive place.”

The parents and troop leaders in attendance also had some questions and contributed to the discussion providing their insight from their own driving experience.

3Caption: The Girl Scouts came up with funny jingles to better remember how to be safe and aware on the road and protect the environment.

Dorozynski said, “It’s incredibly important to be prepared. I know that’s something the Girl Scouts live on, but especially as drivers, you can’t be unprepared, especially in the weather we have in Western New York. Being prepared and having everything you need is of the utmost importance.”

She added that awareness is a huge factor in safe driving. Not only awareness of your own actions, but being conscious of what other vehicles around you are doing as well. She also wants girls to feel like it’s okay to ask passengers for help. They can help give directions, respond to messages and calls so that the driver can stay focused.

Joelle Maurer from troop 60835 in Monroe County, said, “They’re just 16 and new drivers. I wanted them to become a little more aware of road safety, as well as awareness. Growing up I didn’t do this, and I still wouldn’t have a clue how to change a tire, so giving them an opportunity to learn this from someone besides mom and dad is a really good tool for them.”

To learn more about Girl Scouts of Western New York, visit gswny.org.

The event started off with high school-level Girl Scouts teaching younger girls fun camp songs.

Ambassador Scouts Paula Brant, Miranda Mellan, Adeline Kofoed, Kelsey Lubecki, along with Senior scouts Ashley Whipkey and Gabrielle Gasiorek taught the girls the song “Bazooka Bubblegum.”

Girl Scouts from all over Western New York gathered together for the International World Thinking Day event on Sat., Feb. 27, 2016. The theme of the event was “Connect,” which focuses on understanding yourself, relationships with friends and family, and your part in the world and how to make it a better place. Girl Scouts and Girl Guides worldwide spent the day learning about other cultures and working together.

The Girl Scouts of Western New York spent the afternoon at Herbert Hoover Elementary School in Buffalo. There were 150 Girl Scouts from 29 troops.

Bree Kramer, the lead volunteer at the event, said, “I wanted girls to have an opportunity to connect with other Scouts globally and learn about Scouting in other countries.  I was also hoping they could learn about the opportunities available to them as older Scouts.  I was fortunate enough to go on a Destination (then called Wider Opportunity) to Puerto Rico when I was 14 for an Ecology Education program in the rainforest and a Troop final trip around Europe.  Those memories have stayed with me and helped shape the person I am today.  I want other Scouts to know that there is so much more available to them outside their neighborhood and council.”

The Girl Scouts learned about Girl Guides, the International version of Girl Scouts, and their famous lodges which act as headquarters: The Pax Lodge in the United Kingdom, Our Cabaña in Mexico, Our Chalet in Switzerland, and Sangam in India.

The girls decorated a craft featuring each lodge’s mascot animal using bird seed and crayons.

Another activity featured technology as a way to connect with the world. The Girl Scouts played GeoGuessr, a computer game where you are shown a random view from somewhere in the world and then you click a map to guess where you are. The closer you are, the more points you get. You can use clues from the scene such as the color of dirt, types of trees, style of vehicles, writing on road signs, and more as context clues about the location.

“I really hope the girls learned that even though people in other parts of the world are different, they are also similar to us. The GeoGuessr game they played helped the girls realize that there are many places in the world that look similar to the United States, despite being thousands of miles away,” said Kramer.

Because STEM is important to the Girl Scouts, technology provided a fun way to get a view of random locations around the world.

The girls also participated in a series of games about working together. The Girl Scouts played a game where you had to keep a ball moving around the circle in a series of half tubes. They also passed a beach ball to each other without using their hands. The girls also played the traditional game of Telephone where the first girl says a phrase to the next and by the time it gets to the last girl you see if the message has become jumbled.

ball game_small.jpg
Daisy Girl Scouts work together to help a ball travel down the line. The cooperative game taught them that tasks aren’t as hard when they solve problems as a group.

The last station the Girl Scouts visited was to learn meditation. Ken Stucynski, a professional martial arts instructor from 8 Tigers Academy of Tai Chi & Chi Kung, taught the Girl Scouts about finding their inner calm and learning how to diffuse stress through thoughtful breathing and carefully listening to the world around them. It helped the girls to connect with themselves, while also mentally reaching out to the world around them.

Daisy Girl Scouts talk about breathing calmly to help their bodies relax. 

Stucynski commented, “As we get older, we lose more and more touch with what it means to be centered. If children get a glimpse of this and this became a part of learning experience with any regularity, this could create a new type of adult, someone who would be equipped with basic tools to survive and thrive much more than they could otherwise. They wouldn’t have to fix themselves later. It’s a way of dealing with stress instead of trying to Band-Aid it.”

At the end of the day the Girl Scouts earned their World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts USA World Thinking Day Badge, and they fulfilled requirements for their GSUSA Global Action Badge.

Kramer hoped the Girl Scouts enjoyed the event, adding, “I hope they learned that even if they stay locally, there are many new friends and new adventures waiting for them all over Western New York.”

To learn more about the Girl Scouts of Western New York, including opportunities to volunteer, please visit gswny.org.

Rochester, NY (Feb. 10, 2016) – On Sat., Feb. 6, the Girl Scout Tekakwitha Service Unit in Rochester held their 4th Annual International Festival at the Rochester School of Medicine to celebrate World Thinking Day. To earn the Girl Scout badge associated with the event the girls devoted time to learning about a country and its culture, then at the festival they shared their knowledge with other Girl Scouts.

Troop leader and event organizer Svanhildur Thorvaldsdottir stated, “It’s really nice for girls, especially in the world today, to learn a lot about things that are going on around them and learn about some countries that they maybe didn’t even know existed. They’ll hopefully gain some understanding of foreign cultures and practices.”

south korea
A troop performs a traditional fan dance from South Korea.

Eleven countries were featured at the event including Jamaica, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Republic of Italy, Canada, Ethiopia, and China. The young Daisy Scouts learned about the United States.

Troop 60054 chose Canada for their World Thinking Day project. They learned about the general customs of the African diaspora, the Caribana celebrations in Toronto, language, and money.

“We picked Canada as a troop because our Junior troop leader is Canadian. Her daughter is a dual citizen in the United States and Canada,” said troop leader Aria Camaione-Lind. “We chose it because we had a resident expert and because the girls were really interested in learning more about one of their troop leaders and troop members.”

Troop 60054 explains Canada’s love of hockey, their two official languages, and other interesting facts they learned about the country. The Girl Scout on the far left in the red hat and the woman in the moose hat are citizens of Canada.

Several troops took the project to a more interactive level. The Girl Scouts presenting South Korea and Ethiopia performed traditional dances, and the troop that presented Jamaica even sang a song that got the audience to join in and clap along. The Girl Scouts covering China, Italy, Canada, and Germany featured clothing from the countries. Many troops prepared a food from that country for attendees to taste, such as Irish soda bread.

Ambassador Scout Samantha Pollard recalled her trip to Europe for a Girl Scout travel program and how the experience was a great thing to think about for World Thinking Day.

“We first went to Edinburgh in Scotland and then we travelled to London,” she said. “We went to Pax Lodge, the International Girl Guide House. I’d love to do more of that in the future.”

Neely Kelly, a Peace Corps volunteer, spoke with the older girls about her experience traveling to a foreign country and offering assistance.

“The Peace Corps is a program that sends Americans all over the world to volunteer and ostensibly improve the lives of people in third-world countries. It’s like an ambassadorship program,” said Kelly. “It definitely changed me and helped me become a better citizen. I hope [the Girl Scouts] got an understanding about what Peace Corps is and what they do.”

Troop 63064 explained the colors of the Italian flag mean hope, faith, and charity.

Avalian Rios, a Cadette from troop 63064, explained that her troop had chosen the Republic of Italy, which is the official name for what most people simply call Italy. Rios stated that World Thinking Day had been very eye opening and it was one of the many enjoyable parts of being a scout.

Rios added, “Being in Girl Scouts, you can meet other people, and you get to learn skills that help you move up in life and help you grow up.”

Over 146 countries worldwide participate through their own scouting programs such as the Girl Guides. The Girl Scouts of Western New York World Thinking Day is Sat., Feb. 27.

To learn more about Girl Scouts and the badges they earn, visit gswny.org.

A Girl Scout studies the underside of a skull.

On Saturday, January 9, Girl Scouts of Western New York went to the University of Buffalo to learn about medical school. One hundred girls attended the program with 30 troop leaders and volunteer chaperones. The girls were all in the Cadette level, which includes students from 6th to 9th grade.

The Girl Scouts go to Med School program was run by volunteer medical students to get the Girl Scouts interested in pursuing a future in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

Kaci Schiavone, a lead volunteer and 2nd year medical student, added, “We’re trying to get them as involved as we can. As long as we get them interested in science in general, we’re excited.”

Sember and Schiavone are both co-presidents of American Medical Womens’ Association, which has been organizing the program with the Girl Scouts of Western New York for a few years.

A Girl Scout gets a hands-on experience with a heart while med student Mary Kate Frauenheim explains the chambers.

cranial nerves
By moving a finger in the shape of an H, you can test certain cranial nerves for functionality. 

The girls worked their way through seven stations to learn about different parts and systems of the body and what career paths work with each. Girls learned about the brain and cranial nerves, the musculoskeletal system, the abdominal region and nutrition, the heart and lungs, and the nervous system.

Many stations included real organs that were donated for scientific purposes to the school. Donning gloves, the girls were welcomed to feel what the organs looked like and while learning about their functions.

Penpa Bhuti, a 1st year medical student was a volunteer at one of the stations where she taught about hearts. She taught the Girl Scouts about the heart and its valves, plus had them listen to each other’s heart sounds through stethoscopes. She said she volunteered because, “I like to teach. That’s one of my other passions. I think that’s really cool to be able to share your knowledge with other people. It’s really nice to volunteer. It’s fun.”

One girl shows off a real skull to another.

The Girl Scouts have fun getting a lesson in lungs.

Eighth-grader Hope Marshall and ninth-grader Courtney Jung from the Chatauqua Service Unit signed up for the program together. Both Girl Scouts want to work in or alongside the medical field one day.

“We signed up for this because we wanted to learn more,” said Marshall, “and we wanted to come and see how it was in the medical field.”

Jung added, “Most of this is interconnected to what we already know, so it’s helpful and informative and helps expand our knowledge about what we’ve already learned so far. I’ve wanted to be a pathologist for as long as I can remember.”

Marshall said, “I was thinking about being an engineer and I was going to maybe help out in the medical field by building machines to help with people’s problems.” She said a good example is that when a person gets a broken bone, they may need pins in their arm. She wants to find an alternate system that could help that person heal correctly.

Jung said that this program is great because she can narrow down her focus, but can get a glimpse into other possibilities. “Girl Scouts adds discipline and appreciation,” she said.

Using a stethoscope, they checked each other for healthy hearts.

At the end of the program, the Girl Scouts participated in a question-and-answer session with six medical students. Five of the six were Girls Scouts as children throughout the United States from California to Pennsylvania. They encouraged the girls in the audience to try out as many things as possible to know what they do and don’t want to do later in life. Many of the medical students had wanted to be veterinarians, but doing volunteer work in their teens changed their minds to caring for human patients.

Quinne Sember, a lead volunteer and a 2nd year medical student, said, “We just want to spark an interest in them and let them know that girls can be interested in science and medicine. This is the path to get to where we are.”

The more news I hear about the nearly 300 girls who were abducted from a secondary boarding school in Nigeria, the more troubled I become. Recent developments have revealed that the captors have threatened to sell the girls into marriage in the marketplace for $12 and to use also them as slaves.

Although this tragedy has occurred outside of the United States, my heart goes out to all the families of the young women. My prayer is that as many girls as possible are brought to safety and that punishment is swiftly and justly brought to the captors. Those girls could be our daughters.

Imagine making the decision to send your daughter to a boarding school to get an excellent education in a city where education is the “key” to improving not only their lifestyle, but the lifestyle of their families. You drive away from campus with a lump in your throat and a firm resolve, confident that you are making the best decision for your child. Now, put yourselves into the place of those girls’ parents and imagine getting a call from school officials telling you that your child has been abducted. I cannot imagine! Those beautiful young women’s lives are worth more than $12.

In the United States, we take freedom for granted. I read a quote by former President Ronald Reagan that said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

On the eve of Mother’s Day celebrations across the nation, there are mothers who won’t be celebrating until their daughters return safely home. Individually, there is not much we can do to directly help the parents or the girls. Collectively, we can spread the word to our friends, colleagues, and family about this horrific tragedy. If any child is in danger, our future is in danger.

I’m spreading the word. How about you? #bringbackourgirls

There has been quite a bit of buzz around LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts of the USA’s public service campaign Ban Bossy. In full disclosure, I am a CEO of one of the Girl Scout councils.

As you can imagine, the opinions range from supporting a ban on the word “bossy” while others think being “bossy” is synonymous with confidence.

I am fascinated by this discussion because I think everyone can relate on some level. I am sure we’ve called someone bossy, we were called bossy, or we overheard someone being called bossy. In every instance, the word was not meant as a compliment.

Why would anyone think being called bossy is a compliment? Could it be that the definition of the word has been expanded to include positive attributes and less of the “sting” that used to accompany the word?

Through time, the word “bossy” has become more ambiguous to me. I started to feel one would need to be bossy if they were to reach their goals. Perhaps “bossy” meant you were not a pushover and you were capable of standing up for yourself in any situation. Even though I found a way to accept a negatively-charged word, being called “bossy” still did not feel good.

Now that I have a greater understanding of this campaign and have re-evaluated the meaning of the word, I’ve had a change of heart. The campaign encourages us to ban the general and broad use of the word and describe the actual behavior. For instance, if someone is acting aggressive, we should describe the behavior as aggressive instead of “bossy.” “Bossy” is being used to describe both aggressive and assertive behavior. This is why the authors of the articles I read embraced the word “bossy. They thought the word meant assertive.

As a female in an executive leadership position who has the responsibility of hiring, I look for staff, especially women, who are assertive. The assertive women that I know are successful because they work hard to reach their goals. They do not allow anything to get in the way of them succeeding. They stand up for what is important to them even if it is an unpopular opinion.

The Ban Bossy campaign is also addressing how the use of this word is causing girls and young women to shy-away from leadership positions because they do not want to be considered “bossy.” There is a glass ceiling in corporate America. Women are underrepresented in many areas, and the only way that this will change is if girls and young women are not afraid to take leadership roles. If banning this word will encourage girls to lead, count me in! I do not want to see anyone, girl or boy, not succeed because of the use of a word. I remember as a child the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As an adult, I know that this childhood saying has some flaws, but we cannot let the word “bossy” prevent anyone –especially girls –from being leaders.

Join me and others as we take the pledge to ban “bossy.”