At the 2017 Leading Women awards on Thursday, April 6, Maya, a Girl Scout Ambassador, shared her personal and moving Girl Scout story, which is transcribed below. We are inspired by Maya, who truly is a girl of courage, confidence, and character.
Good morning everyone! Girl Scouting is a special tradition within my family. My family’s multi-generational Girl Scouting experience began when my grandmother served as my mother’s troop leader, and my mom does the same for me. My sister Sara, now 15, was a Girl Scout “tag-along” and would attend our meetings as part of our troop, even when she was too young to be a registered Girl Scout. My sister Noelle, now 12, is a Cadette in troop 85079. Even my younger cousins are Daisy Girl Scouts, and it makes me immensely proud to hear them talk about what activities they are doing and what badges they have earned! I plan to continue honoring the Girl Scouting tradition in my family when I am older.
The earliest memories I have in my life encompass Girl Scouts in some way; whether it be sitting on the floor of the community building, hanging out with girls in my troop, or even sorting through HUNDREDS of boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Looking back at my years in Girl Scouts, I realize that this organization introduced me to the world of service. In particular, Girl Scouting showed me how to present and hold myself with pride, how to help others, and how to be involved in the world; Girl Scouts proved to me that I could make a difference.
These Girl Scouting experiences kick started my pursuit of service throughout high school. For example, I serve as the president of an international club called Z Club. Z Club is a teen branch of Zonta—a group of women working together to advance the status of women worldwide. Z Club is a group of high school girls dedicated to empowering women through service and advocacy. We organize marches, donation drives, and presentations. Currently, we are working on a feminism presentation to be delivered to Girl Scouts in our hometown. Our hope is that these young girls learn early what female empowerment is, and how they can use it in their lives.
My Girl Scouting experience has provided me with an opportunity to belong to a sisterhood of young women who support one another unconditionally. My troop built lasting friendships, and even to this day, we are all close; two of my absolute best friends I met for the first time in Girl Scouts. However, as much fun as we had in Girl Scouts, my troop also learned how to cope with grief, and loss, at a young age.
In second grade, when we were Brownies, my mom sat us down to have a serious discussion. It was then that she told us that a fellow Girl Scout in our troop, Jenna Jacob, had been diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer, which was shocking to say the least.
Jenna became the glue of our troop, and a lot of our activities were based off of what she could or couldn’t do, because when she wasn’t there, it wasn’t the same. She adored crafts, and anything to do with sewing or making things, and would often lead us in these activities. When she went into remission, we all celebrated, but as the cancer kept returning, and getting worse, we came to realize that life isn’t always fair. On March 2nd, 2011, Jenna Jacob passed away at the age of 11. I lost a best friend that day, as did many others. We grieved together as a troop, and we all leaned on one another for support. We ceremoniously ‘retired’ our troop number, 71161, knowing it would never be the same without Jenna.
To this day, we still have celebrations of her life and release birthday balloons for her, and we refuse to let Jenna be forgotten. Girl Scouts, and my troop—my girls—helped me pave the way to where I am today. This experience has made me a more compassionate human being, and has also provided me with the knowledge and skills necessary to be a community volunteer, a member of councils and committees, a president, and a member of several clubs. I am an activist, an honors student, and an older sister. I am 18, graduating high school, and will soon be moving to New York City where I will continue my service work in AmeriCorps as a mentor in low income schools. Most importantly, I am a Girl Scout, and I always will be.
All photos © Randy H. Goodman