Monday, November 5, 2018

Guest Blog: Looking Back on a Girl Scout Destination by Bree Opperman

Bree Opperman is a Girl Scout alum from Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania. She is 25 years old and is currently attending New York Chiropractic College. While she was a Ambassador Girl Scout, she participated in a Girl Scout Destinations trip to New Zealand.

Girl Scouts: What Destination did you participate in? 
Bree: I went on a destination to New Zealand! We spent two weeks traveling around the whole North Island. We had a group of Girl Scouts from the states, a group of Girl Guides from England, and a couple girls from Australia. We went to Wellington, Auckland, Rotorua, and many more places. We went tobogganing down sand dunes, dolphin watching, soaked in natural hot springs, visited traditional Maori villages, learned about sheep shearing, met up with local Girl Guides, and much more!

Girl Scouts: How did you find out about Destinations, and what inspired you to apply? 
Bree: I honestly don't really remember how I found out about Destinations, but once I did find out about them I knew it was something I had to do. I was really sad I didn't know about them until my final year of Girl Scouts, however I am so happy I was able to experience it! I have always had a travel bug since I went with family to Italy in 6th grade. So when I found out I could travel AND participate in a Girl Scout event, I was extremely excited. I applied to four destinations and somehow got into all four! Because they are on the more expensive end, I had to choose one of the four (New Zealand, Peru, Ireland, or England). I ultimately chose New Zealand, and I’m so happy I did!

Girl Scouts: What advice would you give Girl Scouts who are thinking about going on a Destination? 
Bree: Don't be afraid to apply! The worst that can happen is that you don't get in, but if you don't apply you have no chance of getting in any way! Destinations are a great opportunity that you may never get to do again. They allow you to get out of your comfort zone, explore a new place and culture, and help create friendships with other girl across the country and the world!

The Destination group poses with Maori villagers after
watching their performance of the Haka and traditional
Maori dances and chants.
Girl Scouts: Is there a particular moment you can remember from your Destination that illustrates for you why you feel travel is important?
Bree: There is no one moment in particular that comes to mind, however I think the fact that we got to not only see modern New Zealand, but also the traditional Maori villages is extremely important. Seeing how the original people of the island lived (and still do), allows travelers to help understand different cultures and appreciate the similarities and differences we all share no matter where you are from. Traveling helps you better respect the diversity in the world, and lets you explore what else is out there—and there is more out there than you can ever believe!

Girl Scouts: What kind of impact has being a Girl Scout had on you?
Bree: Being a Girl Scout has shaped me in so many ways I cannot even begin to explain them all—I’d be here for days! Because of Girl Scouts, I was able to have a wide variety of experiences that many of my non-Girl Scout friends never got to enjoy. I got to be on TV, go whitewater rafting and horseback riding, try hockey and lacrosse, and learn business skills. I went to sleepovers in museums and a million other things. It has helped form me into the woman I am today and has given me so much guidance into every decision I make.

Grace, left, and Bree pose for a photo after
their day of sand dune tobogganing.
Girl Scouts: Do you still keep in contact with your friends from your Destination?
Bree: Yes! Especially Grace who was a Girl Guide from England!! We have made it a priority to keep in touch. Even if it's just a quick update to each other every now and again, we make sure to communicate somehow. When I studied abroad in undergrad, I spent five months in Austria and made it a point to visit Grace and a few of the other girls from the trip while in England. A few years later, Grace came to visit me in the states, and we went to New York City and Canada. Each time we get together, we try to pay homage to Girl Scouts and Girl Guides, since it is what brought us together. We toured Pax Lodge when I visited her in England and Girl Scout Headquarters when we went to NYC. We are hoping to plan another trip together soon and are thinking either Kenya or India to visit another WAGGGS World Center. It’s amazing how one trip created such an amazing lifelong friendship!

Girl Scouts: Where are you now?
Bree: I am getting ready to graduate from New York Chiropractic College and will officially be Dr. Brianna Opperman on November 26, 2018! I’m not sure where I will be practicing yet, but wherever I end up, I plan to volunteer with whatever council I am in and give back to this amazing organization!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Announcing the GSWPA Holiday Card Art Contest Winner: A Winter Hike

Earlier this year, Girl Scouts across western Pennsylvania were invited to enter the first-ever GSWPA Holiday Card Art Contest to help our council create our 2018 holiday card. Girls were asked to create a piece of art in the theme of "A Girl Scout Winter" using any medium.

Congratulations to the four finalists whose entries will be used in our digital card, and the artwork from our winner, Rachel N. of Cambria County, will be the artwork on our printed card.

The winner of the first-ever GSWPA Holiday Card Art Contest is Rachel N. of Cambria County.

“My fondest Girl Scount memories come from all of my troop’s camping trips. One of the highlights of winter camp was always hiking out with some older girls to go sledding on a large snow-covered hill. Some of my fellow ambassadors and I continue to talk about our sledding adventures as juniors to this day. It really calls to mind what Girl Scouts means to me: being in touch with nature while making fun memories with other Girl Scouts!” –Rachel N., Cambria County Ambassador Girl Scout
Use Girl Scout artwork for your holiday card!

GSWPA received wonderful submissions as part of this art contest, so we decided to make each finalist into a printable holiday card. The artwork, instructions, and even sample messages to help you get started can all be found at gswpa.org/holidaycard.