Monday, December 1, 2014

Girl Scouts National Convention 2014 inspires girls to take action

More than 20 girls, adult members and staff from GSWPA were among more than 6,500 from around the world to converge on Salt Lake City for the 53rd Annual Girl Scouts national Convention, Oct. 16-19, 2014.

This dynamic event, which was centered around the theme, “Discover, Connect, Take Action: Girls Change the World,” was filled with activities and speakers--including news makers, leaders, policy makers and celebrities from around the world—aimed at celebrating and invigorating the Girl Scouts global movement. It was also an opportunity for representatives from councils across the country to take part in decisions that chart the future of the organization through the meeting of the National Council.

Girls from GSWPA head to Salt Lake City.

GSWPA adult delegates Krystal Boburchock and
Stephanie Barefoot-Mitchell with GSUSA CEO Anna Maria Chavez.
“Attending the 2014 National Convention for Girl Scouts was an incredible experience,” said Brittany McCartney, an Ambassador Girl Scout from Meadville who attended both as a Girl Scout Leadership Institute participant and a national delegate. “I honestly had no idea what to expect going into convention but it exceeded any expectations I could have set for myself.”

Three girl delegates and 10 adult delegates represented GSWPA this year on the National Council, the membership body of Girl Scouts of the USA charged with giving broad direction to the future of the Girl Scout Movement. As required by the Girl Scouts of the USA Constitution in the Blue Book of Basic Documents, the body convenes every three years and is the major link between Girl Scout councils and the national organization. National delegates gather feedback from GSWPA members on the proposals and discussion topics on the National Council Session Agenda and then act as the voice of the council.
This year at convention, National Council voted on, and ultimately adopted, three proposed amendments to the Constitution of Girl Scouts of the USA in these areas:
  • Flexibility of dues and registration practices
  • Reporting relationship of the chief financial officer
  • Role of past presidents

Sightseeing in Salt Lake City's Tabernacle Square.

Also at the National Council session, GSUSA CEO Anna Maria Chávez led a discussion about the importance of outdoor programming in Girl Scouting by announcing that new outdoor badges for Brownies, Cadettes, Juniors, Seniors and Ambassadors will be introduced in the fall of 2015 through a Girl’s Choice program.

“It was almost unanimous that the girls wanted to go back outdoors in Girl Scouting,” said McCartney. “As one girl said, we need to put the “out” backing in Scouting!”

As if being a part of a national decision-making process wasn’t exciting enough, convention attendees also took part in some pretty amazing activities, heard from inspiring speakers, and even had some time to do a little sightseeing.

Throughout the convention, Girl Scouts Leadership Institute participants (12 from GSWPA) teamed up to create a “Take Action” project to address an issue that was affecting people in their communities: hunger, basic needs, education, healthy relationships, teen violence, self-image, gender equality, diversity and inclusion. “In researching and discussing the issues I learned more about myself, and became more aware of issues that girls from across the world are facing,” said McCartney.

The group also heard from several inspiring speakers, including Elizabeth Smart, an activist and speaker who was abducted at age 14 and rescued nine months later, and Alison Levine, a mountaineer who has climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents.

The list of awesome experiences from the convention is seemingly endless.

“It was absolutely amazing to see so many young women in Girl Scouts in one place,” said adult volunteer Sharon Enslen. “We got to experience how the national proposal process works, see the Hall of Experiences, enjoy the Girl Lounge, trade SWAPs, sample cookies and nuts, meet Anna Maria Chávez, see the Parade of Flags, make new friends, ride in a bicycle rickshaw, hear the Mormon tabernacle choir, go to a private party at Clark Planetarium, attend a dance party and so much more! Wow, what a trip!”

Feeling inspired to experience the Girl Scout Convention for yourself? Well, we have good news for you! The next convention, slated for Oct. 12-15, 2017, will be held right in our backyard in Columbus, Ohio. Stay tuned for more details!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wexford Girl Scouts win President’s Volunteer Service Award

For girls in Girl Scout Troop 51514, giving back to the community is a tradition.
During the past two years, girls strived to “do a good turn daily.” 
Two years ago, the troop of 20 fourth graders from Marshall Elementary School in Wexford completed nearly 1,500 good deeds.

This commitment to community service was so well received by the girls and their families, troop leaders Amy Herne, Belle Zimmer and Brandy Campbell decided to up the ante.
They challenged the girls in July 2013 to work toward earning the President’s Volunteer Service Award. Zimmer began tracking all of the girls’ service hours and certifying all of the work girls did in their community. The troop logged more than 600 service hours in 11 months. In addition to troop projects, girls were encouraged to volunteer on their own and with their families.
The girls completed a variety of service projects as a troop, including:

·         helping the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden get ready for a fairy garden event by collecting items from the woods.

·         creating "Birthday-in-a-Bag” kits for North Hills Community Outreach’s food bank.

·         volunteering at the Marshall Township Halloween Parade and Celebration by hosting a game for local children.

·         collecting winter hats, gloves and scarves for Light of Life Mission.

·         building bird houses for the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden.

·         assembling more than 40 Jared Boxes for patients at Children’s Hospital.

·         making Valentines for a local nursing home.

·         sending Christmas cards to hospitalized veterans.

·         hosting a karaoke night for Ronald McDonald House.

Some of the efforts the girls did on their own/with their families included:

·         volunteering at local nursing homes.

·         dance-a-thon for Cystic Fibrosis

·         ringing bells for the Salvation Army

·         clean-up of a local fire station

·         local church events

Each Girl Scout was presented a Silver Pin for her uniform and a certificate signed by President Obama at a Girl Scout ceremony in June.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

More from 2014 Girl Scouts National Convention

The girls in Temple Square
On Thursday morning we visited the historic Temple Square, which is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Utah’s most popular tourist destination, and joined a tour with Sister Pipe and Sister Ryan. Everyone loved learning about the history of Temple Square but even more so loved the view from the 26th floor in the Office of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The view included the two mountain ranges surrounding Salt Lake City, the airport, and the Utah State Capitol Building. It was amazing! 

The view from the office of the Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The GSLI girls and chaperones then took off for the GSLI Opening Session where CEO Anna Maria Chavez and National Board President Connie Lindsay led the 900 girls to the Hall of Experiences.  The exhibit hall was awesome but a little bit overwhelming! So many options, so many vendors, so many people, no one knew where to start!

Some of the girls with "Juliette Gordon Low"
When we were finished with the Hall of Experiences, we started to develop our Take Action Projects by choosing from the 7 Issues: Hunger, Basic Needs, Education, Healthy Relationships, Teen Violence, Self Image, Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.  After everyone had chosen their issue, the topic of the outdoors was brought up for discussion.  It was almost unanimous that the girls wanted to go back outdoors in Girl Scouting. As one girl said, we need to put the “out” backing in Scouting!
After dinner the Opening Ceremony began. Anna Maria and Connie were so excited to start off the convention!  Alison Levine spoke about her journey as she climbed the highest mountains in the world. Several local groups preformed and we had a blast singing and dancing! (So did GSWPA’s Board President Lois!)  

Elizabeth Smart

Friday morning the Delegates headed over to the First National Council Session! The meeting ended at 12:30 when the Delegate girls joined the GSLI girls who had been busy all morning starting their Take Action Projects!  The GSLI program had arranged for speakers from all sorts of backgrounds to speak.  After the GSLI sessions we had a wonderful dinner speaker, Elizabeth Smart, whose abduction was one of the most followed child abduction cases. She shared her moving story about the abduction and her life since.  

After the speaker at dinner, the GSLI girls had reconvened again to work with their councils on their Take Action Projects.  After spending time working on our projects we relaxed at the hotel to prepare for another busy day! So far we’re having a blast!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

GSWPA arrives in SLC: Let the fun begin!

By Brittany McCartney
Ambassador Girl Scout, Meadville

Girl Scouts from around the world woke up bright and early, gathered their last few items, and took off to the airport on Wednesday for the Girl Scouts National Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah!  Our first plane took off at 10:10 Wednesday morning out of Pittsburgh.  It was a quick flight to Chicago where we had a little over an hour to grab a bite to eat at an amazing bagel shop before we boarded our final plane taking us to Salt Lake City. 
The plane from Chicago to Salt Lake City was packed full of Girl Scouts from Western Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and even Germany! Several girls got a songfest going on the plane, leading the group in singing "Make New Friends." 
After we landed we took off to our hotel and then headed to Tucano's Brazilian Grill for dinner!  If you're ever in Salt Lake City and hungry, be sure to head to Tucano's. After stuffing ourselves to the point we could not walk, we went to the GSLI planning committee's Meet & Greet.  At the Meet & Greet we played Human Bingo, a "get-to-know-you" game as a way to meet Girl Scouts from all over. It was a fantastic way to make new friends! 
After the Meet & Greet we had a Western PA meeting with our chaperones where we received our SWAG bags with all sorts of new toys and gifts! Now we're ready to take on Temple Square and the first day of Convention!  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Live from convention: Meadville Girl Scout updates from Utah beginning Oct. 15

When Girl Scouts gather at the 53rd national convention this month in beautiful Salt Lake City, Utah, great things are going to happen! And thanks to Ambassador Girl Scout Brittany McCartney from Meadville, you don't have to board a plane or drive for days to stay up-to-date on the all the awesomeness!

Brittany will be updating her sister Girl Scouts on convention happenings, sessions, and stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the GSWPA blog!

Brittany McCartney
Brittany will post photos, share updates on our movement, and offer highlights from each energy-packed day starting Wednesday, October 15.

About Brittany:

School: Meadville Area Senior High
Grade: 12
Years of Scouting: 12
Service Unit 3611
Troop: 30026

Girl Scout activities: Singing Hills Camp Advisory Team, Singing Hills Property Site Team, Past Forever Green Team leader, Program Aide, troop helper for all of Service Unit 3611, Service Unit assistant for 3611, Ambassador Girl Scout, GSLI Girl, National Delegate.

Other activities: Key Club Lieutenant Governor for Division 1-2 of the Pennsylvania District of Key Club International, Yearbook Editor, Forensic and Debate, Volunteer at Child to Family Connections, National Multiple Sclerosis Society Walk MS Committee member, Volunteer at West Mead #2 VFD with the Auxiliary.

Why she can't wait to go to convention: "I am most excited about the opportunities that are ahead. I will have the chance to meet thousands of girls, leaders, and volunteers from across the nation and world. Just the thought of that is exciting, amazing, and impressive."

Brittany is a member of the GSWPA Media Team, so she'll be updating on more Girl Scouts news in the future! If you would like more information on the Media Team, contact Lisa Shade at

Sponsor shout-out: GEICO

The company that makes all of those funny commercials that make our girls giggle has been providing all of us here at GSWPA with more than laughs! Each year, GSWPA partners with local and national corporations to ensure that more girls in western Pennsylvania are afforded the Girl Scout experience. From sponsoring specialty patch programs, to lending us volunteers for Day of Caring events, to supporting our educational school programs, our corporate partnerships with companies like GEICO are undoubtedly an invaluable asset to the western Pennsylvania Girl Scout experience.

GEICO has been deeply committed to supporting our Annual Awards of Distinction (AOD) reception in each of our regions. For four years, the corporation has sponsored our dinner in Johnstown, our luncheon in Pittsburgh and our mentoring day and luncheon in Erie. Our Annual Awards of Distinction events aim to honor women leaders in western Pennsylvania that have been exceptional role models for our girls. By sponsoring these events, GEICO stands with our girls and our mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character.

This ongoing partnership with GEICO has had a direct impact on our girls. In 2014, GEICO generously donated all of their complimentary sponsorship tickets to local troops. At our AOD Johnstown dinner, GEICO donated their tickets Troops 40976 and 40921 from Windber. The troops came prepared to present their Breast Cancer Awareness video that earned them their Silver Award! The girls’ video even featured Mrs. Joyce Murtha, an inspirational Johnstown leader!

In the Pittsburgh area, girls were invited by GEICO to join our AOD luncheon while downtown working to earn their Breathe Journey badge. Girls learned about the effects of pollution on our five sensory systems. In between learning how to assess air quality from factors such as cigarette smoking, noise pollution and carbon dioxide output in the metropolitan area, girls were able to meet incredible women leaders and enjoy a lovely lunch!

At our Erie AOD in August, Girl Scouts and parents from Troop 36409 from Elk Valley Elementary school in Lake City were invited to join spend time with the distinguished female leaders in their local community. The girls were able to shadow women in local businesses as a part of our LeadHER mentor morning. Each girl was thrilled to be invited by GEICO to the luncheon and the troop was even awarded our top honor of the year – Troop of Distinction!

We value all of our corporate partnerships because we see direct results from the commitments made. GEICO’s support has had such a positive impact throughout western Pennsylvania. Thank you, GEICO for your continued partnership with GSWPA. We look forward to the work we can do together in the future!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Shop on AmazonSmile, help GSWPA

Attention Amazon shoppers: Did you know you can have a percentage of your Amazon purchases donated to GSWPA at no extra cost?

We’re participating in AmazonSmile. It’s a way for people to support their favorite nonprofit automatically every time they shop, at no cost and by taking just a few simple one-time steps. Awesome, right?

Just go to, log in to your Amazon account, and you’ll be asked to select a charity. Type in Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania and select it from the list. And if you’re already participating in AmazonSmile and want to change your charity to GSWPA, simply click on “Supporting” in the upper left side of the page when you’re logged in and select “Change your charity.”
After that, all you have to do is make sure you go to every time you shop and Amazon will donate .5% of your purchase to GSWPA! Your account is the same as your account, so your shopping cart, wish list, registries and other account settings are the same no matter which one you use. Want to learn more? Here are some AmazonSmile FAQs.
Thank you for shopping—and supporting GSWPA!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Volunteer shares favorite hobbies through Girl Scouting

For Girl Scout volunteer Jodi Sando, seeing the joy girls get from mastering a new skill is icing on the cake, especially since Jodi is the one who teaches them how to ice the cake.

Cake decorating is just one of the programs Jodi leads as a volunteer program facilitator. In addition to leading a multilevel troop, Jodi teaches girls cake decorating, outdoor cooking, geocaching, crochet and cross stitch to Girl Scouts through S’more programs by request.

Girls gain confidence from trying new things, and that’s what Jodi enjoys about leading programs. “I love watching them go from nervous about trying something new to excited about what they’ve accomplished,” she said. “I’m so proud of them. Every time.”

Even when things don’t exactly go as planned, girls still have fun and learn important lessons. During one outdoor cooking session, Jodi recalls, the rack in a cardboard oven fell, sending raw eggs sliding in all directions. “There was egg ooze on the picnic table and eggs frying right on the charcoal,” she said. “The girls loved it—they thought it was cool.” They cleaned up, started again, and made sure the cooking rack was secure. “Live and learn!” she said, smiling.

Jodi loves sharing her own skills and hobbies with girls, especially cross stitch and cake decorating. “I feel they are lost arts, so I’m glad they can still learn them in Girl Scouts.” They are also her favorite programs to teach. “Nothing can get burned,” Jodi laughed.

A volunteer for 32 years, Jodi loves the opportunities Girl Scouts offers her. “Girl Scouts keeps me young,” Jodi said. “I do things in Girl Scouts that I wouldn’t do on my own, because the girls want to do them.”

She is impressed with the adventures available to today’s Girl Scouts. Girls can try zip lining, archery, shooting sports, all things Jodi said she would have never considered trying as a child.

“And travel,” Jodi added, “These girls can go anywhere in the world.”

Jodi will travel with Ambassador Girl Scouts from her own troop in 2015 to Savannah, Ga., the birthplace of Girl Scouts founder Juliet Gordon Low. The girls will be presented with their Gold Award pins while visiting the place where Girl Scouting began.

“They are finishing their Girl Scouts years with a great moment,” Jodi said. “I can’t wait.”

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Prediction comes true for GS volunteer

Amy Learn’s Girl Scout troop leaders saw it coming.

“Dee and Henrietta, my troop leaders when I was a Cadette, predicted that I would be a Girl Scout volunteer someday,” Amy laughed.

They recognized Amy’s love of Girl Scouting and knew she would be back after high school graduation. They were right, but Amy did not return right away.

Amy reconnected with Girl Scouts years later, when she stepped up to lead her own daughter’s troop. That was 14 years ago, and though her daughter has since graduated from high school, Amy is still involved the organization she loves today.

In addition to leading her daughter's troop, Amy has had other roles in Girl Scouts, too, including managing product sales programs and organizing phone-a-thons. Amy currently serves as registrar and a delegate for her Meadville service unit.

In her role as delegate, Amy attends council Kick Offs, Town Hall Meetings and the Annual Meeting—all forums where volunteers are updated on council initiatives and programs.

Amy enjoys keeping up with what’s new in Girl Scouting. “I want to stay informed. I want to know how the movement is doing.”

Lifelong learning

While she is no longer leading a troop, Amy still has a direct effect on girls’ leadership development. Last year, Amy led a Journey Weekend at Camp Elliott, helping two troops of Junior Girl Scouts navigate the Get Moving! Journey, helping them learn about various forms of energy and finding out what it means to be energy efficient.

“I loved working with the girls and getting to know more about them,” Amy said.

Amy also enjoyed learning new things, both from the Journey activities and from the girls she led. “The girls were very knowledgeable about what’s going on in their communities,” she said. “I learned a lot from them.”

Those “a-ha” moments keep Amy coming back to Girl Scouts as a volunteer.

“We never stop learning.” Amy noted. “That’s what’s great about Girl Scouting.”

Great for grown-ups, too

While building girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place is the mission of Girl Scouts, girls aren’t the only ones who benefit from the experience. Girl Scouting enriches the lives of volunteers as well. Ninety-four percent of volunteers have made new friends, 88 percent believe their life is better because they volunteer with Girl Scouts, and two-thirds believe their volunteer experience has helped them professionally. Ninety-five percent of Girl Scout volunteers are happy knowing they are making girls’ lives better.

Girl Scout volunteers come from all walks of life; they are men, women, young professionals, retirees, college students, and more. To join or volunteer, please visit:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Volunteer shows learning isn’t just for girls

Denise Baer is not only a leader, she’s an amazing help at Journey Weekends. She’s always willing to give a little effort so girls have a great experience.

Girl Scouting girls the chance to discover their leadership abilities. But when Denise became a co-leader, she benefitted from learning new skills, too.
“My daughter is not the only one gaining new leadership skills,” she explains.

“I’ve learned new leadership skills like organizing events. Even camping this summer with my co-leader at Camp Singing Hills taught me new things.  I learned camping skills right alongside the girls like straining dishwater, building a fire, outdoor cooking or just knowing what to look for in nature. If not for Girl Scouts, I’d never experience any of that."

Denise confides she has one selfish reason to be involved. "I love the joy of seeing my daughter enjoy Girl Scouts. I get to see first-hand how much fun she’s having and her friends are having – and I get to have fun right along with them.”

As many volunteer experiences start, Denise became a leader when her daughter entered Kindergarten and became a Girl Scout Daisy. This year, her daughter Helayna enters her second year as a Junior Girl Scout, with lots of experiences under her belt thanks to her mom and a network of amazing volunteers in Allegheny Valley.

The Power of Teamwork

Co-leader of Junior Troop 50091 in Cheswick worked with GSWPA staff and other volunteers to bring a Journey Weekend to Camp Redwing for six Junior troops in her area. When all was said and done, 26 girls and adults spent a weekend last spring learning, participating in more than 30 activities based on the Girl Scout Amuse Journey. By the end of the weekend, the girls completed the entire Journey except the Take Action Project.

“We took a lot out of the Leader’s Guide that goes along with each Journey,” she explained. Each leader involved took part in running a number of sessions, planning meals, etc.

“As leaders, we need to show our girls how we deal with things in life. It helps to work as a team and roll with the punches. Look at Girl Scouting as a network. Ask and learn from others – don’t just recreate the wheel. We found a great resource online from a service unit in Maryland that had a nice workshop guide. So we also used that with the Leader Guide."

By working as a team, the girls (and adults!) had a great weekend and had a better understanding of stereotypes because of the Journey. The girls also planned their own awards ceremony at the end of the weekend.

Now, moving into their second year as Juniors, the Denise’s girls are set to start working on their Bronze Award.

“We’ll start the year by participating in the MagNut Program,” she explains. “ From there, it’s up to the girls to decide where we’ll go.”

All Girl Scouts have one thing in common. They need volunteers like you. Learn more about making a difference through Girl Scouts today.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Girl Scouting is an adventure for grown ups, too!

Dessa Summy, an amazing volunteer from Connellsville, sees almost as many opportunities for adults in Girl Scouting as there are for girls.

Not only has she been a troop leader for nearly 20 years, she's used her time in Girl Scouts to explore her own interests. Through the years, that's taken her places, including SeaWorld, Gettysburg, Williamsburg, and, last year, a road trip to Alabama with a group of Ambassador Girl Scouts.

"I try everything that's offered," she shares.

Dessa's commitment to Girl Scouts is not only in her heart, it's also in her home. She opened her farm and her home to a troop working on the Sow What? Journey. The girls got an inside tour of her family's dairy farm which is home to 100 head of cattle. They toured her garden too, picking a few key ingredients they needed for a stir fry dinner.

The girls even got a lesson in automotive care when one of the leaders got a flat tire.

"I told her to cancel AAA because we multitask around here," she laughs. 

Dessa is a multitasking pro, balancing troop leadership with her role as director of the ranger program at Camp Roy Weller since 2008.

It makes sense that Dessa's Girl Scout dossier includes camp, because to her, camping is the best part of Girl Scouting.

"All girls should experience camp," she says. "They gain leadership skills and confidence. Camp gives you a chance to be you." 

Dessa adds, "You can't get a camping badge on the computer."

You can go on great adventures, too, through Girl Scouts by volunteering today. Visit for more information.