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Nonprofit profile: Local Girl Scouts learn leadership skills at ‘journey challenge day’

Cookies are now on sale, but Scouts do so much more

Published in the March 1 – 14, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Marty Cheek

Photo by Marty Cheek —  Girl Scouts from various Morgan Hill troops work on a team-building activity at the Agents of Change journey challenge day event in January at the Morgan Hill Presbyterian Church.

Girl Scouts can now be found throughout Morgan Hill outside of supermarkets and other stores pushing boxes of cookies for club fundraising.

But the nonprofit organization does much more than sell thin mints. The young women leaders of tomorrow are receiving their training today thanks to Morgan Hill’s seven Girl Scout troops.

Here are the words describing leadership that 60 of the local girls came up with and wrote on a board when the troops met at the Morgan Hill Presbyterian Church Saturday Jan. 14 to work together on their Agents of Change journey challenge day: confident, honest, brave, caring, respectful, loyal, loving, generous, thoughtful, kind, friendly, dependable, creative, grateful, adventurous.

The girls listened to guest speakers who encouraged them to grow as leaders to make the world a better place. They took part in activities that made them think about what it means to step up to life challenges. And they also participated in service projects such as making “blessing bags” of donated toiletries and scarves they made for people in need and writing letters to military veterans.

“Sometimes we’re the leaders, and sometimes we’re not. And sometimes we’re good at being a leader and sometimes we’re not,” Katie Cahill Mallory, a leader of a local troop, told the girls.
“Is there an I in team?” she asked.

“No!” the girls shouted back.

“Can we say: There’s no I in team?” she asked them.

“There’s no I in team,” they shouted back.

Barbara Conly, leader for Junior Troop 60009, said this was the first time the various Morgan Hill Girl Scout troops have came together for a full day of leadership training.
“We’re completing this special intensive day in order to fulfill a prerequisite that includes really a mental, emotional, and community exercise,” she said. “As troop leaders, we need to help the girls on a path to high honors. We go from daisy, to brownie, to junior. Many girls go on to cadets and seniors in high school and are able to apply a lot of the service projects and a lot of the experiences they’ve had in scouting when they go through the college application process.”

The day is divided into three segments: The Power of One, the Power of Team, the Power of Community.

The troops invited speakers for each segment including Cecelia Ponzini, a local woman who founded the Edward Boss Prado Foundation to help families in need in the South Valley region. Other speakers included volunteers with Operation Freedom Paws.

“The girls are working on inward emotional work to think about how each one of them as a person can impact the community,” Conly said. “How do I work as a team with my scout troop and then how do I take an idea that I have and bring that into community service and partner with the community program such as Cecelia’s Closet or Operation Freedom Paws or any of the existing programs that we have in Morgan Hill? How do I take this idea of service dogs or helping with the Freedom Fest parades? How do I take this concept of working with our troops and propose a meaningful project that will help our community?”

The Girl Scouts also work together in teams to learn how to communicate their vision and implement a plan to accomplish the goals with each other, she said.

“This program is about taking action within the community,” Conly said. “It is your troop working as a team in deciding on a community concept, whether it’s working with an animal shelter or helping veterans or partnering with the city on a program such as a creek cleanup.”

There needs to be an “extra element” to it where the vision goes above and beyond for the Girl Scouts, she said.

“So, for example, it’s not just a troop showing up for a clean-up,” she said. “It might be a troop reaching out to the city, writing letters and saying we would like to help promote the clean-up by a drive at local grade schools or junior high school. They’re taking that leap into the community and gaining leadership themselves.”

Makena Willis from Troop 62933 said she gained much from the Agent of Change leadership training.

“Today we’re learning how to have power in yourself by making changes,” she said. “Right now we’re working on power in a team where we all have a team and we’re working on something that defines power. We have some key words that we’re making into a definition. Later on we’re going to have Power of Community (exercises).”

Elisabeth Conly from Troop 60009 said she enjoyed working with the other Girl Scouts on her leadership skills. “It’s like learning and having fun at the same time,” she said.

Ireland Smith from Troop 60009 said that a big part of leadership is having role models who demonstrate effective communication skills.

“We’re learning how to trust each other,” she said. “We’re learning how to be a leader and we’re talking about who are leaders. Like Martin Luther King, he used his voice to speak, to make a difference. So, like, all of the leaders, we’re kind of learning about them because we talked about them, and learn some new stuff about them. We’re learning about right now, we’re learning about female leaders like Hilary Clinton, Taylor Swift because they did what they really wanted to do.”

As part of the Power of Team exercises, the various Girl Scout teams went in front of the room and spoke into a microphone to describe what personal powers leaders require to make changes in the world.

Group No. 9 decided: “Power means a strong team working together to make a difference for other people. Power means a leader who inspires others to improve the world.”

Group No. 6 told their fellow Girl Scouts: “We think power is making a difference with your voice, opinions and skills. Our team thinks Martin Luther King, Jr. used his voice and speaking skills to stand up and share his opinion, standing up not just for himself but for others. Also, Debbie Reynolds put her mind to something and she accomplished it because she believed in herself.”