A Troop Leader’s Best Friend

At Girl Scouts, we’ve invested in shared tools and technology aimed at improving the volunteer and girl experience, including the Girl Scout Volunteer Toolkit (VTK): Now, troop leaders have an easy way to organize activities, plan meetings, and put girls’ ideas into action!

But don’t just take our word for it—hear from troop leaders who’ve been using VTK to jump-start their Girl Scout year!


Shoshana Stopek, Troop 2916

No more carrying heavy binders! The Volunteer Toolkit will lighten your load. It’s the resource we’ve been waiting for! In the past, we had to rely mainly on Google and Pinterest to search for badge ideas, requirements, and planning guides. The Volunteer Toolkit puts everything in one easy-to-use tool—all in one place.

Here are some of my favorite features:

  • Quickly explore badges available by gradelevel; customize by badge type (e.g., STEM).
  • Customize your year plan right in the tool itself and email it to your troop.
  • The tool is accessible to everyone registered with your troop—super convenient!
  • The Resources tab is my favorite. It features some really great links such as Meeting Aids and Meeting Overviews, as well as Safety guides (e.g., Girl to Adult ratios), and tutorial videos.
  • You can access the toolkit from your phone on the go—it’s mobile-friendly!

This toolkit is useful for any troop. On a personal note, I’m finding the tool especially great because we’re a co-op troop and we share equally in the leadership and planning. The resources within this tool are a big time-saver and empower everyone to plan, organize, and lead a badge or journey. I can definitely see this tool being expanded upon in the future; but for now, having it as a “go-to” resource is fantastic.


Christine and Tomás Romero, Troop 3326

Five tips for using the new Volunteer Toolkit:

  1. Be patient. My husband and I are fairly tech-savvy, but even we get lost in the woods sometimes when using new software programs and apps. But it is actually very easy to use if you are patient, take it slowly, and allow yourself time to explore all of the new features a bit before fully diving in.
  2. Meeting planning made easy. The new Meeting Plan feature is amazing. Not only does it allow you to map out your entire meeting schedule for the Girl Scout year in one, easily shareable place, but it also allows you to actually plan individual meetings down to the minute, from the Pledge of Allegiance to the closing friendship circle. Very cool stuff all around!
  3. One-step emailing. Another one of our favorite features in the new Volunteer Toolkit is the improved email feature. Emailing your entire troop with one email from one, easy-to-navigate home base is amazing and a real time-saver. Especially if you have a hard time keeping track of all of your parents’ email addresses.
  4. Learn together. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your fellow leaders when you need it. We bring a laptop to our meetings sometimes and have huddled around it with our co-leaders several times to make sure we all had a handle on how the Toolkit works. So a team approach to learning the new system has really helped us a lot!
  5. Track attendance. And finally, one small, but not insignificant new feature of the Toolkit is the ability to track our girls’ attendance from week to week. The fact that we can now know for sure which girls attended which meetings is invaluable, and will make it easier for us to advise parents on the badge work their girls will need to catch up. Best feature ever!

Thank you to Shoshana, Christine, and Tomás for your feedback! You can learn more about the Volunteer Tookit here, along with the rest of our new online tools.

Need help getting started? Contact us.

Want to share your Volunteer Toolkit tips and tricks? Leave a comment!

Family Fit Fair: Tips for Troop Leaders

Has your troop registered yet for our fourth annual Family Fit Fair on Saturday, Oct. 7? The deadline to sign up is Sept. 21 and you don’t want to miss out. Family Fit Fair is our premier back-to-troop event that brings together more than a thousand Girl Scouts, friends, and family members for a full day of fitness and fun. Girls and adults alike will be able to participate in a variety of activities, including our 5K/2K challenge course (costumes encouraged!), while troops complete steps toward their Healthy Living badges. Also, new this year: Cadettes, Seniors, and Ambassadors will be able to race for first-, second-, and third-place titles in the 5K!

We spoke with Troop Leader Cecilia Rico-Paja, who loves bringing her Girl Scout to Family Fit Fair, and has tips for other troops getting ready for the big day.


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Cecilia with her daughter Angelia.

It’s back-to-school and back-to-troop time! What better way to kick off the year on the right foot than to join GSGLA’s very own Family Fit Fair. Run or walk, here are some tips to get you and your troop out on the course, challenge yourselves, and have a great time!

1)  Select a troop costume theme: Encourage the girls to choose a theme that represents Girl Scout values or empowers girls. What message does the troop want to convey with their costume? Courage, strength, or do they simply want to show off their Girl Scout pride and spirit? Whatever theme they choose, make sure the costume fabric is light, airy, and easy to walk or run in for the whole distance of the race—it can get very warm after the first mile! Add comfortable shoes and a hat to complete the outfit. Oh, don’t forget the sunblock!

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Girl Scouts having fun around the fitness stage.

2) Warm up: Join in the warm-up activities around the cardio fitness stage. There will be Zumba, dance, cardio hip-hop, and extreme hula-hooping to get everyone warmed up and ready to go the distance.

3) Course and pace: The course has 2K and 5k paths that you can choose from. Choose a path according to your fitness level, pace yourself, conserve your energy, and remind the girls to do the same. This is not a sprint! (Check out the course map here.)

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Girls showing us the distance of the course.

4)  Hydrate: Last year’s event fell on a very warm day. Don’t wait until you are thirsty! There are water stations spread throughout the course, but it’s a great idea to carry a water bottle that you can refill along the way. Encourage the girls to stay hydrated as well, and make sure they have some recovery drinks such as water, sports drinks, or chocolate milk available after the run/walk.

5) Lead by example: If you’ve done this walk/run before, it will feel like a walk in the park! If this is your first time joining us, get out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself, and let the girls follow your lead.

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A troop playing a game at one of the activity booths.

6) Have fun: Don’t forget to celebrate the troop’s accomplishments after the run/walk. Check out the food trucks, health informational booths, games, and troop activity booths.

Be safe and have a wonderful time—don’t forget to show off your new bling (all participants receive a commemorative medal and patch), and share your pictures on GSGLA’s social media using the hashtag, #FamilyFitFair! (You can view pictures from last year’s Family Fit Fair here.)

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Cecilia and Angelia.

Leaders, let’s lace up our sneakers and join in the fun! Gather your troop and come and join us at this great event, the registration deadline is on Sept. 21, so sign up now!

(Editor’s note: There is no on-site registration. Reserve your spot before it’s too late!)

 

Get Ready for the Fall Product Program!

With summer winding down, troops are starting to plan for fall—when girls head back to school and kick off another exciting year with their sister Girl Scouts. A highlight of the season is the GSGLA Fall Product Program, which starts Sept. 29, 2017.

This year’s theme is “Explore Your Dreams,” which the program certainly helps girls do! Not only is the fall product program a fun and interactive way for Girl Scouts to learn the 5 Skills (goal setting, decision making, money management, business ethics, and people skills), but it’s also the perfect opportunity for troops to earn essential funds for activities and resources. That’s not all—Junior Girl Scout and Girl Advisory Bureau member Avery C. tells us what she’s gained from participating in the fall product program.


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Avery as a Brownie last fall.

Usually when someone thinks of Girl Scouts, they think of cookies. As Girl Scouts, we also do lots of fun and helpful things like beach clean-ups, community service, camping, summer activities, field trips, and other money-earning events. We earn money to support many of these activities by selling cookies in the winter, and nuts, candies, and magazines during the fall.

These are my top takeaways from the fall product program:

  1.  You get to learn about new products like Butter Toffee Peanuts and Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Almonds, as well as all the magazine subscriptions we offer. Learning about all these products helps you communicate with your customers, which helps your people skills.
  2. You can do lots of your selling online. You can email a link to your friends and family to buy the products and magazines, or donate to Gift of Caring. Girl Scouts will ship the items for a fee if they live far away.
  3. You learn how to set goals. You decide if you want to push yourself or go easy on yourself. It’s up to you! You are also able to track your sales progress online.
  4. When I went door-to-door with my mom, the first thing people would ask is, “Is it cookie time?” The fall product program is a good way to remind people cookies are coming, and to help you get ready for cookie season.
  5. During the fall product program, your troop earns 25 percent of the money you earn from nuts and candies, and 20 percent from magazines. During cookie season, your troop earns 95-cents per box. That makes a huge difference, especially when you have a big troop goal. The rest of the proceeds goes to support all the Girl Scout camps and programs in our LA region.

I hope I helped you learn about the fall product program. Get excited to participate!

P.S. Here’s a tip: For your customers who ordered magazines, email them before the fall product program starts on Sept. 29 about renewing their subscriptions.


Thank you, Avery, for sharing your lessons with us!

Browse our resources for the fall product program here. Don’t forget—troops and girls must participate in both council-sponsored product programs in order to do additional money-earning projects. (Participation is defined by 50 percent of the registered girls in the troop earning the Participation patch in both council-sponsored product programs.) You can also sign up for our fall product program newsletters here for regular updates throughout the season.

Girl Scout Power for Middle School

“It’s all about who you are as a person, and your Girl Scout power will help you develop into an amazing person for the future.”

Middle school is a tough time for a lot of people, with so much going on personally and academically. Girl Scouts helps girls of all ages find their inner strength, develop confidence, and persevere through difficult situations—which is especially critical for middle schoolers who need extra support. G.I.R.L. and Cadette Katelyn R. tells us how she’s leveraged her “Girl Scout power” and shares her advice with other girls in middle school.


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Cadette Girl Scout Katelyn R.

Most of us can say that joining Girl Scouts has helped us come out of our shells. But have you ever thought about how much your inner Girl Scout power can help you in an awkward or tough situation?

I am a part of the GSGLA Color Guard. When I was invited to join the color guard, I was very nervous (I used to be shy) and now I have a great group of friends who encourage my love for Girl Scouting and I am able to participate in amazing things. I’ve had the opportunity to meet interesting people and perform in front of thousands of people—which has helped my confidence emerge and enabled me to be myself!

When I started middle school this past year, I took the confidence I’d gained from Girl Scouts and applied it to my daily routine. I spoke up in class, joined a garden club, took a risk by joining the cross-country team, and sang my heart out in the choir group.

katelyn 9Middle school may seem simple, but the challenges were quite different from others I had encountered in the past. Girl Scouts encouraged me to persevere and address things I wanted to change about myself. For instance, cross country—I was not a seven-minute mile runner or even better, but I thought it would be cool to try a new sport. I joined the team not expecting much, but I found the challenge actually helped me accelerate my mile requirements in PE, and I met new people who became new friends—just like when we join a troop or interact with another troop during a council event.

So, my first piece of advice: Don’t be shy and introduce yourself to the many new faces you will meet. You never know where you will find your next BFF. My second piece of advice: Stay true to who you are and don’t give up the values that make you YOU!

There will be a lot of growing up in middle school. People may not understand why you do certain things or you might encounter some jealousy. Girls who I thought were my friends turned out not to be who they seemed before. You have to learn not to take things personally because you might drift away from current friendships. For the “Finding Common Ground” Girl Scout badge, we learned how to get to know someone different from us, to understand how to compromise, and to make decisions in a different group. These lessons allowed me to branch out to new groups in middle school. My new friends have stuck with me and supported the different activities I have joined.

katelyn 6Girl Scouts helped me persist through the rough times and hardships of trying new things. I’ve moved on and learned that it takes confidence, perseverance, and other traits to make a person strong. Girl Scouting helps us learn new things, challenge ourselves, and always find new paths: These experiences can all fuel your inner Girl Scout power and help you endure challenges in real life.

I got through sixth grade doing awesome things and getting excellent grades, which makes me proud. With Girl Scouts, I recently joined the Girl Advisory Bureau, experienced Camp Osito for the first time, and met yet another great group of girls. You may have a difficult experience in middle school or any grade you enter, but remember—it’s all about who you are as a person, and your Girl Scout power will help you develop into an amazing person for the future.

So don’t be shy, don’t be nervous, speak up, and try new things and new friendships; because after all, no matter how lonely you may feel at times, there is always someone out there just waiting to share your story and celebrate how wonderful you really are.


Thank you, Katelyn, for your inspiring—and useful—insight on how to channel your inner G.I.R.L. in middle school (and in any tough situation)!

Want to help girls become their best selves as a volunteer? Get more information here. Want to learn how to become a Girl Scout? Take the first step in joining our global sisterhood and click here.