Volunteer Spotlight: Risk-taker

“These girls are sisters, and should be treating each other like that, no matter what they’re able or not able to do.” 

Our volunteers are the backbone of our organization’s success—propelling our girls forward and guiding them through life-changing, skill-building programs. Since Girl Scouts is for all girls, we’re committed to fostering a diverse, inclusive environment where everyone can develop her inner G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader). That also pertains to volunteers, who serve as role models for our Girl Scouts.

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Troop leader and AbilityGS Go Team member Julia Montoya.

As risk-takers, our volunteers are courageous and strong, and embrace the unfamiliar while staying true to their values. This is certainly true with Julia Montoya, who is a member of the AbilityGS Go Team and a leader for Ambassador Troop 11965. The AbilityGS Go Team provides a forum for parents and volunteers to connect with one another about successfully integrating girls into troops, regardless of abilities. For Julia, whose daughter is a member of her troop and also on the autism spectrum, the group has proven invaluable: “It helps me to accommodate [my daughter] Valerie, because although I have to go along with the rules, maybe not everything goes well for her. Being part of the Go Team helps me see that, and work on accommodations for her.”

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Julia’s daughter Valerie (far right).

Girl Scouts has been an inclusive organization since its inception, offering a safe, welcoming, and fun space for every girl. For Julia’s daughter, the experience has helped her in many ways: “She’s become more independent and outspoken because she has to complete Journeys, and has to speak to people and ask them questions,” says Julia. Not only that—Girl Scouts has also opened doors for Valerie: “She completed a Journey on food and wants to take horticulture at school… She now knows the importance of eating organic food, and recently said, ‘You know what Mom, I want to try Veggie Grill.’ For Valerie to try something new, it’s very rare.”

Julia, along with the rest of the Go Team, want to ensure troop leaders are comfortable navigating their girls’ different levels of abilities: “While most leaders might not be scared, some worry about not being able to accommodate all girls.” Through the Go Team members’ various experiences, they’re able to provide advice and connect volunteers with resources. Together, they’re helping to build a community of leaders who empower girls to become independent—by being courageous themselves.

Plus, creating an environment of inclusiveness benefits all girls. During Julia’s first year as a troop leader, her girls accompanied another group on a camping trip. Throughout the experience, Julia was struck by the words of longtime GSGLA volunteer Ted Oyama, who kept saying, “help your sister.” At one point, Valerie stood apart from the group after climbing a hill overlooking the ocean. As she watched the girls, Julia noticed one of them go up to Valerie and ask what she enjoyed most about the weekend, sparking a conversation. The moment reinforced Ted’s mantra about the Girl Scout spirit: “These girls are sisters, and should be treating each other like that, no matter what they’re able or not able to do.”

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Julia’s troop on a camping trip with another troop.

Thank you to Julia and the rest of the AbilityGS Go Team for upholding Girl Scouts’ dedication to welcoming girls of all abilities. For more information about the Go Team, contact us.

Camp Life is the Best Life

“Girl Scout camp provides the right opportunities in a safe space and with the friendliest staff to help your daughter find her courage, confidence, and character.”

Editor’s note: Don’t wait! Register for GSGLA summer camp before we run out of space. 

With summer nearly upon us, our girls are gearing up for one of the most beloved aspects of the Girl Scout experience: camp! We’re fortunate to have so many natural settings in and around Greater LA for our Girl Scouts to enjoy—from the beach to the mountains, and everything in between.

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Summer camp affords girls the opportunity to conquer fears, try new activities, and make lifelong friends. At GSGLA, we have a variety of modernized properties that provide safe, fun environments where girls can create lasting memories.

Want to know which camp best suits your girl’s needs? Or what makes the location nearest you unique? We spoke to our camp directors to learn more.


Marine Landing Day Camp – Long Beach

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Paddleboarding at Marine Landing.

“Imagine your daughter overcoming her fears of being onstage or jumping off a kayak because she realized the fun waiting on the other side far exceeded her own fears. Imagine her wanting to work hard on a new art project because beautifying the walls of a place she loves so much has become that important to her. Imagine getting to see your daughter grow up more in one week of camp than in a whole year of school. Girl Scout camp provides the right opportunities in a safe space and with the friendliest staff to help your daughter find her courage, confidence, and character.” – Devin Niebrugge, Marine Landing Camp Director

Camp Osito Rancho – Big Bear

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Ziplining at Osito Rancho.

“Resident camp gives campers the opportunity to grow in independence, courage, friendships, and new interests away from their normal setting and out from under the wings of their parents or caregivers. They grow in ways they can’t at home, by being out of their comfort zone, learning about themselves and others, finding wonders in nature, pride in individuality, and compassion in a camp community—all while having the time of their lives!” – Alicia Brown, Osito Rancho Camp Director

Mariposa Day Camp – Altadena

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Getting creative at Mariposa.

“Mariposa is a safe space for girls to challenge themselves and learn new things, whether they are campaigning for camp president, writing a comic book, or designing a sustainable garden.” – Brianna Colomb, Mariposa Camp Director

El Ranchito Day Camp – Long Beach

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Scaling the climbing wall at El Ranchito.

“At El Ranchito, we provide a space that is safe and encourages independence. This fosters character growth and lasting friendships—an opportunity for each girl to shine exactly for who they are while exploring the world through an outdoor lens.” – Randi Helgesen, El Ranchito Camp Director


We’re so excited to share the summer camp experience with your Girl Scout! To learn more about our programs and register, visit our website. You can also subscribe to our seasonal camp newsletters here.

Plus, make sure you don’t miss a moment this summer: Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, where we’ll be regularly posting camp photos—your camper could be featured! Use the hashtag #gsglaCamp or tag us (@GirlScoutsLA on Instagram and Twitter) to join the fun on social media.

Special Announcement from Our CEO

Dear GSGLA Family,

sylvia 1It is with great delight and excitement that I am writing to announce that today, Sylvia Acevedo has been named the National Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts of the USA after a six month national search.

Sylvia, a lifetime Girl Scout, rocket scientist, and STEM educator, is a longtime advocate for underserved communities and girls’ and women’s causes. She was a member of the GSUSA Board of Directors from 2009 to 2016 and an officer and member of its Executive Committee.

Committed to Girl Scouts’ mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place, Sylvia has been involved with Girl Scouts since her childhood in New Mexico.

sylvia 2In Sylvia’s words, “This life-changing experience showed me what leadership looked like and enabled me to pursue leadership as a goal; I am a product of Girl Scouting.”

Over the last nine months as Interim National CEO, Sylvia has led the Movement with authenticity, energy, vision, and passion, taking a special interest in reaching more girls and in outdoor and STEM programming—areas closely aligned with GSGLA’s 2018-20 Strategic Plan. Sylvia attended GSGLA’s 2015 ToGetHerThere luncheon, and most recently, provided the keynote address on the State of the Movement at our 2017 Annual Meeting. She also attended our Volunteer Recognition Ceremony where she honored 200 volunteers and personally greeted most of our 600 attendees and guests.

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Sylvia Acevedo at the 2017 GSGLA Annual Meeting & Volunteer Recognition Ceremony.

Sylvia has been widely recognized for her accomplishments, with significant honors that include most recently California Legislative Latino Spirit Award. Sylvia was one of the first Hispanic students, male or female, to earn a graduate engineering degree from Stanford University—an MS in industrial engineering—and she holds a bachelor of science degree with honors in industrial engineering from New Mexico State University.

We are proud to welcome Sylvia as our next National Chief Executive Officer and look forward to her sharing her vision in her new role at the Triennial Convention in Ohio in October. Please join me in congratulating Sylvia: officeoftheceo@girlscouts.org

Yours in Girl Scouting,

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Lise L. Luttgens
Chief Executive Officer
Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles

Volunteer Spotlight: Innovator

“Girl Scouts is all about the girls… but if you don’t have volunteers, then the girls have nowhere to be.”

As we celebrate National Volunteer Month, GSGLA is honoring the stellar women and men who dedicate countless hours to our mission. One outstanding example is Cindy Bernsdorf, who received the Thanks Badge at our Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, one of the highest honors bestowed on volunteers.

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Cindy (top row, third from left) with her Brownie troop.

A lifetime Girl Scout, Cindy embodies the Girl Scout Promise and Law and has made a long-lasting impact on the Movement here in Greater LA. Today, she serves as the lead for the Communications Go Team, but her Girl Scout journey began in second grade, when her mom was her troop leader.

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Cindy as a senior in high school.

She continued in the program for the next 10 years, and has fond memories of visiting local sites as a Brownie, including Olvera Street, and of traveling to Mexico City as a high school senior, stopping by Our Cabaña, one of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts’ World Centers.

Years later, Cindy returned to her Girl Scout roots as a leader for her older daughter’s troop and “fell in love with [the program] because I didn’t realize as a girl there was a beautiful structure [to it],” she says. “Girls could have opportunities to do all these things they’d never done before.”

Over the course of the next decade, Cindy’s Girl Scout career included volunteering at the service unit level where she served as a recruiter, a consultant, service unit manager, area manager, council trainer, and more. Cindy says she particularly enjoyed being a liaison between the staff and service units, and “getting all the information from the council, since I’m a person who loves to have information” (which makes her a natural fit for the Communications Go Team!).

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Cindy serving on a GSGLA alumnae committee.

After she rose through the ranks of various operational jobs, Cindy became a member of the council’s board of directors. Her tenure coincided with the merger that resulted in Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. She played an instrumental part in ensuring the transition to Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles went as smoothly as possible, particularly in ensuring a volunteer recognition system was in place. “Volunteers need to feel that what they’re doing is important and appreciated,” she says. “They need to see the impact of what they do and how that feeds down to what everybody wants—a great program for girls.”

For the last several years, Cindy has served as the lead for the Communications Go Team, a position that has fueled her number-one passion: supporting volunteers. The Go Team has developed and refined materials to streamline communications across the council. “I want volunteers to have an easier time, to be recognized, and to be able to do what they do with the least amount of problems,” says Cindy. “Obviously Girl Scouts is all about the girls… but if you don’t have volunteers, then the girls have nowhere to be.”

Cindy wholeheartedly encourages others to volunteer for Girl Scouts—not only for the longstanding friendships you form, but also the important skills you acquire: “I can’t say enough about the things I’ve learned that I wouldn’t have done. There’s something there for everyone.”

We’re so thankful to Cindy for her years of service to our council and Movement, as well as her innovative thinking and tenacious spirit. Congratulations on earning the Thanks Badge!

Want to learn more about volunteering for Girl Scouts? Visit our website.

Volunteer Spotlight: Leader

“As you empower others, it reflects back on you, and it builds you without your knowing. It’s only in time you see how much you’ve changed.”

We all know Girl Scouts exists for girls, but it exists because of volunteers. Throughout April, we’re recognizing our amazing, dedicated volunteers across the council, and profiling some of them right here on our blog.

One of the highest honors Girl Scouts can bestow on a volunteer is the Thanks Badge. Longtime GSGLA volunteer Sandra Hardy has provided outstanding service to the council and the entire Girl Scout Movement for years—which is why she received the award at our 2017 Volunteer Recognition Ceremony.

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Sandra (top right) with her Brownie troop.

Sandra is currently an adult educator, lead for the Outdoor Program Go Team, and member of several other Go Teams. But her Girl Scout story started when she co-led her daughter’s troop in kindergarten. She eventually became a troop leader, a position she held for 14 years—even after her own daughter graduated. That’s because of the strong bonds she fostered with the girls, whom she empowered to make decisions: “It was very girl-led, very girl-driven. I let them pick all the activities and I provided a safe environment or site.”

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Sandra’s troop working together.

One of her fondest moments happened shortly after she formed a large pathway troop with girls from across Santa Clarita Valley, when her daughter was in middle school. To ensure the girls started off on a positive foot, Sandra organized an inspirational (albeit challenging) weekend: one focused on rock climbing and rappelling! According to Sandra, “The girls were terrified, and we had to work together. Within a few months, everyone was still working together and being respectful, even if someone else had a different idea. The whole experience changed my life, and I didn’t realize how I had affected the girls until they all graduated.”

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The troop at Marine Landing.

Even after graduation, the girls still keep in touch with Sandra, with one even reaching out recently for leadership tips for a presentation: “So here we are again, working together like we did in the troop.” As the lead for the Outdoor Program Go Team, Sandra says she runs the team the same way she led her troop: “We’re equals; it’s okay if someone doesn’t like your ideas—you accept it and move on.”

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Sandra (right) at Nature Rocks day camp.

Sandra holds many roles across the council, and recently made an indelible impact with the creation of the index for Volunteer Essentials. She along with another volunteer, Linda Harmon, combed through numerous keywords and phrases, and optimized the index for all users, using the “perspective of a new leader who doesn’t know Girl Scout wording yet.” The index now serves as a baseline for future versions of the guidebook.

The Thanks Badge recipient, who is also nominated for Santa Clarita Valley Woman of the Year, says Girl Scouts has been nothing short of an enriching, empowering experience—not only for the girls, but also for herself. Sandra recently landed a job as an EMT, and believes the confidence she gained through Girl Scouts made her career change possible: “As you empower others, it reflects back on you, and it builds you without your knowing. It’s only in time that you see how much you’ve changed.”

We’re so proud of Sandra and appreciative of her years of service to our girls and council, as well as her candor in sharing her experiences.

To learn how you can inspire and motivate girls through volunteering, visit our website.

Future CEOs Compete at Startup Weekend

As Girl Scouts, we’re all about challenging ourselves, trying new experiences, and exploring our interests. Recently, dozens of GSGLA Seniors and Ambassadors participated in the first-ever Girl Scout Startup Weekend (held in partnership with Google for Entrepreneurs and Techstars). Ambassador Girl Scout Dagny S., who is also a Gold Award recipient, took part in Startup Weekend and shared her experience with us for the blog.


In GSGLA, it seems like the opportunities never stop coming! I just experienced the most amazing weekend with dozens of other high school-age Girl Scouts, being mentored and coached by business leaders at a Startup Weekend. The event description on the GSGLA website had said we would “…pitch ideas, form teams, create a prototype, and participate in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition… be mentored and judged by successful business and thought leaders.” I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but it definitely sounded like something I should try!

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Jemie Sae Koo with a Startup Weekend participant.

When I arrived Friday evening, I was honored to interview keynote speaker Jemie Sae Koo onstage. Ms. Koo is one of the top 100 most-followed chief marketing officers on Twitter (she even tweeted about us, check it out), and has accomplished so many things that honestly it is hard to keep track of them all! She was easy to talk to and her confidence and success were inspiring. After our “eat and meet,” we did some fun activities to learn about team-building (I will never look at spaghetti and marshmallows the same way again!) and how to make a good pitch.

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On Saturday, we pitched our ideas to the group. I was disappointed my idea didn’t get chosen, but jumped in to be part of a team pitching a winning idea. I didn’t know any girls at Startup Weekend before I got there, but we formed a working team and started collaborating pretty quickly. My job turned out to be developing the business plan and marketing. We worked all day creating a prototype, and mentors also came in that day to help with application design and business models.

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On Sunday, the teams finished developing their ideas, and I represented my team at the business mentoring session. Also, Glen Liu, an intellectual property attorney, gave a great presentation on how to create an effective presentation for a pitch. I thought Mr. Liu’s presentation was one of the most valuable parts of the weekend. Our team then improved our presentation and together we practiced our pitch. Later in the day, the judges arrived to hear our pitches, and my team was super excited to win first place! We happily claimed our award and enjoyed a nice dinner with everyone looking great in uniform.

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I am grateful that GSGLA provides these kinds of opportunities for us, and I am especially thankful to Elizabeth Chadwick and Bethany Wylie (who also helped me a ton as I navigated the Gold Award process last year) for organizing this amazing event. Thank you all so much!

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Dagny (top of stairs) with the winning team.

Congratulations to all our G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, Leaders) who participated in Startup Weekend, and huge thanks to our mentors, judges, and guests who guided our future CEOs over 54 hours and gave them feedback. Here are the full results:

  • 1st Place: Line Up, an app that allows users to play games with others waiting in line at amusement parks
  • 2nd Place: 21st 60’s, a company that solves the problem of costly designer jeans—customers send in their old jeans and the company facilitates embroidery of the jeans and sends it back to the customer
  • 3rd Place: Reel Squishy, a sea creature-themed children’s toothbrush with a toothpaste reservoir; give it a squeeze and it dispenses just enough toothpaste
  • Best Design & Best Presentation: Save Our Soles, an app that solves the problem of shoes of the same size actually being differently sized
  • Honorable Mention: U Got This, a peer advice website, app, and newsletter that provides a safe space for teens to give positive advice to each other
  • Honorable Mention: Chaos Unraveled, a website and business facilitating video STEM tutoring between high-school students

At GSGLA, we have multiple opportunities for older girls to take the lead like a Girl Scout while discovering new interests and activities. Visit our website to learn more.

Volunteer Spotlight: Go-Getter

When her best friend asked her to co-lead a troop, she couldn’t say no.

At Girl Scouts, we know our volunteers are the backbone of our organization, devoting countless hours to bringing out the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) in every girl. From cookie season to community service projects and everything in between—our volunteers are committed and passionate. We know the work isn’t easy, but it means so much to our 40,000 girls who are learning crucial skills, experiencing new activities, and making lifelong friends. Not only that, they’re also developing confidence and learning what it takes to lead with empathy. And it’s all thanks to our volunteers, who are showing our girls that yes—they are the future!

Here at GSGLA, we have more than 24,000 volunteers who contribute their time, talents, and energy to empowering our girls.  Throughout April (National Volunteer Month), we will be highlighting some of them right here on our blog.


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Gini hard at work at the Cadette overnight.

We begin our series with go-getter and long-time volunteer Gini Vandergon, who co-leads Senior Girl Scout Troop 3025. (She’s also receiving the Appreciation Pin at our Volunteer Recognition Ceremony on April 22.)

Gini started her Girl Scouting career in the second grade—and loved being a part of a troop so much, she stayed in Girl Scouts for 10 years. “Girl Scouts gave me opportunities that otherwise I wouldn’t have had,” says Gini, who grew up in the Bay Area. Even when she moved before seventh grade, she joined a new troop to continue her Girl Scouting experience and meet girls with similar interests—especially outdoors activities, like camping and canoeing. She even went to Hawaii with her sister Girl Scouts during her senior year of high school, using troop funds.

So when her best friend asked her to co-lead her daughter’s Daisy troop, Gini couldn’t say no. That was a decade ago. Today, the girls are Seniors and two of them have earned the Girl Scout Gold Award (the highest achievement in Girl Scouting), with one of them working toward it. According to Gini, leading a troop is “really rewarding, and if you can volunteer with the same group of girls, it’s really fun to see how they grow and mature.”

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As a role model, Gini has used her influence to introduce the girls to new experiences and broaden their horizons. Growing up by the beach, some of the girls hadn’t ever seen snow—until Gini and her co-leader took them to Frazier Park. She’s also encouraged them to help underserved communities, leading to many service projects over the years, as well as the girls’ pursuit of the Gold Award.

Gini herself is a biology professor and advocates for STEM education, particularly for girls and women. She believes Girl Scouts opens doors for girls and gives them leadership skills—much like it did for her: “I was very shy when I was young, and Girl Scouts helped me overcome that and gain confidence.”

Being a troop leader has also brought her into contact with like-minded women who want to empower and inspire girls. She says one of the draws of volunteering has not only been working with her co-leader (and best friend), but also “[the] wonderful women involved in Girl Scouting we’ve met over the years, who are great role models for girls.”

Gini looks forward to staying involved with Girl Scouts after her girls graduate in a couple years. Her advice for other leaders, particularly those of younger troops: “It gets easier. You don’t have to do everything—take it in pieces. Soon the girls begin to come up with their own ideas, and can take the lead on their own.”


Thank you, Gini, for your hard work and commitment to uplifting girls, and for providing the GSGLA community with your insight. We look forward to honoring you at our Volunteer Recognition Ceremony on April 22—Girl Scout Leader’s Day.

Stay tuned for the next profile in our National Volunteer Month blog series. For more information on volunteering for Girl Scouts, click here.