Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state in honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month. Jen Rotar of Berthoud in the Northern & Northeastern CO region is a troop leader and for the past four years has coordinated the Scouting for Food event. She is also a shining example of the wonderful role Girl Scout volunteers play in the lives of girls and our community.
GSCO asked Jen to answer a few quick questions about her volunteer experience. We hope you find her as inspiring as we did.
Why did you become a Girl Scout volunteer?
My daughter wanted her Girl Scout experience to include hiking, camping, and outdoor adventures – all stuff that I love to do. We decided the best way to make that happen was to start our own troop and recruit some friends. We quickly grew from one to six girls in the first year, and are now up to 13, and I have loved every minute of it.
Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.
I’m started as a clueless co-leader when my daughter was a Daisy – basically a warm body to meet the adult-to-girl ration. From there, I’ve grown to troop leader for Troop 70700 with 11 Cadettes and two Juniors. I’m the note-taker for the Berthoud Service Unit’s monthly meetings. I’ve been a Kiwa Day Camp unit leader for the past two years and helped out with their website. I also organize Scouting for Food in Berthoud, a huge joint effort between all the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts in our town. I enjoy helping out with other service unit fun stuff as needed. And, I’m looking forward to becoming a Girl Scout trainer for other leaders at some point.
What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer?
Patience, for sure. You can’t survive cookie season without it.
Humor. My sense of humor has increased proportionately with each new girl added to my troop.
Communication. You can’t over-communicate with parents, emails, texts, Facebook, phone calls – the key to our successful events is making sure the parents get the message!
But, my biggest lesson has been to embrace the “girl-led” philosophy. I’ve learned that being a troop leader is not about my vision for what the troop is doing. It’s all about the girls’ vision. As an adult, it’s easy for me to plan things, but it’s harder to step back and let the girls plan, especially when I have doubts about how their plans are going to work. I definitely give them suggestions and guidance, but I’ve learned that letting the girls succeed, or fail and learn from their experience, with their own ideas, is much more exciting and fun than mapping out every step for them.
What do you hope girls have learned from you?
I hope that they have learned to TRY ANYTHING and to not fear new experiences or failure. I hope they have learned some camping skills, and that “leave it better” is ingrained in their brains whether they are in a park, campground, on a hiking trail, or even a meeting room. I hope they have all built confidence in themselves with every new adventure they take with our troop.
How has your experience as a volunteer helped you become a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?
I’m a go-getter in that I’m always on the lookout for ideas that my girls might like to try, and I’m willing to spend the time and make the effort it its something the girls are passionate about. I’m an innovator in that I’m not afraid to “wing it” when it comes to creative and spontaneous ideas from the girls. Starting a new troop was a big risk, but it has worked out great and I’m so glad to be here. And being a leader for these girls (guiding them, facilitating their ideas, following along on their adventures, and making sure no one is injured) has been a wonderful experience.
Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.