Volunteer Spotlight: Lisa Ali

Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state in honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month. Lisa Ali of Denver in the Metro Denver region is a shining example of the wonderful role Girl Scout volunteers play in the lives of girls and our community.

GSCO askedLisa 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?

I always wanted to be a Girl Scout. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance growing up as there was not enough volunteers in our neighborhood. I remember thinking as a little girl that I sure wished I could be a Girl Scout and wear an amazing Brownie uniform and go camping with all my girlfriends. I remember thinking that if I ever had a daughter, I would be a leader, so that she would get the chance to dawn the Brownie cap. I didn’t want her to miss out on becoming the best little human she could be and the experiences she would have with her Girl Scout friends would be priceless. So, when my daughter smiled up at me one day and shared that she wanted to be a Girl Scout, (she had a flyer in her Thursday folder from school) I looked into it. There were NO open troops of Daisies in our area. Initially, I felt defeated until council introduced Tiffany Stone to me and we met for coffee one afternoon and the rest is history. Our troop was established and the Daisies who began with the troop are still together as second year Juniors and first year Cadettes.

Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.

I was terrified to be a Girl Scout leader as I seriously had NO clue on how to run a Girl Scout troop. I was at a loss and I tell you thank goodness for my co-leader as she is creative, motivated, and AMAZING. So amazing that since she runs the Urban Trails Service Unit I had to throw my hat in the ring and I have been the service unit cookie manager finishing my fourth year.  So, I am a Girl Scout mom, leader, and SUCM. I just love the volunteers in Urban Trails as they are an amazing group of people who make having the roles I play worth every moment. 

What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer?

Well, as a volunteer I have learned a variety of things about myself, my daughter, engaging parents, and team work. Being a leader is a lot of work. Helping the girls learn how to be the best humans they can be through kindness, empathy, diversity, and respecting themselves and showing respect to others has been an amazing challenge. It was like herding cats when they were Daisies, all that energy and sparkle it was almost impossible to contain. When they became Brownies and they started to take an active interested in “being girl led,” it was challenging to let them have more of the control and creativity, as they continued to explore who they are as individuals and as a troop. I learned what the term “safe failures” means and how it helps our girls become confident and self sufficient. Teaching them to stand up for themselves and others in a way that is kind and assertive has been such an area of growth.  Watching them support one another as they take on life challenges or they see a fellow Girl Scout sister emotionally hurting and supporting them without prompts, was the most amazing reward for me to experience. I think in regards to what I have learned about being a Girl Scout volunteer regarding my troop has been the girls learning that they don’t always win, an that is okay, taking a loss or a failure for a learning experience and trying harder the next time has been breath taking.  Our girls have always been go-getters, innovators, risk -takers, and are becoming leaders. From the very inception of our troop, we have always had the expectations the girls would give back to their community as part of their yearly activities. Every year they have picked a give back project and paid for it through some of the earnings from the Fall Product or Girl Scout Cookie programs.  Our girls have given cookies and suitcases to kids in foster care, so that they don’t have to move from home to home with their belongings in a plastic bags. They have built and painted a little library for the community where their meetings are held and created a community garden amongst other things.  It has been a joy to watch them grow, not only physically but emotionally and mentally. I know I rambled as I began to write my thoughts got a way from me. I have learned that it takes a village to have an amazing troop. We have that, between the leaders, the girls and the parents and all the support they give our troop is able to thrive. 

What do you hope girls have learned from you?

I hope they have learned to believe in themselves, that making mistakes is just fine, being a team is empowering, and that being accountable for your actions is key to growth as a beautiful human. 

How has your experience as a volunteer helped you become a G.I.R.L. (go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, leader)?

Well, this is a loaded question. I am a Puerto Rican, African American, Caucasian adopted woman who struggles with dyslexia and ADHD.  I don’t like being in the spotlight as all my life I have struggled with finding my place of belonging and believing in myself.  You know self esteem issues and all that.  Being an adopted bi-racial person, I was always the square peg that just didn’t quite fit. I wanted something different for my daughter, I wanted her to have a sense of belonging from a very young age. So, I knew that I wanted to create a troop that is diverse in all ways possible. I wanted to have a place where all girls regardless of their ethnic background, socio economic situation, family dynamics, cultural experience, or learning style had a place to feel accepted for who they are as they are. I wanted to create a troop where all girls had a sense of belonging and sisterhood was true.  Becoming a Girl Scout volunteer, I knew as a brand-new troop leader that I was going to make mistakes, grow from them, and become a better person. Definitely not without hard work and some bumps along the way. I believe that I have become a go-getter by exceeding my boundaries and challenging myself to step out of my comfort zone. Hiking in the woods, sleeping in uncomfortable places, and walking in the dark with the fear of bears are just a few of the obstacles I have overcome.  Not to mention placing myself in a role where others depend on me as the person who can support and help them have a successful cookie season.  Managing all the ins and outs of being a SUCM in an organized fashion takes patiences, innovation, and leadership.  The challenge of my dyslexia and ADHD has always been so difficult growing up and not wanting others to see me as flawed I always seemed to shy away from leadership roles which would have me standing out in the crowd. I was much more of a blend into the shadows type of person. I now understand ADHD and dyslexia are part of who I am and that being a risk-taker, go-getter, and innovator has made me a great leader therefore helping me to embrace ALL that I am. I am grateful for the parents in our troop, the girls and especially my co-leader because without all these individuals I may still have been someone who was okay with staying in the shadows.  Volunteering has helped me grow, heal and accept me for me and I now know I am enough.  

Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at annemarie.harper@gscolorado.org.