Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state in honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month. Patty Lowe of Louisville in the Northern & Northeastern CO region is a shining example of the wonderful role Girl Scout volunteers play in the lives of girls and our community.
GSCO asked Patty 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 story is like so many Girl Scout leaders. I was drafted. Back in 1988, two friends told me they were starting a Daisy troop and invited my daughter to join. A week before the first meeting was scheduled, I received a phone call from one of the leaders saying they had decided not to do it. Then another friend, Joann, called (who happened to be an elementary teacher) asking if I had heard the news about the Daisy troop. When I confirmed she said “If you’ll do it, I will.” That was 32 years ago and I’ve been involved non-stop since then.
Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.
I began as a Daisy leader, but within the first year I realized I wanted to help incoming leaders assimilate into the Girl Scout processes, so I became the Daisy Coordinator for my local service unit and remained in that position until we moved here to Colorado. Once settled in, I volunteered as a co-leader to my daughter’s Brownie troop. Coming from a very active service unit, I realized that some– what I thought were important– celebrations in Girl Scouts were not honored locally, specifically World Thinking Day. So, I volunteered to resurrect World Thinking Day and it was a success! In fact, the system I had brought to Louisville was still being used when I retired from the service until team in 2010. Within the service unit, I did every job there was other than service unit manager. I was not that crazy! One of my favorite positions was program coordinator. I was a resource for any leader who was having difficulty coming up with a program, event, ceremony, or just a fun field trip. I would brain storm with the other leaders, share my ideas, and glean theirs.
Within council, except for the last few years, my focus was on training. Ann Palius and I team trained all age level trainings from about 2000. With the merging of all Colorado service units we were involved in the introduction of Leadership Essentials and the new GSUSA point of view and initial members of the Statewide Training Advisory Committee, aka STAC. STAC became training department GSCO no longer had, was made up mostly of volunteers, and was responsible for the development of the level 101 training programs. Ann and I also developed different trainings, too—Girl Scouts 201, Journeys, Retaining Older girls in Girl Scouts, and our favorite, Survivor Girl Scout Style.
In the last few years, my focus has been on mentoring Gold Award Girl Scouts. I enjoy working with the older girls and helping them take their passion and turn it into a real project to benefit their community and the world. I love the high school girls because they are right there on that cusp of adulthood. They are so bright and interesting and have wonderful perspectives on how to “make the world a better place.”
What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer?
I learned more from Girl Scouts as an adult than I ever did as a girl, but that’s because the world has changed for women. I learned I can tame, entertain, excite, and educate a group of children. I have also learned that I can trust these children and their capabilities to be responsible and able with age-appropriate duties, tasks, and challenges. I have learned I can help these girls grown into the individuals with “courage, confidence, and character.” I have learned I can help new leaders learn not only the Girl Scout ways, but encourage them to trust in their girls and capabilities. I have learned I enjoy sharing my experiences in Girl Scouting with new leaders. I enjoy empowering them since so many are Iooking for someone to tell them what to do when. I have learned I am invested in the success of Girl Scouts because I know we are developing leaders at all ages. I have learned Girl Scouts really starts to become fun when your girls become Juniors and just gets more and more fun as the girls get older. I have learned that leaders need to let go, let the girls make good and bad decisions, and learn from them all. I have learned there is no one path through Girl Scouts. Every girl has her own path and needs to be given the freedom to take her path her way. I have learned our Gold Award Girl Scouts are all caring individuals who want to give back to their communities. I have learned to be flexible in Girl Scouts. I have learned through all of the changes I have seen in Girl Scouting from 1957 through today the current approach is the right approach for today’s women.
What do you hope the girls have learned from you?
I really hope I have been able to model the behaviors and attitudes that represent Girl Scouts. I always tried to be inclusive, and respect and appreciate everyone’s differences and similarities. I always tried to make sure wherever our troop was the girls were in a safe space where they could be themselves, speak honestly, and be respected for expressing differing opinions. I always tried to be fun, too. I also tried to show the girls that none of us were perfect, especially me. I also tried to make sure the girls understood that we all had different strengths and weaknesses and they were to be appreciated, not ridiculed. I also tried to make sure the girls knew it was their troop, not mine, so they needed to make decisions. I also tried to draw out their leadership skills, so they began to realize their capabilities individually and as a group. I really hope I modeled how to be a good person to the girls.
How has your experience as a volunteer help you become a G.I.R.L?
I don’t think being a Girl Scout volunteer helped me become a G.I.R.L., but it sure helped me hone each one of those traits. As I said earlier, I always tried to model the attributes Girl Scouts represent with any girls I was working with. I always encouraged them to speak up for themselves and speak out when they see an injustice. Being a go-getter takes practice and encouragement. When girls encountered challenges, we addressed them by discussing the exact issue and looking at alternatives. Critical thinking or innovation is a skill we all need. Addressing something new or different with an open mind was expected. None of us knew everything and there is always something new to learn. Greeting the unknown with an open mind taught the girls that risk-taking is part of life. Plus, they learned that when they took a chance there was always the opportunity to succeed but also the opportunity to learn from their challenges. I believe the biggest growth comes from learning from mistakes. My skills as a Girl Scout leader changed over the years. In 1988, the emphasis in Girl Scouts was accomplishments, badges, and patches. What we were not developing was leadership like we are now. Our troop had a great program. We were going and doing all kinds of events and experiences and earning badges by the handful. Problem was, the girls weren’t deciding what we were doing, we leaders were, and they became bored and eventually dropped out in middle school. Thanks to a special research project Ann Palius and I were given on retention of older girls, I learned directly from girls through a national survey we developed that they dropped out of Girl Scouts when it wasn’t fun, and fun as they defined it, not as we leaders did. That changed my whole perspective and made my younger daughter’s troop one of the few that started in Daisies and ended when the girls bridged to adults. As I have told leaders in training, I have done Girl Scouts the right way and the wrong way and when you do it the right way it is a lot of fun for both the girls and leaders.
Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The nomination deadline for 2020 Volunteer Recognition Awards is April 30. GSCO invites members statewide to take this opportunity to recognize an outstanding volunteer by nominating them for a Volunteer Recognition Award. Nominators are responsible for ensuring enough endorsements are submitted to support their nomination of a volunteer for an award. Your volunteer support specialist can check nomination and endorsement submissions for you. Learn more.