Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state. Tara Szabo Maxson of Troop 65477 in the Denver Metro region was recently recognized for her outstanding work as a GSCO volunteer. She is also a shining example of the wonderful role Girl Scout volunteers play in the lives of girls and our community.
GSCO asked Tara to answer a few quick questions about her volunteer experience. We hope you find her as inspiring as we did.
How long have you been a Girl Scout?
I was a Daisy and a Brownie as a child. I have been a volunteer since 2015.
Why did you become a Girl Scout volunteer?
I wanted to get to know other families in our school community.
Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.
I lead a second grade Brownie troop and am starting a kindergarten Daisy troop in the fall.
What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer?
I have learned that every girl is truly different and special. It is amazing to see that even the little ones are already quite diverse in their strengths and talents. It can be hard with a large troop, but I try to capitalize on this as much as possible.
I have also learned that your team of parents is invaluable. I have three awesome co-leaders and an amazing cookie mom who make my life easier for sure! We are surrounded by a fantastic group of parents. We have had a waiting list to join our troop for the past two years and I attribute that to having a great group of parents who work hard to provide a positive experience for our kids and who also network on our behalf in the neighborhood and at school.
What do you hope girls have learned from you?
I hope that girls live by (not just memorize) the Girl Scout Promise and Law. We have focused a lot on learning how to take care of the earth and all of its inhabitants and also the importance of taking care of one another by being a sister to every Girl Scout. I hope my girls do this outside of Girl Scouts throughout their whole lives.
What is your favorite Girl Scout memory?
As a child, I grew up in Aurora, so I camped at both Tomahawk Ranch and Sky High Ranch. I recall the summer between second and third grade, walking back in the dark to our bunks after our evening campfire, holding hands with my life-long best friend and feeling a little scared of the dark woods, but safe with my camp buddy and my troop. It was a special feeling of bravery and independence, but achieved in a safe setting, which is what I think Girl Scouts strives to provide all girls.
As an adult, it has been special to me to share Girl Scout activities with my daughter. I cried a little when she was inducted into Girl Scouts during a ceremony led by a neighboring middle school troop. I also recall fondly holding my own daughter’s hand while we hiked the trails behind the Morrison Nature Center at Star K Ranch for our troop’s second year Daisy Earth and Sky Journey. Also, our troop brainstormed ideas for our Take Action plan this past spring and then voted on each other’s ideas. My daughter suggested we take care packages to Children’s Hospital and her idea had the winning vote. I was so proud of her thought process, as she really considered how we could use our cookie funds to “make the world a better place.” I am proud of all that my older daughter has accomplished in Girl Scouts and I look forward to seeing what both of my kids do in in the future.
What words of advice do you have for other volunteers?
- Seek help if you need it. The staff at council doesn’t always know what you need, so you must ask! They will help you if they know the answer or find the answer if they don’t. Also, attend your Service Unit meetings at least periodically to network. Leaders of older girl troops have already walked in your shoes and can give you the best practical advice. You can also go to them if you have issues with girls or parents to ask how they handled similar things in their troop in the past.
- Plan your calendar out in advance for the school year. I plan our troop’s events around our school’s master calendar when it comes out each May and then we can hit the ground running in September. Even if you don’t know exactly what you might do on a given day, at least get it on the calendar for your families to plan ahead. This will help with attendance and parent participation.
- Don’t be afraid to do things your own way. Girl Scouts provides enough leeway that you can build your own curriculum and let your girls lead the way to do what they want to do.
- Build your village. Keep asking parents if they will sign up as support volunteers and encourage them to renew each year. Get to know the people who manage the buildings where you host your meetings (and give them a few HTH packages each year for thanks for all they do for you!). Recruit at your school’s “Back to School” night. Most importantly, find awesome partner leaders and cookie managers! The more adult support you have, the better your experience will be and the richer the experience will be for the girls in your troop!
Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at email@example.com.