Girl Scouts of Colorado is celebrating extraordinary volunteers throughout the state. Lifetime Girl Scout Theresa Szczurek of Boulder recently received the Volunteer Service Award from GSCO for decades of service. She is also a shining example of the wonderful role Girl Scout volunteers play in the lives of girls and our community.
GSCO asked Theresa 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 joined Girl Scouts as a 4th grader in Cicero, IL and participated through high school. Now, I am a Lifetime Girl Scout.
Why did you become a Girl Scout volunteer?
I love being a Girl Scout. Girl Scouts builds girls with courage, character, and confidence and prepares girls to be leaders. Over 64% percent of today’s women leaders in the United States in civic, corporate, political, and entrepreneurial arenas were once Girl Scouts including Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and many others.
At first in New Jersey in the late 1980’s even before I had children, I was a Girl Scout Cadette leader for a few years to help build strong girls. After returning to Colorado and when my daughter entered first grade, I helped organize her Brownie troop at her elementary school. I wanted my daughter to grow strong, make friends, learn new skills, build her confidence and courage, strengthen her core values and character, and see the world through the experience of this powerful, world-wide organization. Being a Girl Scout volunteer is for me a pursuit of passionate purpose — it is in line with my values and gifts (or passion), helps me work toward the purpose of growing girls with courage, confidence, an character, presents many opportunities to pursue this purpose and assess progress along the way.
Tell us about your different volunteer roles as a Girl Scout.
I have been a Brownie, Junior, and Cadette leader in Boulder. I currently am and have been since 2010 a Senior and Ambassador Girl Scout troop co-advisor for super Troop 70007, which has Girl Scouts from throughout Boulder County. I enjoy being the Gold Advisor, among other things, helping our Girl Scouts earn the highest award.
I have been a member of the Zephyr Service Unit leadership team since 2013. It supports Girl Scout troops throughout Boulder and beyond. I help coordinate the program and calendar and serve as the Highest Award advisor to the SU.
I was the Keynote speaker at the Leadership Summit in Boulder in Fall 2016.
What have you learned as a Girl Scout volunteer? What do you hope girls have learned from you?
One of the most important lessons for me to learn, was to let go of being the Troop Leader and instead become the Troop Advisor by letting the Girl Scouts lead. This role as an adult volunteer evolves as a troop moves from Brownies to Ambassadors and the Girl Scouts grow in their abilities. It means that sometimes the girls will do things differently then I envision. I recall when our troop was running Outdoor Skills Day Camps. My daughter Annie was the overall Camp Coordinator that year. A big snowstorm was forecast for the Saturday of one of our camps. GSCO decided to cancel all activities that day, but let our troop make its own decision on running our camp or not. While I would have decided to go along with GSCO and cancel the camp, Annie made the courageous decision to run the camp. It was a huge learning and leadership experience for her. The storm was not as bad as forecast and 70 younger pre-registered Girl Scouts had a fabulous time rather than being stuck at home. Annie also decided to give parents an option to pull their girl out and get a refund.
It means letting them fail and learn from it, if they don’t step up to lead. One year our Senior / Ambassador troop decided it wanted to go on a Caribbean cruise leaving from Florida. The girls did not step up to do the research and make the decision in time. That trip did not happen, but instead they were able to get organized and go on a Colorado camping trip. Here are a few other lessons learned:
Four Practical Pointers from Girl Scout Travel.
- Open and Be Flexible. Annie had been raising money for two years to go to the India Centre, Sangam. She sold 1000’s of packages of Girl Scout Cookies and wrapping paper, led outdoor skills day camps as fundraisers, and even applied for (and won) a Look Wider International Travel Scholarship from Girl Scouts of Colorado. This council-wide trip to Sangam, for high school age Girl Scouts from across the State of Colorado, did not come together as it should have. So in February, Annie and I regrouped, assessed the situation, and concluded – Why not go as a mother / daughter team to Our Chalet, the oldest WAGGGS Centre located in Switzerland, and Pax Lodge in UK? By being flexible with a broader vision, we pivoted and took action to go to Europe. We are glad we did!
Here was the Attraction Strategy at work –hold a broad intention and open to opportunities that are everywhere, while thinking, feeling passionately, and taking action to get what you want. How can you attract an alternative solution when you are stuck?
- Pack Lightly. Note, packing includes your attitude as well as your bag. Once you have packed your bag, evaluate if you really need each item, and reduce by at least one third. Pack even lighter. Oh how we wish we would have done this on our Europe trip.
We arrived at 7 p.m. by train into Bern, Switzerland, the lovely capital, after a long traveling day that started in Iceland at 6 a.m. We could not find the information booth to get a map. With the hotel address in hand, we started walking burdened with our backpacks – it is not far, people said. 45 minutes later, tired and hungry, we searched for a taxi. Finally, we found one. As we were about to put our heavy bags into the cab, the driver pointed, “Just walk that way 100 meters.” Finally 300 meters later, as despair was about to set in, we saw our hotel. While indeed we had packed many positive items, next time we will come without as much gear.
Here was the Pack Strategy – when embarking on a path of passionate purpose, pack energizers that encourage you along the way and unpack hindrances that discourage you. How can you lighten your personal or professional load?
- Are You Ready? Are You Prepared? Finnish Girl Guides respond to these questions, “Born ready! Always prepared!” Part of our adventure included reaching the summit of three peaks. Our goal was to summit Bunderspitz. We prepared through the week with increasingly longer hikes day by day. Using the divide-and-conquer strategy, we started hiking around 7:30 p.m. on the first segment and arrived at the Cheesemaker’s Hut at 9:30 p.m. where we got a few hours sleep. At 2:30 a.m. in total darkness and silence, we were ready for the assault. We accomplished the overall goal piece by piece – first to the highest barn on the mountain where we ate an early breakfast, then through the fog to the saddle, and then on through the final stretch to the summit for sunrise at 5:35 a.m. While the clear, panoramic view we yearned for never appeared, we did catch glimpses of the majestic mountains. Then slowly we descended five hours back to Our Chalet feeling exhilarated.
Here was the Persistence Strategy in action: mindfully persevere with focused determination using a divide-and-conquer tactic. Try tackling your next big project using the divide and conquer approach of the Persistence Strategy.
- Make New Friends, But Keep the Old. With ten million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from 145 countries across the world, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) is the largest voluntary movement dedicated to girls and young women in the world. We share common values of building girls with courage, character, and confidence and taking action. Recently WAGGGS launched a Global Action Theme whereby girls worldwide say “together we can change our world.” This awareness raising programme is directly linked to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (https://www.wagggs.org/en/what-we-do/sustainable-development-goals-and-global-action-theme/). One SDG is: promote gender equality and empower women. 70 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion people living in poverty are women, and 45 million girls around the world are being denied an education. WAGGGS believes that ‘empowering girls will change our world.’
At Our Chalet and Pax Lodge we made new international friends, reaffirmed our values, had fun singing songs, challenged ourselves physically and mentally, built a new skill by taking lots of photos, rejuvenated, and much more. In addition to precious mother / daughter together time before Annie left for college, we even met the WAGGGS commissioner from Taiwan.
Here was the Connections Strategy at work – build relationships with and bring along on life’s journey the proper people and support network and lessen the impact of improper ones. Who is or should be part of your support network?
What is your favorite Girl Scout memory?
There are so many memories from seeing two Girl Scouts helping each other in a magical moment learn to fish, recognizing the scouts grow in their abilities to run their own cookie business, the younger girls progress in outdoor skills from short hike to backyard camping to lodge overnights to tent camping to backpacking, working with other leaders and parents, traveling domestically such as canoeing on the Buffalo River in Arkansas and internationally such as a 10-day adventure and service trip to Costa Rica, and helping scouts establish a plan and execute on it to earn their Highest Awards. I have been so honored to be the troop advisor to nine (9) scouts who have earned their Gold Award with three more now at the Gold Candidate stage — WOW!
My favorite memory, if I had to choose just one, is the mother / daughter trip to Our Chalet, the oldest WAGGGS Centre located in Switzerland, and Pax Lodge in UK. I highly recommend going to the international centres.
What words of advice do you have for other volunteers?
Being a Girl Scout volunteer is for me a pursuit of passionate purpose — it is in line with my values and gifts (or passion), helps me work toward the purpose of growing strong leaders, presents many opportunities to pursue this purpose, and give a chance to assess progress and learn along the way.
Volunteers, recognize the important work you are doing in helping girls pursue their passions and grow with courage, confidence, and character. I hope you agree, there is nothing more meaningful and important. That is why I love being a Girl Scout!
Want to nominate a volunteer for Girl Scouts of Colorado to spotlight? Please email Public Relations Director AnneMarie Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.