Submitted by Kristin Hamm
Kristin Coulter’s voice swells with pride when she talks about the 12 girls in her Girl Scout Senior troop and what they’ve accomplished.
“They really do take your hearts,” she said. “You go from seeing them as little girls when it was all like herding cats to growing into the women they’re going to be, to the leaders they are. It’s just really cool.”
From first graders to young women entering the halls of high school, Kristin along with her co-leader Laura Charlier, have had the privilege and pleasure of leading Troop 63573. Eight of the original 12 members are still active and, while there have been some ebbs and flows in membership with a peak of 20 members during the Brownie/Junior years, the troop is now 12 girls strong again.
Along the way, they’ve earned badges, served their community, sold cookies, traveled near and far, earned their Bronze Award, challenged themselves at Reach for the Peak, and this year they earned their Silver Award and created Colorado’s first Council’s Own Badge. It’s all happened with the guidance of two very special volunteers who make a good team and feel they’re growing as much as the girls.
“When you start out, you think you’re just doing it to help out, and in the end you’re amazed at how much you grow as a leader,” Kristin said of her experience as a Girl Scout volunteer.
Keeping the troop together was a goal for Kristin in the beginning. “I remember making a goal that at least six of my original 12 Daisies would earn their Gold Award …. And we might just make it!”
The transition from Juniors to Cadettes is often a difficult time for troops. Some leaders burn out. Some girls get so busy with other activities Girl Scouts seems like too much. Kristin saw this coming and felt a common goal would help keep this group together.
“I didn’t want them to fall apart,” she said. “That’s such a big transition time that I was worried that they could get lost — from each other and from that focus they had gained to do good and be a leader.”
At that time, the troop put their focus on a big adventure and began planning for their trip to Costa Rica. It took two years to raise the money and make the trip a reality, but Kristin feels having that common goal kept them together – and it has given them so many wonderful, shared memories.
Now, they’re working toward a hiking adventure trip in Iceland.
How does a mother of two, with two Master’s Degrees, who was a Girl Scout as a girl for “maybe a year” end up leading a go-getter troop of 12 girls for eight years and counting?
“My daughter was in first grade and painfully shy, so I wanted to get her involved in something where she could connect with others by having common goals,” Kristin said. “There was a flier at school and I went to the meeting, not with the idea of leading the troop … but I talked to an experienced leader of girls in fourth or fifth grade and she told me about all the things they’d done and I thought it was very different from what my childhood troop had been like.”
“I realized you could make the troop whatever you wanted it to be,” she said. “You could get out there and be adventurous.”
That experienced troop leader showed her a scrapbook of her troop’s adventures, and Kristin was sold. She also included scrapbooking as part of the troop’s activities so the girls would remember and families in her troop would see all the amazing things the girls did over the years.
Kristin believes strongly that immersion is a great teacher and learning by doing is the Girl Scout way.
“I moved (to Italy) without speaking a word of Italian and came home with a MA,” she said. “I think that experience plus just being an idealistic Westerner, gives me the confidence that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I try to pass that on to the girls.”
The troop put that theory to the test last summer at Reach for the Peak, an outdoor skills competition held at Sky High Ranch. They earned a Marmot award and will spend much of their summer preparing for this fall’s competition. “It was an intense but awesome experience,” she said.
Her daughter Fiona, who has moved from a shy Daisy to a confident Program Aide at Sky High Ranch, has gotten to do many different things as a Girl Scout.
“She has grown so much,” Kristin said. “She has the confidence to try new things and I have to believe it’s in large part due to Girl Scouts.” Less than a month after earning her Silver Award, her daughter already has an idea for her Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts.
In addition to her co-leader, Kristin credits the supportive and involved parents of her troop for helping to keep the Park Hill-based troop going. The girls in the troop have always gone to different schools, and Kristin says their personalities are so different they probably wouldn’t gravitate together naturally, but their Girl Scout experiences have created a lasting bond.
Clearly Kristin feels that bond as well. When asked about a favorite troop leader moment, she chokes back tears as she describes the girls’ reaction to presenting at a recent Girl Scouts of Colorado Board of Directors meeting.
“Being at that board meeting was such a thrill for us,” she said. “It got the girls focused on what this has all meant. The girls were so impressed with being in a room full of professional women…
“I’m always telling them that they can do anything and how capable they are … the fact that that landed on them was really, really powerful. At their age, they’ve accomplished a lot of things – at school, at sports … but they were able to fast forward to their professional lives … and they saw themselves at that table.”
It was a gigantic day for the girls of Troop 63573, not only did they present their Council’s Own Badge to the Board of Directors in the morning, they bridged to Seniors and were given their Silver Award pins that evening.
“We were in a circle and I said ‘Give yourself a pat on the back – look to your right and look to your left – and recognize what you’ve accomplished because nobody asked you to do it; you did it on your own.”
While Kristin would never take any credit, it’s clear these girls did it on their own, but they wouldn’t have had this opportunity without amazing volunteers like Kristin and Laura, the parents in the troop and Girl Scouts of Colorado.