You may not realize it, but one of Coronado’s longest standing organizations is Girl Scouts. In fact, it is home to the first Girl Scout troop west of the Rockies. Troop 1 began in Coronado at the beginning of 1917, just five years after the organization was first created in Savannah, Georgia, and has been a part of the community ever since. Troops in the Coronado Service Unit have a long legacy of inspiring girls to become leaders and staying involved with Girl Scouts and its ideals into adulthood and parenthood.
I asked a few of the local leaders and other volunteers questions about their Girl Scout experiences and history and how the organization and their roles have evolved – especially in the past year. Here are their perspectives in their own words.
What drew you to Girl Scouting (as girl and an adult), and how did you personally get involved?
Tori Calisch (Troop 6530 Leader, Coronado Service Unit Volunteer Membership Recruiter, Girl Scouts San Diego National Delegate): “My family’s connection to Girl Scouts goes back generations and, like my mother and grandmother before me, I am passionate about developing girls’ confidence and leadership so that they can make a positive difference in their communities and even the world. This mission resonates with me as a former Girl Scout, a woman, a mother, a Wellesley College alumna and a nonprofit professional.“
Melissa Bennett (Cadette Troop 6136 Co-Leader, Coronado Girl Scouts Volunteer Service Unit manager): “Girl Scouts has so much to offer both girls and adult volunteers. The excitement of trying something new often attracts them to the organization initially. Girl Scouts enjoy outdoor adventures, community service, leadership opportunities, travel, entrepreneurship, STEM, and summer camps. Volunteers enjoy helping to form tomorrow’s leaders. Many, but not all, of them were Girl Scouts themselves at one time, and they want today’s girls to benefit as much as they have from the organization and experiences.”
Stephanie Nurding (Cadette Troop 6136 Co-Leader, Service Unit Cookie Coordinator, Service Unit Fall Coordinator, Coronado): “My daughter, Amanda, joined when she was at Village Elementary in kindergarten as a Daisy and is now a Cadette in 7th grade at CMS. I have been involved with her troop as a co-leader and TCM (troop cookie manager) every year, and also have been the Coronado Service Unit’s Cookie Coordinator and Fall Product Program Manager. As a Brownie and Girl Scout, I had a great time and learned a lot. I wanted Amanda to have the same opportunities and experiences that I had.”
What is your favorite part about being involved in Girl Scouts?
Calisch: “Seeing the connections build across the years and among generations - between the girls, among the adults volunteers, and in our connections to Coronado and our San Diego region.
Nurding: “Seeing Amanda have experiences that she would not have had if she was not a Girl Scout. Traveling to San Francisco to “bridge” from the Junior to Cadette level by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, participating in Wreaths Across America, meeting the Honor Flight when they return to San Diego Airport, earning her Bronze Award two years ago for educating kids about monarch butterflies and planting milkweed gardens at schools, and working booths at the flower show. But most of all, seeing the bond she has with the girls in her troop.”
Bennett: “I love seeing girls grow, learn and develop. Girls who have never been away from their families will go camping with their troop for the weekend, fly through the air on a zip line, and learn to safely handle a bow and arrow. Girls learn confidence by speaking in front of groups and find their voice and passion.”
What inspires the Girl Scouts’ activities?
Nurding: “When they were younger, we would suggest things they liked and then work on those projects to earn badges. But as they progressed and got older, the meetings become more girl-led and they get to decide more about what interests them.”
Calisch: “Leadership development, service projects, outdoor adventures, entrepreneurship and business skills, and confidence in STEM exploration.”
Bennett: “Building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”
How have Coronado troops been managing this past year amidst the pandemic?
Calisch: “We have stayed socially connected while keeping our distance. Our troops and the service unit have stayed active this year, meeting entirely on Zoom. We made pet blankets for PAWS, celebrated the centennial of the women’s vote, held scavenger hunts, cleaned the bay, and more...staying connected to each other and our town!”
Bennett: “We adapted traditional activities. We switched our annual celebration of the birthday of Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low from a group beach bonfire with 100 people in attendance to a letterboxing scavenger hunt around the island. We also met online last summer for a diversity, equity and inclusion event. Some of our troops are meeting virtually more frequently than in typical times to provide members with a social outlet. We plan to make neon light signs and do some STEM activities in the coming months.”
Nurding: “With the kids spending so much time on computers for school, it has been harder to keep them interested in a ‘learning’ type of meeting. So, we have done more ‘fun’ things like a make-your-own-pizza Zoom gathering, where three girls led different segments as the troop worked toward a cooking badge, and a sewing project. We delivered the supplies to the girls’ homes a few days prior to the meetings. Another time, a guest Girl Scout from another area taught us about sign language. The girls have also had the opportunity to work on ‘Journeys’ (extended explorations of a particular topic) offered outside our area via Zoom, which has been great.”
How have things changed surrounding Girl Scout Cookies right now and how have your troops been tackling that?
Calisch: “Instead of door-to-door sales and booths, our girls are marketing Girl Scout Cookies on their Digital Cookie websites and making contact-free porch delivery to their customers. We are still focused on developing the girls’ skills of goal-setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics. Our Coronado community has been so supportive! We appreciate them for buying cookies for themselves and donating cookies to military personnel on deployment through the Operation Thin Mint program. Founded locally 20 years ago, ‘OTM’ has sent more than 3.25 million packages to U.S. troops across the globe!”
Bennett: “We have Girl Scouts who have taken special training and are ready to present a five-minute virtual ‘cookie pitch’ to local corporate, civic, and social groups. They are happy to answer questions about their Girl Scout experiences, as well. Groups interested in this new E2B (Entrepreneur-to-Business) program may contact Coronadogirlscouts@yahoo.com. The Coronado Chamber of Commerce has hosted a Girl Scout, and several other girls are trained, ready to present, and would love more opportunities to exercise this skill.”
Nurding: “The hardest thing has been letting residents know how they can order and putting them in touch with the girls who are selling. Parents have also posted on social media links, but we try not to flood the pages with too many posts. I will be putting posters up in the next few days which will give residents information about how to connect with a Girl Scout in our area so they can get cookies delivered. It is a challenge, for sure.”
Do you have any favorite memories that come to mind of your time in Girl Scouting and/or any favorite events or activities you look forward to every year?
Nurding: “As a child, my fondest memory was going to horse camp. As an adult, there are so many wonderful memories. One was gathering at the airport with other troops from our service unit to greet veterans returning from Washington, DC on Honor Flights. I also love the cookie program and helping Amanda come up with new ideas for marketing (especially this year). A second highlight was watching her take a helicopter ride she earned by becoming an ‘Elite Entrepreneur’ who marketed over 2,019 packages of cookies in 2019. She is about 200 packages away from her goal of 2,021 this year, which would earn her an opportunity to spend time at an event with Girl Scouts San Diego CEO Carol Dedrich.”
Bennett: “I love Fashion with Compassion, a semi-annual event where girls model clothing they are willing to donate to a San Diego charity. Girls learn confidence after a little coaching, then strut their stuff down the runway. I think most Girl Scouts look forward to encampment each year, a weekend of camping at one of our Girl Scout properties in San Diego. Girls from early elementary through high school enjoy the outdoors, company of friends, challenges like ropes courses, campfires, crafts, songs and fellowship.”
Calisch: “My favorite memory to date with Coronado Girl Scouts was our Space Science Launch at Coronado High School in 2019. More than 80 girls made bicycle pump rockets and launched them three stories in the air! During this recruitment event, high school Ambassador-level and middle school Cadette Girl Scouts mentored our elementary-aged Junior, Brownie and Daisy Girl Scouts as the younger girls rotated through six tables with STEM activities.”
Are there any upcoming events for the Girl Scouts that the Troop is looking forward to?
Nurding: “Our next big event is World Thinking Day, next month.”
Calisch: “World Thinking Day is a day of international friendship celebrated by Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in over 150 countries. The theme this year is Peacebuilding.
Bennett: “We will be learning more about promoting peace in our community, making pinwheels, enjoying international snacks representing the five WAGGGS World Centers (places Girl Scouts can visit internationally), and learning more about the global nature and opportunities through Girl Scouts. We also plan to have a spring STEM event.”
How can people get involved with the Girl Scouts of Coronado and who should they contact or where can go if they have questions or are looking for more information about joining?
Bennett: “Coronado Girl Scouts is challenged by having more girls interested in joining troops than the number of volunteers we currently have, so we are currently looking for adult volunteers to start new troops. But you don’t have to be a troop leader to volunteer with Girl Scouts. We would love others to help our girls learn about a variety of things from art and cooking to business ethics and STEM. Many troop leaders invite community members to present at meetings (currently virtually) to help broaden the scope of experiences offered to their troops. If you have an interest in helping or starting a troop or just have a skill to share with our Girl Scouts, we welcome you to reach out to us at email@example.com. Although Girl Scouts has looked a little different than usual this year, we look forward to camping, hiking, outdoor challenges, learning new things, and exploring new places in the coming year.”