What’s the best way to teach a Girl Scout about the value of volunteering? Expose them to volunteers early and often. From troop leaders to cookie moms and dads, Girl Scouting is built on volunteers. Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM) makes sure that every willing adult finds a volunteer opportunity that fits their skills, passion and availability. There’s always a way to help influence tomorrow’s leaders through Girl Scouts.
“It’s not that adults don’t want to volunteer and give back,” says Karen Chappell, Manager of Community Partnerships for GSSEM. “Many have careers that demand a great deal of time and energy and they may not be aware of the creative solutions we’ve developed to ensure they have volunteer opportunities that work for their schedules.”
GSSEM offers a variety of Short-Term Volunteer Opportunities
that come with a wide range of time commitments from an hour to a day to one-to-two days each month. They’re designed to fit into the schedule of busy adults, and include supporting special events and activities, providing office support or acting as a Badge Boss
or Monday Mentor.
The Badge Boss program pairs mentors with expertise in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) with girls looking to earn badges on those topics. The mentors work with Chappell and her staff to design their badge workshop.
“Troops sign up to request a Badge Boss volunteer and we take care of placement, scheduling and securing the resources needed to facilitate the workshop,” Chappell says. “Prior to the workshop, we send out a packet with badge requirements and completion steps.”
Mentoring Mondays are held on Mondays from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Each session is hosted by a different mentor. The mentors are professionals in various career fields who spend an hour discussing their backgrounds, experiences, education, job responsibilities, and more with Girl Scouts in grades 6-12.
Both programs were added two years ago, although short-term volunteer opportunities have always been available. Chappell says these programs are available to any woman or man interested in sharing their time, expertise and how they got to where they are in their chosen careers.
“We started Badge Boss and Mentoring Mondays because as we were recruiting volunteers, people were saying that they would love to volunteer but didn’t have the time,” Chappell says. “We wanted to offer a vehicle where people could give back without a long-term commitment. A lot of our volunteers are professional women who love the Girl Scouts.”
Belem Morales, an attorney in private practice in Royal Oak, was the guest speaker at a Mentoring Mondays session. She shared her success stories and advice with a group of girls and even brought a surprise guest -- her newborn baby boy.
“Because I had just had my baby, I was holding him during my presentation,” Morales says. “Having the ability to care for him while having a conversation with the girls made it possible for me to take advantage of this volunteer opportunity. I so appreciate GSSEM’s willingness to understand my circumstances and work with me to make this happen.”
Morales’ session began with a synopsis of her career based on her resume. But, she says, “That’s what is on paper and I wanted to give the girls a behind-the-scenes view of how that resume came to be.”
She discussed her background growing up in an immigrant family. Her grandparents moved to the United States from Mexico in the 1950s and she was the first in her family to graduate from college.
“I told the girls that while your surroundings may not be a supportive environment, you can still achieve,” says Morales, who has been practicing criminal and family law for six years. “I was really trying to show them that going through college may not look the same for everyone. I feel like my background and experience aren’t the status quo. At one point, I dropped out of high school and now I’m a lawyer. You can get through challenges.”
One girl asked Morales about how to handle failure. Morales said that question really touched her.
“I said that I lose all the time and the thing is you have to learn to keep trying,” she says. “If you are challenging yourself, you will lose and you have to learn to get back up.”
Destany Parker, another Mentoring Mondays participant, has a hectic schedule to say the least. She is a flight attendant with Delta Airlines based in Detroit and is working to earn an Airline Transport Pilot’s license so she can fly commercial passenger aircraft. Her goal is to earn the license by the time she’s 35, just three years from now.
During her virtual session, she talked about her current job and why she decided to earn an ATP license, in addition to the private pilot’s license she already has.
“The girls asked me a lot of questions about my job,” Parker says. “I talked about my journey to becoming a pilot but also about being a flight attendant. They wanted to know about aviation professions, about the different parts of the plane, what my day-to-day schedule is like, how you keep a plane safely in the air, and what was the hardest part of becoming a pilot.”
They also asked her what destinations she has traveled to as a flight attendant, what her favorite layover destinations were and where she hasn’t been that she really wants to go to.
“The girls learn so much from these interactions,” Chappell says. “It inspires them to dream big and explore careers they may not have even considered. When you’ve got someone from an airline saying that they’re going to be a pilot and right now they’re a flight attendant that tells our girls to dream big.”
Parker says some of what she was doing was designed to encourage the girls to travel. As a former Girl Scout, she says she remembers the encouragement she received to try new things that would often take her out of her comfort zone. Earning badges provided her with a sense of accomplishment that she still talks about.
“I remember thinking, ‘I can do this’ and I saw the benefit of finishing something and getting rewarded for it,’” she says. “It was very empowering to know your Girl Scouts had your back.”
The short-term volunteer opportunities offered by GSSEM have made it much easier to make a commitment of time and see it through.
“A lot of busy women want to give. I think these short-term opportunities are a great way to connect with our girls, Chappell says. “The women who have participated have been really positive and excited and, for the girls, it’s exposure to first-hand knowledge that they will use as they make their own career choices.”
Interested in becoming a GSSEM Badge Boss or Mentoring Monday volunteer? Complete the Badge Boss Interest Form
online or email Karen Chappell at [email protected]