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Girl power: Scout troop earns Silver Award, plans to go for Gold

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WORTHINGTON -- When the members of Girl Scout Troop 89 organized a kite fly last spring in Worthington, they divided up the duties so that every aspect of hosting such an event was covered -- advertising and promotions, budgeting, activity planning, purchasing supplies, food preparation, volunteer recruitment.

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But when the big day finally rolled around, a sunny Saturday in May, they forgot one vital thing -- sunscreen. Each of the girls showed up at school on Monday with a sunburn and the impression left on their cheeks from where they had each applied a temporary tattoo.

"And the Girl Scout motto is 'Be Prepared,'" quipped member Heather Johnson, noting the irony of the situation.

Nevertheless, the project qualified each of the members of Troop 89 for the Silver Award, the highest award that can be earned by a Girl Scout in grades 7-9. Now sophomores at Worthington High School, they will receive the awards today at a 5:30 p.m. ceremony at First Lutheran Church in Worthington.

Most of the members of Troop 89 have been together since their Daisy (ages 5-6) days 10 years ago and have climbed the ranks together through Brownies (ages 6-8), Junior Girl Scouts (ages 8-11) and finally Girl Scouts (ages 11-17). Now that they've achieved senior status, the teens all intend to stick it out for three more years and have begun to contemplate the requirements for the Gold Award -- the highest achievement in Girl Scouting.

What keeps these teens coming back to Girl Scout meetings, week after week, year after year?

The girls say they have a bond that extends beyond their scouting activities -- they hang out together at school, too -- but their friendship really was cemented by participation in Girl Scouts.

"We're all good friends," said Amanda Reif. "And we've done it for 10 years. There's no reason to back out now with just three years left."

At one time, Troop 89 probably had close to 20 members, according to leaders Michelle Cummings and Teri Reller. As the members of the troop got older, its size diminished, but the core group of eight has remained faithful to the program, despite growing demands on their time.

"Even if we didn't do the Silver Award, the fact that we're all together is amazing," commented Teri.

When the troop congregates on Monday afternoons at the Worthington Fire Hall, it's like any gathering of teen-age girls, with lots of chatter and giggling. But they also take their Girl Scout duties seriously. They enjoy serving as mentors for the younger scouts and participating in fund-raisers such as nut sales, which are currently under way through Oct. 8, and the spring cookie sales. There's usually a friendly competition among the members, with Johnson, Reif and Tammy Fletcher emerging as the top saleswomen. The teens admit, however, that peddling such items -- even the cookies, which are a favorite with just about everyone -- gets tougher as they get older, because they no longer have what they refer to as the "cute factor" of their younger years.

Fund-raising can be difficult, but pursuing the Silver Award is the biggest endeavor that the members of Troop 89 have undertaken, a process that took about three years. To fulfill the requirements for the award, each of the girls had to complete three interest project patches and earn the From Dreams to Reality Patch, the Cadette Girl Scout Leadership Award and the Cadette Girl Scout Challenge Award.

The final component was 30 hours of planning and implementing a service project that would have a positive impact on the community -- the kite fly, which was geared toward children in kindergarten through fifth grades and their families in the Worthington area. The troop members came up with the idea after helping with a similar event in Windom.

Besides the lack of sunscreen, there were a few small glitches, such as kites purchased through an online source that wouldn't stay together, not matter how much duct tape was applied. A volunteer was dispatched to clean out a local store's selection of kites, which were in turn sold to the participants.

The girls have begun contemplating how to improve the event for next spring ("Bring sunscreen!") and hope that it will continue to grow and prosper long after they've left the scouting ranks, perhaps under the guidance of the next generation of Girl Scouts.

Here's what each member of Troop 89 said about what she enjoys about being a Girl Scout:

Whitney Behrens: "I'm not into any sports or anything, and I live in the country, so it gives me a chance to help out with stuff like day camp. I like helping the little kids, and we can participate in what the littler kids do."

Brittany Elsing: "I love to help out with the younger girls, like working at day camp, and I like doing community service to give back to the community."

Tammy Fletcher: "It's a good opportunity to meet other people, make friends."

Heather Johnson: "I like Girl Scouts because no matter what skills you have, you can put them to use, and it's good to be part of such a long tradition."

Amanda Reif: "We do something new every day. At day camp, we get to work with the younger girls and be role models. And it's nice to have some place to go every Monday after school and have fun."

Katie Reller: "I've been in it since kindergarten, and I do say that I'm going to quit a lot, but I'm still here. We have so many memories, and I guess there are more to come for us."

Mariah Teerink: "Influencing the next generation of Girl Scouts is really fun. I've just always been a Girl Scout. It's something I do."

Alyson Wesselink: "I just think it's a great opportunity for us to do community service, give back to the community, to get together and make a difference."

And the leaders also added their thoughts:

Michelle Cummings: "(I've enjoyed) watching all these girls grow up and seeing what they've achieved, and being all girls, the girl power. I think every kid needs a place to go and be part of something."

Teri Reller: "I've really enjoyed it, being with them since first grade. I feel like I signed on with these girls, and I'm going to stick with them to the end. We've had a lot of good times, good memories."

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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