Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama: June 2012 Archives

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On the way back from the GSUSA Corporate Leadership meeting and Rock the Mall, I got caught in the Atlanta airport for the day.   An angel, one of our volunteers, rescued me, so I did not spend the entire Sunday sitting there.   Luckily, she and her troop just happened to be at the overnight at the Georgia Aquarium and were able to stop by the airport on the way back to Montgomery.

As I waited for her, I had an interesting experience people watching.   There were kids attending a month-long camp arriving at the Atlanta airport and being picked up by the camp staff.  On the camp staff T-shirt, it said in bold letters ROLE MODEL.   These were college age staff, which was pretty entertaining.   I sat and listened to them talk while they collected the children attending the camp.   Clearly the kids they were meeting on different flights looked up to these camp staff members.   During my lengthy wait, none of them did anything that wasn't indicative of being a role model.   They were nice to the kids who were arriving, and they greeted them with friendliness and warmth.   It was amazing to watch.  

At the end of this school year, we have had a large number of complaints from volunteers about other volunteers who said the "role models" weren't acting responsibly.   GSSA's Volunteer Essentials document delineate that volunteers will act responsibly in front of our girls, but the number of complaints about adults having meltdowns in front of the girls, criticizing the food in front of the girls or generally acting irresponsibly in front of the girls has increased at the end of the year.  

We value what you do as volunteers, but we are also very cognizant that these outbursts in front of our girls are not "role model" behavior.   We do respond to many complaints from volunteers about other volunteers.   The council staff works hard to be measured and balance the amount of time and energy with these complaints, but recently the complaints on the part of parents and others about these types of behaviors have seen a geometric increase.   We will be letting you know if we are receiving complaints about your behavior and handling them according to our published policies.   We have to be "role models" for all our girls.   And girls are very sensitive to "do as I say, not as I do."

Thanks for all you do to teach girls responsible behavior and actions.

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This past week I had a chance to watch girls at camp. That is the best part of my job, watching girls move out of their comfort zone and grow. It is always amazing to see the really young ones, who are a tad unsure, see their older counterparts step up and try things. The next thing you know, they are in the tent, putting their things away. Spiders don't bother them. Wading into the lake, where they can't see their feet, isn't terrifying, even if they can't swim. A canoe, which on first entry feels very tippy, becomes a way to get around, get exercise and watch fish. Isn't being outdoors simply amazing, so much more challenging and interesting than playing their video games or watching television.

I was especially interested in how the girls would handle the zip lines. This is the first year; it involves lots of equipment and frankly, some courage. You get into the harness, it is tightened up, and then there's the helmet, not a fashion statement of any type. You wait for your turn, which seems to take a long time. Once up on the platform you decide when to go. We had one girl stand there for at least 7 minutes, summoning the courage to step off and take the plunge. Off she went, shrieking and screaming all the way down the cable, laughing all the way. What a sense of accomplishment to face your fears and win.

If you want to enjoy the zip lines too, you can click here, or go to Montgomery Advertiser, under Media click on Video and watch Camp Sunshine Girls Ride Zip Lines.

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Do you ever have that sensation that what you thought you were going to isn't exactly what you wound up going to?   Have you ever thought you knew what a movie was about and it wasn't?   Or gone to a restaurant only to have it wind up being nothing like what you expected?   Well, that would be ROCK THE MALL for me!  

I had heard ever since I came here about the sing-a-long on the Washington Mall.   I must have clicked into the words "sing-along,"   so, when GSUSA changed the CEO meeting to June so we could attend ROCK THE MALL, I was still sort of operating under the notion of "sing-a-long."   I have been to the Mall, which is huge, many times.   There are endless things to do on there, all of which are free.   It always involves lots and lots of walking.   No matter where you go and what you do, it involves lots of walking and some navigation.  

Since we had two busloads on the council-sponsored trip and countless other girls going with their troop leaders, I felt that going was critical.   I had reduced the amount of weight in my bag to drag along that day, knowing walking was involved.   The first clue I needed to be flexible was when the bus driver took a wrong turn, and we wound up in a very expensive neighborhood near our hotel.   Three very tight and unbelievable turns later; we got out on to the main street.   Then across town to another part of town where she was again, confused.   Soon it becomes clear that again the driver is lost.   One of the gold award recipients sitting behind me on the bus treks to the front and uses her cell phone to assist the driver in making the correct turns.   The driver wasn't gracious about it and wasn't grateful.   But this is while we had been watching her making tight turns, near misses with cars while using push to talk on her cell phone.   Scary.   We finally arrive at the breakfast, after the bus that left after us.   After breakfast, we reload on to a bus for the trek to the mall and are dropped off very close to the huge stage for ROCK THE MALL

I thought I would take a stroll; visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial since I was within half a mile of it.   I wandered through throngs of people.   Many Girl Scouts were astutely setting up camp in the shade or near the water of a fountain that wasn't being renovated, so they could play in the water and listen.   I fought my way back from the Vietnam Memorial through bunches of people, most walking or moving toward the large stage for ROCK THE MALL.   As I got within a quarter mile of the stage, I could now hear it.   Hum, not what I expected.   I had been given a program, so I sat down on a bench and thumbed through it.   Well, ROCK THE MALL is exactly that.   It is a ROCK CONCERT on the Mall with more than 95,000 Girl Scouts registered.   It is not a SING-A-LONG THE MALL, which is what was in my image of what I was going to attend.  

The closer I got, the louder it got and the more crowded it got.   It was hard as a single individual to move close to anything.   The tents for the exhibitors had huge long lines.   The line for the snack carts, so long it was unbelievable.    The area around the Washington Monument was a carpet of Girl Scouts, parents, troop leaders and siblings.   The scene was surreal there were so many people, but so was the noise level.   It took me about 30 minutes to transit the Washington Monument grounds, at no point seeing anyone I knew from Southern Alabama.   The sun was hot and there was no place to find any relief from it on the Washington Monument grounds, so I continued toward the Museum of American History, where I did finally see one person from Southern Alabama and found some much desired shade.

The point is that it wasn't at all what I had expected.   I had expected SING-A-LONG not ROCK concert.   That's not to say I didn't enjoy it.   But it wasn't what I thought.   I had some folks who had streamed it say they didn't like the message.   I'm not sure I got what the message was, but from where I sit, if the girls who attended enjoyed it and found it a valuable way to spend their cookie funds, then it was a success.

What I did see was thousands of girls having a great time.   They were eating, dancing, singing along and not noticing the 94-degree heat, with the sun beating down on them.   They were living it the moment and taking it all in.   Sometimes I think we see the wisdom in what children show us.   Relax, have a good time, live in the moment or you'll miss it.

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Whether you are in school or at work, in most settings, we are evaluated.   For a Girl Scout council, the GSUSA Board of Directors does a very thorough and comprehensive review of all we do every three years.   We have just recently completed that review.   I thought, since you do most of the heavy lifting, I would give you the results of our evaluation.   This is a report that goes to the Board of Directors and nothing will be approved or finalized until December 2012.   Our evaluation is for the period of 2009-2011.

Council Strengths:

1.   increases in girl and adult membership

2.  girl retention moved from 32.7% to 33.7%

3.  innovative girl-centric program offerings are delivered to troops and groups, which include outcome- based measurement

4.   council maintains an operating reserve as required and did not have unplanned deficits

5.   council has a strong volunteer management system

Council Opportunities:

1.   council has tremendous potential for more growth in girls and adults

2.   council needs to increase girl retention from 33.7% to closer to the national average of 65.5%

3.   council needs to increase racial/ethnic diversity for girls and adults

4.   council should continue to build revenues from sources besides product sales

Next Steps

Fund development is critical in increasing the reliance on other revenue streams and will be critical to move forward.

I want to thank you for all you do to make this work possible.   Clearly, we have many things to celebrate and appreciate your investment in this endeavor.

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