From Daisies to Ambassadors: One Troop’s Journey
Ambassador Troop 208, led by Leyla Wagner, is made up of 10 girls who have been Girl Scouts together for 10 to 13 years. Leyla has been with them the entire journey and is very proud of her girls. When asked how she inspired her girls to stay together all these years, Leyla is very clear, “I have been very intentional from the beginning. I wanted to cultivate a “group” mentality, not an individual mentality. I wanted them to think about what was good for the whole group (which included them) and be inclusive - always. I worked hard to make sure that the girls were always with different people – in work groups at meetings or in cars when we went on fieldtrips, etc. As they got older, the girls had spent a lot of time with all the girls in the troop, not just the ones that they spent time with outside of the troop or had more in common with. They realized that they could connect with each person in the troop and deeper relationships and loyalty was formed.” As the girls grew, so did their bonds with each other. In 9th grade the troop went to Europe, and the girls suggested that they switch roommates at each city on their itinerary (4 cities total) so that they would have a chance to spend time with everyone
Another very intentional focus was setting goals – the girls always had something to work towards. The girls discussed what they wanted to do, and then set goals and led the experience and as their leader Leyla helped to ensure that they were successful in their endeavors. As the girls reached the transitional middles years when being in Girl Scouts wasn’t always considered “cool,” they were still committed to staying in the program and set goals to travel and to earn their Silver and Gold Awards. The key was to always focus on the future. Leyla believes you must strengthen your commitment to the girls, sharing, “I think you start encouraging them – even more – to take ownership and be girl-led…asking for more input, what service projects they wanted to do, how they wanted to run and plan their meetings and this went into high school. By this time, they got over that hump of ‘It’s not cool.’ I think that because they had become so close and were accountable to one another, they couldn’t quit - they didn’t want to let the other girls, and themselves, down. In high school, they were like, ‘Yeah, I’m a Girl Scout!’ They were determined to stick it out to the end.”
One of the most memorable experiences the troop has is becoming “leaders” of a troop of Girl Scout Daisies. When the girls were in middle school, Leyla heard about a group of kindergarten girls who wanted to be Daisies, but a leader could not be found. Leyla casually mentioned this to her girls and the seven of them enthusiastically jumped at the chance to lead and mentor these young girls. Even after learning how much work this task would call for, the girls were still on board. Leyla became the “official” leader of the Daisy troop on paper, but the girls took their jobs very seriously. They registered all of the girls, contacted parents, secured a meeting room (they did the leg work, Leyla signed paperwork and was the “leader” on hand), led a parent meeting, and started holding regular meetings. The first year they only had about 6 meetings. They finished that year and 5 of them continued to lead for a second year. These girls were incredibly busy with sports, school, church and earning Silver Awards and doing their own troop jobs…but met regularly to plan and hold meetings for the Daisy troop. They delegated tasks and used each other’s strengths to create a unique and memorable experience for the younger girls. They spent that year “training” two parents to take over. The troop is still going with 18-20 5th grade girls. Leyla’s troop plans to visit the younger troop this year – before they head to Middle School and the older girls head to college.
The girls of Troop 208 are a unique group, they have become a family, and they have acquired life skills that will be an enormous benefit to them as they pursue their futures. They have become leaders in their communities, they have participated in adopt-a-family, earned the highest Girl Scout Awards (Bronze, Silver & Gold), advocated for people in need, given thousands of hours of community service, and are role models to younger girls. Many have been delegates to Council (some for multiple years) and program aides. They planned every aspect of a 16 day trip through 4 countries in Europe – doing research and planning, taking pride in how smoothly it went and how much they learned about other cultures. They are leaders in school, on their sports teams, at their churches and on their jobs.
When asked about her troop, Kathryn Kelly stated, “This troop has helped me build great leadership skills such as collaborating, compromising, organization, and determination. Each of these characteristics has grown over the past 10 years and will help me in any future career I have. The fact that we still have 10 girls in the troop, nine of which earned a Gold Award, makes us unique. I’ve made life-long friends that I can honestly count on for anything! The bond we made as a troop and with our leader Leyla is the main reason I’ve stuck with Girl Scouts for so long. Even when I became overwhelmed with a project, they were all there to help me through it. Overall, scouting has been a truly life-changing experience that has shaped me into the leader I am today.”
Another member of the troop, Eden Knapp also feels strongly about her experience, stating, “Practically my whole life I have been a part of this troop so my favorite part of Scouting would probably just be the fact that I had the ability to grow up as a part of it. Girl Scouts hasn’t really changed my life but that’s only because it has been my life and I’ve grown through this troop.”
The girls of Troop 208 have had a wonderful experience together and are a great example of how the Girl Scout program is girl-led, allowing these girls to create their own experience and memories. These girls are all graduating high school next month and are off to college to begin new adventures in life. Their leader Leyla sums up the troop best, “It’s amazing to see them in action and I’m happy, and honored, to have been part of their journey as it has changed my life, as well!