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More than Just Cookies

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February 07, 2017 | By Kristin Emery

Leandra Frisk knew her daughter, Victoria, was shy and didn't like to speak in public. She never talked much and doctors eventually diagnosed her with social anxiety disorder. When they suggested Leandra socialize Victoria, she thought of something from her own childhood: Girl Scouts. The empowerment, socialization and leadership skills Girl Scouts has imparted to Victoria helped her to blossom. "My daughter, through Girl Scouts, has found a voice," says Leandra. "It's just amazing to watch her and Girl Scouts has given her that opportunity."

Empowering girls is just one of the goals of Girl Scouts of the USA. It began more than 100 years ago in Savannah, Georgia, with founder Juliette Gordon "Daisy" Low, who believed in the power of every girl. These days, scouts are encouraged to unleash their inner G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader) and it's working: the organization boasts nearly two million scouts and 800,000 volunteers.

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Girl Scouts Shianne Lijewski, Victoria Frisk, and Alyssa Findley

That takes us back to Leandra and Victoria, who is now in 11 th grade. Leandra has volunteered from the beginning and is now a Troop Leader who enjoys the bond scouting has helped her form with her daughter. Victoria also likes that bond. "Now as a junior in high school, I plan on becoming a lifetime Girl Scout," she says.

Her fellow scouts also enjoy sharing the experience with friends and their own moms, who often volunteer with activities. "It is so lovely to be in it and be able to teach little scouts about traditions, help them earn badges and create a great relationship with them," says Girl Scout Shianne Lijewski.

A favorite and memorable activity for the scouts is spending summers at Camp Redwing. Troop member Alyssa Findley, whose mother Shari is also a Troop Leader, recalls learning how to build a campfire and making friendship bracelets. Now, Alyssa is learning to be a camp counselor and enjoys teaching the younger scouts how to live their lives fully.

Girl Scouts Western PA helps scouts of all ages blossom, learn leadership skills and give back to our community. It helps them establish a sense of self and discover more about themselves. Girl Scouts work hard to earn the Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards which all involve community projects. Victoria, Shianne, and Alyssa are all working to earn their Gold Awards, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting. Alyssa's project is developing a pamphlet that describes the effects and symptoms of teenage depression for those suffering and those around them. She plans to share it with local high schools to help educate students.

From young scouts learning outdoor skills to older scouts developing leadership and responsibility, Girl Scouts not only learn about themselves but also about their communities. Leandra says, "There's always a tie-in of how can we bring in the community and what is the community service aspect of this." So the next time you get a chance to buy Girl Scout cookies, know that you're buying more than Thin Mints and Tagalongs. Sales of those sweet treats are empowering girls across your community, building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.