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What the Holidays Mean to a Girl Scout

"Before I was in Girl Scouts, I was like every other kid."

The Girl Scouts organization just celebrated its 105th birthday, boasts 2.6 million members, and maintains a strong focus on making young female leaders. The program has always kept up with the times — as evidenced by its current focus on STEM leadership — while constantly invested in communities, both local and global. The focus on community is what drove Clara, an 8th grader in Arlington, Virginia, to organize a donation drive for female members of the military who are stationed in Afghanistan. Here, she talks about that project, the Girl Scouts in general, and why acts of service have changed her conception of the holidays.

I’m in 8th grade. I’ve been a Girl Scout since kindergarten. The six girls in my troop all started with me so we know each other really well. Besides Girl Scouts, I play sports and do other things. I play field hockey, lacrosse, and basketball. Also, I’m a cheerleader.

What I enjoy most about giving back is supplying people with things they need, and giving them a better Christmas and holidays. I’m so fortunate to have lived in Arlington. Giving back to other people feels like you’re helping the world. That’s why we decided to send care packages to female members of the military who are stationed in Afghanistan. Through this project, four of us earned the Girl Scout Silver Award. I came up with the idea because my cheer coach just got out of the military and talks to us about it. My brothers are in college and we’re always sending them care packages, so I combined the two things and I came up with this idea.

The Silver Award is the highest award you can earn when you’re in Cadette-level Girl Scouts, for girls in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. You work with your troop to take action on an issue in the community. My group sent over 400 pounds of care package materials. We filled them with toiletries, snacks, ramen noodles, and, of course, loofahs — because everyone loves loofahs — and hot pink loofahs, to be exact. We also included a small toy in each package for the women in Afghanistan to give to local kids. It took a long time to pack all of them. We were all in my basement for three hours on a Friday night. We actually sent them with DHL because they were willing to ship it for free. One of the requirements for the Silver Award is that the project is sustainable, so the four of us are going to write a manual on how to do a similar project to share with other Girl Scout troops to encourage them to take action like we did.

We’re also going to contact the women at the base in Afghanistan and send them Girl Scout Cookies, all the ones that people donate. I really like that people can donate to Girl Scouts because some people don’t want to eat the cookies but they still want to help out.

Girl Scouts has taught me a lot about leadership. Before this project, and also our Bronze Award project, we did lots of awesome activities, but the Bronze and Silver awards definitely gave more responsibility to the girls in the troop. We planned most of this ourselves, which was a big undertaking. I definitely learned about responsibility, problem-solving, and perseverance.

Before I was in Girl Scouts, I was like every other kid: excited for Christmas because I was getting presents. But I learned more and I participated in acts of service. I’ve grown to like Christmas more because of the good that we do, rather than the presents that I get. I’m also Christian, so Christmas is not just about gifts and material items. It’s also about being with your family and celebrating the religious aspects of the holidays, too.

— As Told To Lizzy Francis