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Growing up I was a Boy Scout, and I really can’t speak highly enough about the experience. I learned new skills, got to go on exciting adventures, and was taught values that helped me become the man I am today. So when I became a parent, I naturally wanted my kids to get to have the same experience that I enjoyed so much. There was just one problem: I ended up with 2 daughters.
Fortunately, I was able to get both of my daughters to join the Girl Scouts, and I quickly became the best helper of all time. I loved getting to be with my daughters as they went on their first hike or chaperoning when they camped overnight with their troop. As well as getting quality time with my daughters, tagging along for these activities let me see the other young girls feel the same joy and passion that I saw in my girls, and I quickly realized I wanted to be as involved as possible. I decided the best way to get involved was to become the leader of my oldest daughter’s Girl Scout troop, and eventually I volunteered to be the leader for my youngest daughter’s troop as well.
The experience of leading these girls exceeded all expectations. They were all so full of wonder, joy, and the desire to take on any challenge thrown their way. Having been a boy scout myself, I can assure you that these girls wanted to get out and explore just as much as boys their age would. Nothing made them happier than getting to go on a new adventure. Perhaps the best part of my time as leader was the moment when a girl first discovered something that she was truly passionate about.
I tried my best to give them a wide variety of activities, because what can be fun and exciting for one kid might be mind-numbingly boring for another. One of the great things about younger kids is that they are happy to give just about anything a try with little cynicism or skepticism. Because of this, I was able to convince them to try out things that a girl in elementary school might not typically be expected to enjoy.
Over the years I have seen these girls take on so many challenges and new experiences, and have taken great pleasure in seeing their joy when they accomplish something that they likely never would have considered doing on their own. It started out with simple, small activities like hiking an easy trail. Soon we began hiking more difficult and longer trails, and eventually the troop was able to complete a hike to some of the highest peaks of Adirondacks Mountains. Every expectation I had for these girls was quickly surpassed, and I was always filled with immense pride.
Of course not every girl is interested in hiking and exploring the outdoors, just as every boy would not be interested in those types of events. My youngest daughter is proving to be quite a film fanatic, and it’s been fantastic to see her passion grow, even if I know little to nothing about it myself. We’re learning together, and that has been a blast. Similarly, there are girls in the troop interested in sports, nature, fashion, and some have even found they love building robots.
That’s right, I am the leader of a Girl Scout troop that builds robots. It all started when I took my daughters to the State Fair, and we saw a display from the FIRST Tech Robotics Challenge, which is a world organization with a mission to bring science, technology, and math to kids by giving them the chance to create their own robot.
The second my oldest daughter saw the robots her eyes lit up, and it immediately became clear this would have to become a part of her life. We introduced the idea to the rest of the troop, and the response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. It is unlikely most of these girls would have considered the idea of building an actual robot on their own, yet once it was presented to them they could not get enough. We are currently in the First Tech Robotics Challenge competition, and getting to this point took months of hard work from the girls. And I guarantee you our robot will be awesome.
Being a troop leader has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. At times it is hard, and doing it well takes a lot of work. But if you are willing to put in the work, I guarantee that you will love it more than you could imagine. Getting to witness these girls grow into strong, intelligent women has been an absolute privilege, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Whether you have a son or daughter or both, I would highly encourage you to consider being a troop leader. You will not regret it.
But even if the Girls Scouts isn’t for you and your daughter, make sure that you are doing everything you can to encourage your child to find and pursue their own passion. Let them try new things. Support them when they decide to do something unexpected, because you never know what will make your kid’s eyes light up, and nothing beats that.
Scott Van Allen has been a troop leader for 13 years. He spent 6 years in the submarine Navy, including a year in Antarctica.