Elaine and Olivia Bring Girl Scouting Back to Belleville, New Jersey
At age five, Olivia wanted to waste no time jumping into adventure and leadership. She wanted to become a Girl Scout Daisy and begin the journey of a lifetime. Without a local Daisy troop she could join, her mother Elaine knew exactly what she had to do—take the lead, form a troop, and become a volunteer! And that’s when Troop 22912 out of Girl Scouts of Heart of New Jersey was born.
“Honestly, I was petrified of being a troop leader. I didn’t know anybody. I didn’t know what to do,” Elaine said. “But there is a wealth of ideas online. One thing I learned from training with Girl Scouts is that it’s all about the girls," Elaine said. "They bring their ideas to the table and you just guide them, give them ideas, but it’s not all coming from you. It’s helping them execute their own ideas. That’s leadership the Girl Scout way."
"They bring their ideas to the table and you just guide them, give them ideas, but it’s not all coming from you. It’s helping them execute their own ideas. That’s leadership the Girl Scout way.”
As a two-person troop, in 2015, Elaine and Olivia went full-force into their Belleville, New Jersey, community by attending events, participating in service projects, and making their faces known and voices heard. They even got a burnt down park rebuilt. "I always drive by a park that was burned down, and I asked my mom what was that before?" Olivia said. "She told me it used to be a park. So I told her, how can I fix it? She wrote the letter [to the mayor] because I didn’t know how to write yet, saying that I wanted the park rebuilt. They rebuilt the park and it made me feel good that I did something good for the community."
Soon, other girls in the community started noticing all the amazing things Olivia was doing as a Girl Scout, and began showing interest in becoming Girl Scouts themselves. By the end of their first year as the unstoppable Girl Scout/volunteer duo, Elaine and Olivia had recruited 30 new girls to their troop. Today, Troop 22912 is made up of a steady 27 multilevel Girl Scouts, from Daisies all the way up to Cadettes.
Now a Brownie, Olivia loves camping, STEM, and robotics. Elaine attributes a large part of that to her involvement in Girl Scouts.
“I absolutely see her world getting bigger because of Girl Scouting."
Now a Brownie, Olivia loves camping, STEM, and robotics. Elaine attributes a large part of that to her involvement in Girl Scouts. “I absolutely see her world getting bigger because of Girl Scouting," Elaine said. "[In 2015, Olivia] went to one of the robotics training sessions, and she came back super excited about with the DNA extraction of a strawberry. "She was like, ‘Look mom! Look what I did! The DNA of a strawberry!,'" Elaine explained. "I knew nothing about robotics, to be honest, but everything I know now is because my daughter was interested, she went to this Girl Scouting event, came back and researched a ton of things on the computer, and now she keeps telling me, ‘Mom, I need to go to this, I need to go to that.’”
Thanks to Girl Scouts, Olivia also had the amazing opportunity to be part of a recent Disney television spot on leadership. “I remember the day we got an email saying that Olivia had been chosen to do this leadership spot on the Disney Channel. Talk about an O-M-G moment! She was like, ‘Whaaat?’ So she ran to the car and daddy was like, ‘Whaaat?,’ and we literally all screamed. And here we are. It was a pretty incredible experience for her.”
In addition to her blossoming new interests and the unique experiences she’s been able to have, Olivia has also come out of her shell and found her voice. The Girl Scout experience also had a significant effect on Elaine. “It’s changed me, too. It’s helped me speak up,” she said. “I think I’m doing it to show my daughter that she can’t sit in the back. I was that child in the back, and now I’ve emerged. And it’s really been my daughter who has helped me come up to the front of the room and take action."
Elaine sees this awakening in the other girls, too. She’s witnessed how they come in shy and quiet, and then suddenly they are sharing their plans and their vision—ideas that without Girl Scouts, Elaine feels would just stay in their heads, instead of out in the open, where they can use the ideas to unlock opportunities for themselves and change the world.
“You can’t wait until their high school years to help them come out of the shell. It starts in the Daisy years, when you can show them that girls their age are out there doing and accomplishing goals that they, too, can reach.”
Now, at just eight years old, Olivia is an inspiration to her mother and community. Olivia’s younger sister Penelope, who is two years old, looks up to her shero Olivia and can’t wait to be a Girl Scout just like her. “[Penelope] thinks she’s a Daisy,” Elaine said. “Every time we have a Girl Scouting event, Penelope needs to wear Olivia’s old Daisy tunic. She’s so proud of it. She thinks it’s hers. She calls herself Daisy. Right now she’s my honorary Daisy. I’m looking forward to having both my daughters in Girl Scouts.”
Through her experience as a Girl Scout volunteer and all of the inspiration that Olivia provides, Elaine has become confident in her ability to successfully lead a Girl Scout troop, and she encourages all parents to give it a chance if they have a girl who wants to join Girl Scouts.
“You can totally lead a troop. There’s so much info and support out there, and lots of ideas, too,” Elaine said. “You will benefit, and so will your children. They need you. Go out there. Be a leader. Because it’s not just about your girls, but also about all the other girls in your community who want a place in a troop.”
We are so inspired by Olivia and Elaine and can’t wait to hear where their Girl Scout journey takes them. Thank you for bringing back Girl Scouting to your town. You are doing an amazing job!
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