What Girl Scout Scholars Taught Me
By Carolina Torres, Lifetime Member of Girl Scouts and GSGNY's “Future Woman of Distinction 2010”
For the past ten years, Girl Scouts of Greater New York has opened doors for me and offered me countless opportunities, each designed to empower girls and women like me. It is a place where I learned skills that will last me a lifetime, developed my independent streak, and indulged my love of learning and exploration. As an active sister, I did it all: earned patches and badges, sold delicious cookies, marched in parades, volunteered in community service projects, and met many girls just like me who want to make a difference.
Although I have been lucky to have been given many unique opportunities in my life so far, a few special ones stand out – and in each of those cases, I have Girl Scouts to thank for them. They changed my life for the better and allowed me to see things in a new light or from a new perspective: traveling to Savannah, Georgia, the birth city of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts; earning my Silver and Gold Awards; becoming the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York’s Future Woman of Distinction 2010; and last, but definitely not least, participating actively for six years in the Girl Scout Scholars Program.
The program made me feel that New York City is indeed the epitome of opportunities! On Saturdays, I would wake up bright and early, eager to go to college for the classes I was taking that year. These were not your typical science or math classes, but they were also not quite college-level courses - they were college prep classes taught by Girl Scout volunteers, teaching a curriculum that my regular school was unable to offer and allowing us to explore a variety of career options I had never considered before. Classes took place at Barnard College in Manhattan and at Long Island University Brooklyn, and experiencing this wonderful environment firsthand motivated us girls to aspire to a return to campus after graduating high school.
I used my chance to the fullest and tried all kinds of classes - from yoga, where I learned how to stretch and bend in ways I had never thought possible before, to creative arts, where I learned how to paint with watercolors and to create my own artwork, to a financial literacy class. This course, sponsored by Bank of America, was one of the most significant courses I took, because I knew I would use what I learned here upon my entry into college - and beyond.
I learned about budgeting and how to manage, save, and spend my money wisely. This is crucially important when it comes to paying tuition for college, owning a credit card, or when I finally get my first full-time paying job and then live on my own as an adult. I was also fortunate enough to earn a scholarship from writing an essay about how this course will benefit me in life – and now that I am in college, I am putting it all to the test!
Girl Scout Scholars taught me skills and lifelong values that I would not have learned in school or from my parents. Having emigrated from the Dominican Republic at a young age with no one to help me overcome the initial language barrier, I learned early on the importance of being independent and of making my own way. Now, with the skills that I learned from taking these classes, I can be a role model for girls in similar circumstances, passing on my knowledge to make the impact I hoped to make from the day I first joined Girl Scouts of Greater New York.