Lankford, Mitchell reflect on Girl Scouts experiences

Maya Waid, Editor-in-Chief

When she first joined troop #515 a little over 10 years ago, senior Emma Lankford was excited to collect badges and sell cookies. However, over time she has risen from a first-year Brownie to the role of Ambassador. Lankford’s experiences with her troop have allowed her to develop new passions and introduced her to new opportunities. 

I started my journey in Girl Scouts for very superficial reasons. The first was that I loved the idea of earning and collecting badges. Also, I had seen door-to-door cookie sales on Max and Ruby when I was a kid and used to try to sell baked goods on my own before joining Girl Scouts. If that was still my only motivation to stay in [Girl] Scouts after all these years I would have quit a very long time ago,” Lankford said. 

Through her years in Girl Scouts, Lankford has been able to take advantage of the opportunity to develop her passion for the environment through various Girl Scout activities. 

“I have always been passionate about nature and the environment. The community that I found in Girl Scouts allowed me to be able to spend time outdoors camping, hiking and doing community service,” Lankford said. “Also, the bonds that I have with my other troop mates are so important to me. The activities as well as the friends I’ve made along the way truly made my experience in Scouts invaluable.”

Lankford’s passion for nature has led her to earn many awards and badges such as her Bronze, Silver and Gold awards. For all of her achievements, Lankford worked on various projects in the community; however she is most proud of her Eco Advocate badge that she earned in 2020. 

“To fulfill the requirements for [the Eco Advocate] badge, I was required to research an issue I was passionate about, talk to experts and advocate for it in some way. I looked into agricultural nutrient pollution because I am very passionate about the Chesapeake Bay. I wanted to advocate for best management practices (BMPs) that would reduce the pollution entering the Bay. I ended up speaking with area farmers that have implemented BMPs like riparian buffers, cattle fencing and water troughs and conducted studies on their efficacy. After that and some more research, I developed my own action plan and discussed it with college professors and faculty that specialize in environmental conservation,” Lankford said.

Similar to Lankford, senior Amelia Mitchell has also shared some of these experiences. Mitchell first started Girl Scouts in 2008, and has been an active member for 13 years. She originally started due to her mom’s involvement with Girl Scouts, but is grateful for all of the opportunities provided. 

“Girl Scouts has given me a lot of opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. For example, traveling to other countries and across the U.S.,” Mitchell said. “I have participated in a lot of events, a lot of them were camping trips and camperees. As for projects, I have completed both my Bronze and Silver [awards] and am currently working on my Gold, which [is] a community service project.”

Due to COVID-19, Mitchell’s Gold award service project was put on hold, but she hopes to return and finish the project soon. 

“Currently the hardest challenge is finishing my Gold award [project]. It was put on pause for a while because of [COVID-19]. I am creating an earthen cob bench with a roof out of reused or natural resources to be a talking piece for an outdoor classroom to be an example of sustainability,” Mitchell said. 

Like Mitchell, Lankford’s greatest challenge thus far in her Girl Scouts experience was working on her Gold award project and managing her time responsibility. 

“My Gold Award project posed the greatest challenge. It was really hard trying to balance my schoolwork and trips to Thomas Harrison Middle School (THMS) to work with the students. I had to coordinate with the students’ schedules, the agendas the teachers had laid out and my own schedule. Honestly, it was very hard to make everything work, especially when I couldn’t drive myself to and from THMS, but I am so glad that I didn’t use it as an excuse to give up,” Lankford said. 

Mitchell also does girl scouts alongside her mom, who is her troop leader. Mitchell feels that she has gained many leadership skills from learning from her troop and troop leaders. 

“My mom is also heavily involved [in my troop], she stepped up to be my troop’s leader,” Mitchell said. “Girl Scouts is a lot about leadership and how to work with others. [Both] of those skills will be a big help to me later on in life.”

Lankford has shared a similar experience in her Girl Scouts years that has allowed her to develop her relationship with her mom. 

“My whole family is very supportive of my Girl Scouts projects, but my mom is definitely the most involved. Over the years, many people have dropped out of our troop and parent volunteers have dwindled. Since Girl Scouts requires two adults for every camping trip, my mom often step[s] into the role of the second adult for us to be able to travel or hike. She is definitely supportive of all of my Scouting endeavors,” Lankford said. 

Over her 13 years in her troop, Mitchell has her fair share of favorite memories and moments from her traveling adventures with her troop.

“One of my favorite memories was on our trip to Savannah, Georgia, [which is] where the founder of Girl Scouts was born. My troop was getting ice cream and we all thought that one of the guys selling ice cream was cute and were discussing this outside the store while trying to take a photo. My mom thought this was silly and decided to just go in and ask for a photo. When she went inside everyone in my troop scattered out of embarrassment. My mom even managed to get their names. In the end we couldn’t stop laughing with how ridiculous the situation was,” Mitchell said. 

Due to her many valuable experiences, Lankford struggles with picking out what she will take away from her years in her troop.

“It’s hard to pinpoint any specific things that I will take away from my time in Scouts because so many of them are deeply ingrained. I think the biggest thing that I will continue to keep in mind is a saying I’ve heard in Scouts for years: leave every place better than you found it. We were taught that by picking up trash at campsites, but the applications of the lesson extend far beyond,” Lankford said. “Essentially, I will take away that I have the power to make the change I want to see and it is my responsibility to do so.”

Both Lankford and Mitchell have enjoyed their time in Girl Scouts, and recommend that any younger Girl Scout stick with it and stay involved.

“Keep on working hard and stay focused. I would also tell them to start their Gold awards early because the projects will take a while and will be even harder to complete during their senior year,” Mitchell said.

As her involvement in girls scouts comes to a close, Lankford looks back fondly on her times in the troop.

“My favorite cookies are Lemonades and I will forever be sad that they are permanently discontinued,” Lankford said.