We recently sat down with Girl Scout Alumna, Wanda Hewitt to talk about her Girl Scout experiences and how that helped shape the woman she has become. Throughout her time with Girl Scouts Wanda has served the organization with grace, dedication and warmth.
Wanda was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. She received her education in the Catholic schools of Orleans Parish-Holy Ghost, Xavier Preparatory High School and Xavier University. Showing her G.I.R.L. spirit early on, Wanda was honored as a National Merit Scholar in 12th grade and she was voted “Miss Xavier” at the university in 1961.
After graduating from university, Wanda began her career as an elementary school teacher at Florence J. Chester Elementary in New Orleans. Prior to school starting, the staff assembled for a faculty meeting, and the principal announced that Wanda would be the Assistant Girl Scout Leader at the school. This was the start of her decades-long relationship with Girl Scouts.
Because of her involvement with Girl Scouts in her community, Zeta Phi Beta Incorporated - the Beta Tau Zeta chapter honored Wanda with their “Finer Womanhood” award. She also served as Gamma Zeta Omega Chapter’s chairman of the “Emerging Young Leaders” initiative involving middle school girls. This program won first place at their regional conference in 2015.
Q: How long were you a Girl Scout?
A: I have been an active, participating, life-time member of this organization for over fifty (50) years.
Q: What is your favorite Girl Scout memory?
A: My favorite Girl Scout memory is the summer of 1996 when I, along with two adult Girl Scout volunteers accompanied nine older Girl Scouts on a 32-day backpacking adventure through Switzerland. Our final destination was “Our Chalet” one of the Girl Scout World Centers. We traveled using a Swiss rail pass and we stayed at youth hostels meeting young people from all over the world.
In Lucerne we walked across the covered bridge and rode the train up to Pilatus, a mountain overlooking Lucerne in central Switzerland. We also visited the historic Red Cross Museum in Geneva.
During our trip we went to the Scout shop in Bern and rode to Italy one day for lunch. Jungfrau, a region in the Alps, was spectacular. When we finally arrived at “Our Chalet”, the girls did the Chalet Challenge-bathing in a glacier stream. They learned the history of Adelboden, the town where “Our Chalet” is located. There were many more experiences at this World Center.
Q: Can you tell me about a moment in your career that you are proud of, and how your experience in Girl Scouts helped you achieve that goal?
A: I was the United Teachers of Dade steward for many years and also chaired many school committees. I continued to grow by getting my masters degree in Administration and Supervision and also a Specialist degree in Elementary Education from Nova University. At this time in my life I knew I was a G.I.R.L. – go-getter, innovator, a risk-taker, leader. Thank you Girl Scouts.
Q: Can you tell me about a time where your experience in Girl Scouts helped you overcome adversity?
A: Growing up in New Orleans before and during the civil rights movement in the 60’s, I witnessed “colored” and “white only” signs throughout the city and lived the segregated life. After marrying and moving to Miami in 1964, I started a Girl Scout troop at Charles Drew Elementary School. During the 1969-1970 school year, the Dade County Public Schools integrated the faculties. The schools were closed for a week while the teachers went through sensitivity training classes. These were very difficult times for both groups because we were sent to schools far away from our neighborhoods to new environments and situations. We had to stay for the remainder of the school year.
Girl Scouting had prepared me for this new experience. I had represented the GSTF at many events including the United Way presentations; visiting our founder Juliette Low’s home in Savannah, GA.
Through the years there were many more experiences that built my confidence, like attending Girl Scout training/workshops at Macy’s in New York, Arizona and Rutgers University and serving as a delegate at several Girl Scout Conventions. I also opened my house to being a cookie warehouse (over 1000 cases). I earned the Thanks Badge for single-handedly chairing/organizing IXORA Neighborhood (1,000 girls) encampments for many years at T.Y. Park in Broward County and I served as board member for over 20 years. I attended twelve of the fundraisers held on Fisher Island and played an integral part when GSTF hosted the national convention in Miami in 1990.
If you saw the minority face on the front cover of the 1990 Girl Scout calendar, that was me. I can wholeheartedly say that the Girl Scout organization accepts everyone. Girl Scouting is open to all girls and women who want to join.
Q: If you could give girls today one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: You can do anything and be anybody that you choose to be. Stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize.
Q: What is your favorite Girl Scout Cookie?
A: Thin Mints