Key Largo Troop Leader Lizz Smoak knows first-hand what value Girl Scouts brings. A Girl Scout alumna herself, Lizz not only runs her own business, she’s been leading her own Girl Scout troop since 2015.
“I got involved initially because my daughter wanted to be a Boy Scout,” Lizz recounts. “She got that notion because a boy kept coming to school in his uniform and reciting his pledge. She stuck with it for so long that I realized she was really into this.”
Lizz’s Troop started off with 22 Daisies back in 2015, and grew to 28. Now she has a mixed troop of 20 Brownies and Juniors. Because of Hurricane Irma, they lost some girls as their families relocated after the storm. Although she experienced Hurricane Andrew, the impact of Irma was still unexpected and Lizz and her girls are still feeling the impact of the storm.
The impact of Hurricane Irma
“There are some of our girls who lost absolutely everything and when everyone is impacted then the entire island is looking to rebuild, then it’s harder. When you don’t start strong, you feel like you’re stumbling but we restarted in January,” Lizz says, when asked about the storm. “It was an educational time, which was my favorite part. It was a really difficult period, and in the council, being paired up with troops in Miami, it wasn’t the same normal or the same mindset. But we all came through it, we still had meetings, we still had sales and we knew that if we just kept moving we would get back to the swing of things.”
On creating experiences for Girl Scouts
Lizz is passionate about developing experiences for girls that shows them things they’ve never seen before, and may never see again. This approach is infused in every meeting and event that her troop attends.
“We’re not a construction paper and glue troop. Our meetings aren’t meetings, they are experiences. Every meeting is an event, it’s a major event for these girls. We have enough stresses and scheduling in our lives. It’s just a time for these girls to be able to do what they want, explore how they want without any real rules,” Lizz explains.
“This is a fantasy, our meetings are very fantasy. For example, when we learned survival, we did a Zombie Apocalypse event. The girls dressed up, the volunteers dressed up, they made their own survival kits. It makes it fun, it makes it memorable and it dresses up a kind of ugly topic - survival. We wanted to stretch our kids, and make these things immersive. I just have this theory that if a 25 year old can learn something new, a first grader can do the same thing.”
What volunteerism and mentorship means to Lizz
As a Girl Scout volunteer, Lizz enjoys watching her girls grow and progress. She loves watching as they experience new things and continue to develop their skills.
“What a privilege is it to see these kids grow from little stumbling blocks into leaders. It’s amazing,” she says.
As a volunteer, Lizz finds herself learning from her girls as well. When planning a kids business fair, she asked her girls about their fears about obstacles and bringing their ideas to market. Each one of them said, “nothing.” And this was a valuable reminder to not let fear of obstacles get in the way.
Lizz’s favorite thing about being a Girl Scout Volunteer
Lizz’s daughter is still an active Girl Scout in her troop. And one of Lizz’s favorite things about being a Girl Scout Volunteer is knowing that she’s growing tomorrow’s community of leaders.
“These girls will be my daughter’s peers and I want nothing less than for them to conquer the world. I want to equip them with the emotional tools, the physical tools to do so,” Lizz explains.
Advice for women
“I am not a crafty mom, and I would encourage women who are leaders in their own lives to take advantage to grow leaders,” Lizz says. “It is more than a crafting circle, it’s an opportunity to take part in the leadership of young women, and being the role model that they don’t get to see until much later in their lives.”