Almost 13 years ago, a cup of coffee introduced Girl Scout volunteer Patricia Cruz to the organization. Actually, it wasn’t the coffee, but a coffee date. Patricia had plans to connect with a friend over said coffee, but first the friend wanted to swing by a Girl Scout meeting because her daughter was interested.
Long story short, Patricia also liked what she heard so she signed her daughters up as well. The girls loved it and the following year, Carrollton’s director called and asked to chat with her. In that call, the director mentioned that the leader wasn’t coming back and asked if Patricia would take on the Troop Leader role for Troop 954.
At the time, the troop was made up of first and second graders - many of whom stayed with the Troop through high school. At the end of 3rd grade, that troop stayed with Carrolton and Patricia created Troop 918 as the girls aged into the new campus. The troop continued to grow and at one point there were 50 girls.
On seeing girls grow in Girl Scouts
The older girls gain a lot by helping the younger girls. The younger girls are inspired by the older girls. When Cristina [Patricia’s daughter] earned her Gold Award, younger girls came to the ceremony and were inspired by what the older girls accomplished.
Girl Scouts is a sisterhood. It’s just as valuable for older girls as it is for the younger girls. It’s so impactful for them to meet.
Patricia’s favorite thing about being a Girl Scout Leader
I am so 100% committed to what Girl Scouts is all about, I love having that opportunity to make that difference. It gives me the opportunity to change the world around me. We create leaders in every area. The experience that they have allows them to be a leader in their specific field.
These girls are doing amazing things. What they’ve done is amazing across the board. There’s no box to put it in, it’s just amazing.
On introducing girls to female leaders
I took five girls from my troop to the Cafecito event last year with Silvia Acevedo and they were so inspired by her story. That connection really sparked the fire inside them to say “I can do this. I can be a physicist and be a leader and approachable and fun.”
You’d be surprised just how impacted they are to have the opportunities to meet women like that
On providing a gender-exclusive environment
All my kids have gone to single gender schools. That single-sex, gender-focused education, allows the girls to be not the cheerleader but the sports stars. When you have boys in the mix it impacts how they think they should behave. When it’s just all girls, they fill every slot - from musicians to scientists. They start to realize, “my gender has nothing to do with what I can do.”
They are the ones doing everything in this environment and it becomes the norm for them.
On creating experiences for girls
The fact that you can change girls lives by exposing them to what Girl Scouts is all about. Even if it’s just a little field trip. Girl Scouts allows girls to see things, experience things and imagine things that they wouldn’t be exposed to, if not for Girl Scouts. Way back when, we took a field trip where the girls got to meet the actors from broadway. One girl was so inspired that she realized she wanted to be an actor.
They wouldn’t see these things otherwise. 95% of my girls would never go camping if I didn’t take them. They wouldn’t meet CEOs of companies, or meet other Gold Award Girl Scouts. They wouldn’t meet pilots like they did in the Women in Aviation.
And to give them that sisterhood. My oldest daughter really enjoyed that sisterhood. Now in college, she sees a lot of girls that she goes to school with that have a victim mentality - they think they can’t do something because they are a girl.
Advice for women considering becoming a Girl Scout Volunteer
As a leader, you can make it whatever you want to make it. Some leaders are very artistic, some leaders love the outdoors. You can make it as big as you want or as focused as you like. Even if you only meet once a month, that once a month changes their lives. Girl Scouts is an opportunity to change girls lives. Those small moments that you think are insignificant, alter girls lives in a life changing way.
I not only mentor the girls, I also like to mentor new leaders. To help empower them. Our community is really close - we can call each other and help each other. Just like we’re there for the girls, we are there for the troop leaders as well.