Twelve years after I first learned the chant, my troop and I still stand in a circle facing each other, each holding up three fingers on our right hands, and recite the Girl Scout promise.
People are often surprised when I tell them I’m in Girl Scouts.
“Still?” they say, “I didn’t know you could be a Girl Scout in high school.”
I don’t blame people for thinking this either because the there aren’t many high school-age Girl Scouts. Sure, we might be few and far between, but if we’ve been in the organization for 12+ years, there must be a reason for it.
I joined Girl Scouts as a “Daisy” halfway through my Kindergarten year. My blue smock looked regrettably similar to those of the cafeteria lunch monitors so my primary memory of being a Daisy was being called “Miss Monitor” by other Kindergarteners.
However, things turned up for my Scouting career. The following year I was a Brownie and I had more friends in my troop. We did very Girl Scout-y things: camping, selling cookies, and learning to tie knots so that we could get patches for our vests/sashes.
By the time we got to middle school, our troop was considerably smaller. Those who remained were the girls who really cared about Girl Scouts. Our troop represented six or seven different middle schools, which is a lot when you consider there were maybe only eleven of us in the troop. We decided to move our focus away from patches and other Girl Scout things to focus on what we really loved: camping.
The next seven years I camped at pretty much every state park in Central Texas and even some further away. Camping with my Girl Scout troop has produced some of my favorite memories and best friends: going caving, backpacking, playing MASH in the tent, eating homemade granola on bitter cold mornings. We used to have this game called “caterpillar” we would play if it was cold, in which we would all completely zip ourselves up inside our sleeping bags and roll around until we got warm.
When you get to high school, Girl Scouts presents you with even more opportunity, which is why it makes me sad that so many people aren’t even aware Girl Scouts exists for high schoolers.
During winter break of my sophomore year of high school, I got the privilege to go on a Girl Scout Destination to India. Girl Scout Destinations are international trips reserved just for high school Girl Scouts. Since there aren’t many of us, Girl Scout Councils will often give big scholarships for these trips to encourage girls to go on these trips.
Going to India was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The only way I can describe it is as a radiant, colorful party. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so confused and awestruck in my entire life but I also don’t think I’ve ever learned so much in two weeks as I did in India.
We traveled around different parts of India, but my favorite part was staying at the Girl Scout World Center in Pune, India. There are four Girl Scout World Centers around the world, and they’re basically like international camps that any Girl Scout from any part of the world can stay in.
While we were at the World Center in India, known as Sangam, I met Girl Scouts from Canada, India, Australia, and the UK. However these World Centers are also very true to the culture in which they are located. At Sangam, you eat traditional Indian food and dress in traditional Indian garb. We did yoga in the mornings and took a dance class (Bollywood style, of course) in the evenings. We even took rickshaws (one of the scariest moments of my life) to go shopping for clothing on the main high street in Pune.
What’s so incredible to me that literally across the world, I found the same welcoming Girl Scout community that I have back in Austin. Not unlike organizations such as the United Nations or the International Olympics Committee, Girl Scouts fosters an international community where despite who you are or where you’re from, we’re all equals representing our troops, our councils, and our countries.
For the first time in over twelve years, I won’t re-register in the fall as a Girl Scout. My troop’s number will retire and eventually go to a new group of girls. But I feel some solace in knowing that another girl will wear my troop’s numbers on her sash and hold up her three fingers in reciting the Girl Scout promise.