The forgotten years: Girl Scouts after elementary school

Casey Muzykansky

More stories from Casey Muzykansky

March 2022
March 24, 2022

The Girl Scout symbol has been around since the 1920s.

‘Tis the season! Elementary school girls stand behind a wall of cookies on a table. When imagining Girl Scouts, plenty of people see elementary school girls, walking up and down neighborhood streets, knocking on doors and selling cookies. There are many different ways of being a Girl Scout, especially as scouts begin to age.

For older scouts, there have been many years of growth from just field trips and selling cookies. Junior Liv Balicki talked about her experiences as an older scout.

“Ever since elementary school, we were taught all of the positive qualities of being a Girl Scout. Overall it made me a better person. The service projects opened my eyes to many issues going on in the world and how it impacts our community and how fortunate I am,” Balicki said.

After many years, many troops have broken up because numerous people stopped their scout program as they left elementary school, but Balicki’s troop, troop number 51060, has mostly stuck together throughout the past ten years.

“I’ve gotten to stay close with my friends from elementary school including people I don’t normally see anymore which is fun because we get together and do projects together,” she said.

DGN student Greta Serniute is also a member of troop 51060 and has her own positive aspects of continuing scouts for so long.

“I have been able to express myself through working on service projects. I can incorporate my own unique skills in my projects such as art,” Serniute said.

Throughout elementary school and the different levels of being a Girl Scout, the program is more concrete. There are a lot of parts in scout troops that are led by the troop leader at that age, but most of that becomes the scouts responsibility once they go into the senior level or as they progress into high school. Assistant Troop Leader Amy Balicki explained how her role has changed as the scouts have grown older.

“My role has changed as the girls in the troop have gotten older. When they were younger I would help the leader as she planned regular activities and field trips for each of the meetings. As they’ve gotten older, the ideas and planning are mainly theirs. Now, I try to help the scouts as they figure out what they want to do and how they want to do it,” Amy Balicki said.

A large aspect of being an older Girl Scout is the journeys and awards scouts are eligible for. They play a very large role in service to the community, starting at just 10 years old. Of course before then there are small things that scouts can do, but in the fourth grade starts journeys and the bronze award which can lead all the way to the end of the sixth grade.

Serniute describes her bronze award adventure.

“We raised funds to buy the West Suburban Humane Society books for their program, in which children come into the shelter and practice their reading skills by reading a picture book to the shelter animals,” she said.

A Girl Scout Journey is a task in which the scouts dig deeper into their interests and learn skills they will then bring back to the community. There are many types of journeys that can be done, on all different scales. For example, troop 51060 did a journey where they stood outside of Jewel Osco and taught outgoing customers about the importance of filling their tires and giving them instructions on how to.

After the Girl Scout Journey comes the actual service projects scouts must complete to get their awards.

For Cadettes, middle school scouts, they must complete a Cadette specific journey before beginning the process of developing a silver award project. They then develop their service projects and produce their plans, going on to complete their Silver Awards. The scouts are able to work on this project with others in their troop.

Liv Balicki thought back on her own time working on her silver award project.

“We went to a food bank for our silver award and we were able to donate fresh fruit like strawberries which they had never seen before. It was really pleasant to see the smile on her face when our troop brought in those strawberries,” Balicki said.

As scouts grow older they become even more independent, going on to do their Gold Award as Girl Scout Ambassadors, late high school students. They must complete two Ambassador Journeys, or have completed The Silver Award and at least one Ambassador Journey. This award is to be done alone, but looked over by an adult. Many scouts in troop 51060 are in the process of this award right now.

Amy Balicki describes her feelings about troop 51060.

“The troop has very much impacted the community. They’ve done so much volunteer work through the years, from picking up trash on the playground, to helping the West Suburban Humane Society with their goals to teach people about the beneficial environmental impact of keeping their tires inflated, to ensuring the clients at the FISH Food Pantry have fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m so proud of them. They choose to use their free time helping others and trying to make the world a better place,” Amy Balicki said.

For those scouts who stayed in their troops for as long as possible, there is leadership and pride that comes from all of the experiences. Girl Scouts has impacted many people and will continue to as long as scouts carry on the Girl Scout legacy others have left behind.