Monday, December 10, 2012

Susan Gurwitch: Thank You, Girl Scouts.

Susan Gurwitch, COO

I can’t believe its December already!  It seems like 2012 has flown by!  I have been with Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois for about seven months now and I’m so thankful for everything it has brought to my life – an ability to spend more time with my husband and girls, both at home and at Girl Scout events, the confidence that Cooper and Josie have gained from Girl Scout programs, new friends and colleagues, and the chance to be a part of something so valuable to my own community.  When I left the corporate world for GSSI, I never imagined how much I would gain – the ability to see so many people doing such wonderful things, working with staff and volunteers whose hearts are so big and knowing what a difference Girl Scouts can make on our world.
I have also learned the value of volunteerism and of volunteers.  I cannot say enough to thank each and every one of you for all you do for girls.  From Day Camp Directors and volunteers to Service Unit Team Members to Troop Leaders to parents who help at programs … you are all amazing.  The time, effort, and love you give to the girls, parents and staff of GSSI is so appreciated.  It is because of each one of you that our girls get such an amazing experience. 
As we look toward 2013 and all the great things to come, I want to say thank you.  Thank you for being so welcoming and for creating something so wonderful here in Southern Illinois.   Something we can all be proud of!   I look forward to meeting more of you over the next year, hearing your stories and working together to make the world’s premier leadership organization for girls even better!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jessica Stanley: Why Girl Scout Product Programs Matter to Me

Jessica Stanley, Product Program Manager

I just turned 30 years old as the Fall Product Program was ending and it made me take a step back and remember all of my experiences in life thus far.   I graduated from Southern Illinois University Carbondale with a Bachelors of Science in Marketing.  I remember being a freshman in college and being so overwhelmed at all of the options for degrees.  You are 18 and you have to make this major life decision that will affect you for the rest of your life, but how are you supposed to choose the right one for you?  I actually attended three different colleges and changed my major four different times before I found my love and passion for marketing and business. 
That’s why I strongly believe the Girl Scout Product Programs are so beneficial for girls.  Through these programs, girls are learning so many skills that they will be able to use for the rest of their lives.  They get to try new things. They learn business and financial skills that, no matter what career field they go into, they are able to adapt to help them succeed.   Even something as simple as learning how to set a goal and then figuring out how to achieve it makes such a big impact.  I remember a few years ago, taking girls to pick out the rewards that they earned during a Product Program.  One of the girls said to me “I wanted an ipod for a long time.  I saw we could earn one selling cookies, so I said to myself, ‘I am going to get that.”   She was kind of a quiet, humble girl, but you could tell by the look on her face that she was incredibly proud for setting and reaching her goal.  
I am so proud of all of our girls.  I think back to the Annual Meeting last March, when we recognized the girls that sold over 1,000 packages of cookies through the Girl Scout Cookie Program.   Everyone in the room stood up, clapped, and celebrated with them. Realizing that their hard work was admired was a special moment that those girls will remember for the rest of their lives and something that I will also never forget.  It meant so much to them and it puts into perspective how much these girls are gaining from being in Girl Scouting. 
The skills and experiences that girls are learning by participating in Girl Scout Product Programs will help provide them with a variety of experiences to help them understand what they want to do in life.  They will have confidence to know that if they set their mind towards achieving a goal, they will succeed. 
Gabrielle, last year's Top Cookie Seller, grins as she receives a standing ovation
from the crowd at GSSI's 2012 Annual Meeting.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Susan Gurwitch: Two Little Girls, Five Skills

Susan Gurwitch, COO
First of all, thank you to all of you who read last month’s blog and came back to read this one and thanks to those of you who are reading for the first time.  I would love to hear from you!  Suggestions about what blog topics you’d like to see discussed are always appreciated!

This past month, I have been knee deep in GSSI’s Fall Product program, where Girl Scouts sell nuts, candy and magazines to raise funds and learn business skills.  I am lucky to be blessed with a wonderful Product Program Manager, Jessica Stanley, who has been patient with all of my questions and suggestions.  I have learned so much about the program, especially about the 5 Skills that all of the girls who participate will be embracing.   These skills are goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.  I can see for myself that the girls are really enjoying developing these skills and gaining confidence.

It’s funny, at least once a week I get home with my girls and they seem to disappear.  Once I get everything inside (two book bags, two jackets, one briefcase, and multitudes of paper from the school), the doorbell rings.  When I answer, I find two excited little girls practicing their selling techniques.  Josie, my five year old, tells me what her troop will be doing with the dollars earned (having an ice cream party) and lets me know she needs to sell 25 products to meet her goal.  My older daughter, Cooper, tells me about the way the program will help the community if I am interested in helping her troop give to Project Thank You, which sends Girl Scout honey roasted peanuts to U.S. service members.

I never realized how much the girls learn from the candy and cookie programs.  I have watched Cooper’s confidence grow as she talks to neighbors about the products and both of them seem to understand the value of money better.  I am also very lucky to have two great troop leaders (Laura White and Andrea Driver) who are making sure the troop members and parents understand there’s more to the program than just making some money.  Of course, I am also aware some of our parents are concerned about where the money goes when it comes to council. Just so you all know, less than 11% of the funds that come into GSSI go to administration.   As far as Girl Scout councils go, that’s a very low percentage!  Everything else goes to camp upkeep, programs, financial assistance, volunteer training, etc. 

Well, I have to run, the girls are ready to start knocking on doors…

We've been having a blast with GSSI's Fall Product Program!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Angie Suhre: Real Girls Tri...and Win

Angie Suhre, Director of Program

Being active has always been a passion of mine.  I remember playing outside all day as a kid, riding my bike, climbing trees, and creating obstacle courses around our yard.  We were lucky enough to have an awesome swing set in our backyard that I used countless hours.  When middle school approached, the sports offered to me were volleyball and basketball.  Since I loved being active, I signed up for both.  Although I enjoyed playing sports, I discovered quickly I was HORRIBLE at both of the sports offered.  I stuck with it, even though I was always on the ‘B’ team.  At least I was doing something, even if that ‘something’ was sitting on the bench at games. I thought about trying softball or other sports, but after my failed attempts at volleyball and basketball, I figured ‘ball’ sports may not be for me. 

My freshman year in high school, my cousin convinced me to join the track team.  After some resentment, I gave track a whirl.  Low and behold, I LOVED it!  As uncoordinated as I was at ‘team’ sports, I wasn’t too bad on the track.  I spent my high school career running track (the mile and two mile), as well as cross country.  I discovered that running was a sport that I could do as an individual, as well as with a team. 

In college, I majored in Community Health because I wanted to share my love of physical education and healthy living with others.  When I joined the Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois, I was eager to share my love for recreational activities with other Girl Scouts.  I wanted to encourage girls to try something new and different, and maybe spark their interest in a sport or activity.  Girls who are active in sports and recreational activities have greater self-confidence and self-esteem, so it seemed like a natural fit with the Girl Scouts.

Sadly, by middle school, many girls (and boys) drop out of sports such as basketball, softball, or soccer because their skill level is not up to par with other players. Helping them find a physical activity that they enjoy will provide health and wellness benefits throughout their life – which is why Girl Scout programs like Real Girls Tri are so important!  The best part about a triathlon is that, no matter what skill level you are at, you can still challenge yourself.  Many girls do not get the chance to compete in Junior Triathlons; this experience is something unique that GSSI has been able to offer.  It is such a confidence builder for girls to say “I ran in a triathlon.  I finished the race and did the best that I could.  I am a winner.”  It doesn’t matter if the girls came in first or fiftieth, what matters is that they finished. I am so proud of ALL of our girls who competed in the triathlon this year.  I want to congratulate them again for all of their hard work!

GSSI Girl Scouts at Real Girls Tri were all smiles!
Teaching girls about healthy living is one of the key priorities of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.   GSSI offers many programs about fitness, nutrition, positive communication and other necessities of physical and emotional wellbeing.   Do you have a skill or passion that could help promote healthy living to girls in southern Illinois?  Contact Micah Bolandis, Director of Volunteer Management at 800.345.6858 or e-mail

Monday, September 17, 2012

Susan Gurwitch: The Start of My Girl Scout Journey

Susan Gurwitch, COO

It's been 3 months now since I started working at GSSI as the Chief Operating Officer.  It’s been such a great learning experience and I am so excited about everything the Council has to offer.  Not being a life-long Girl Scout, I have come to realize I am in the lucky position of being able to learn all about the Girl Scouts from three very different perspectives - as a member of the GSSI staff, as a mom of two brand new Girl Scouts, and through the eyes of my two girls.  (You might as well get to know my children; they will most likely be a part of this monthly blog.  Cooper is a second grader and has joined an established Brownie troop with a great leader, great parents, and great girls.  Josie is 5, just started kindergarten this week, and will be a Daisy in a brand new troop, also with a wonderful leader.)
In August, I attended my first large council-sponsored program, the Real Girls Tri mini-triathlon.  Real Girls Tri gave over 50 Girl Scouts the opportunity to build courage, confidence and character by swimming, biking and running in a timed-race.  Suggested by the event name, the emphasis of the event was getting girls to try new things.  As I helped set up bikes, some still with training wheels (including Josie’s), for the first transition I was impressed with the enthusiasm and excitement from both the girls and the parents.
Both of my girls participated and I can’t tell you how proud I was in so many ways - so proud to be a part of GSSI and all the good things that are happening for and with the young girls and adult volunteers in our area; so proud of the members of my team (THANK YOU Program Manager Angie Suhre!) who hosted such an amazing event; and as a mother who watched her two babies cross the finish line, receive their medals and feel so good about themselves.  They finished 42nd and 52nd and I am as proud of them for finishing as the mom of the girl who won.  The most touching memory I have is hearing my 5 year old tell me she wanted to quit during the cycling portion but she decided to keep going to “see what it felt like to finish”.  She (and I) was so proud getting her medal earned all on her own.
As we embark on this journey together, looking for ways we can improve our offerings to our girls and volunteers alike, I can assure you I will keep all three perspectives in sight.  I am so honored to be a part of this organization and look forward to working for and with all of you. 
My girls!