Ligonier Girl Scout troop has unique goals of planning, funding trips
They know where they want to go. They just need to raise the money to get there.
The destination is Savannah, Ga. — the hometown of the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low. A group of local Girl Scouts — the travel troop known as the Traveling Ladies of Ligonier — plans places to visit and takes care of finding the funding to pay for it.
On a recent Saturday afternoon the girls, their parent advisors and troop leader gathered like they do pretty much once a month to discuss the plan for the upcoming Savannah trip, scheduled for July 2018, starting with where and when the next fundraiser will be. These money makers are in addition to the annual Girl Scout Cookie sales that all troops do.
“This is a very unique troop,” says troop leader Lori Fitzgibbon, from Ligonier. “These girls learn planning skills and get to make decisions on what they will do on a trip. They get to visit new places and learn while they travel. That new skill the girls will learn will stay with them and drive them to continue and want to learn more.”
Fitzgibbon says the girls, who are in 5th to 12th grade, learn how to problem solve as they plan what to do when — and also get a handle on how to budget their money, all essential life skills.
They’ve already organized a formal Snow Flake Dance for Feb. 10. 2018 at Fairfield Fire Hall in New Florence, and this year the Boy Scouts will be invited. The girls have begun collecting 10 recipes each for a cookbook they plan to sell. Entries can come from family, friends, neighbors — anyone they know — as long as they have the information by Nov. 15. They also plan to host a Basket Party in the spring as an additional money maker.
When planning a trip, they decide most of the details of the activities and events as well as daily agendas and modes of transportation with the final approval of their parent advisors Gwen Whidden, Tawnia Nixon, Kathy Sheaffer and Heidi King, as well as the troop leader Lori Fitzgibbon.
“Having events like these help us with the expenses of our trips,” says Whidden, mother of Girl Scout Jessica Way, a 6th grader from Greensburg. “We get to keep all the money we raise. The girls have been talking about this Savannah trip for a long time. It’s going to be exciting.”
In June, they traveled to Niagara Falls, N.Y., for four days where they got a close up look at the waterfalls on the Maid of the Mist boat tour — a must-see attraction, they say.
They are searching for the must-see places to visit in Savannah, and while doing their research, they’ve found that it’s a city with lots to do — starting with a tour of the house where Low grew up, which is open to the public.
In 1912, Low founded Girl Scouts of the USA, an organization that today serves millions of members and alumnae. A meeting that year with Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts, inspired her to establish Girl Scouts.
While in Savannah, the travel troop is also considering taking a dolphin tour, strolling around the city, walking along River Street and Tybee Island as well as visiting the Natural History and Science Museum.
In addition to the fundraisers and travel schedule, they found time this fall to attend a camp — Skymeadow in Armstrong County — with other Girl Scouts from Ligonier from Fitzgibbon’s service unit. Many of the travel girls also belong to another Girl Scout troop.
New members are always welcome to join the travel troop, Fitzgibbon says.
“I don’t have a daughter, but I really enjoy being part of this,” says Fitzgibbon, who has a 20-year-old son.
“When a girl travels with Girl Scouts, she gets an amazing trip with her friends, learns invaluable skills and builds confidence,” says Katie Thompson, vice president of Girl Program at Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania. “Girl Scouting is girl-led, so girls spend months goal-setting, raising funds, and creating the itinerary, from accommodations to transportation. When the trip is done, girls have experiences that inspire their next adventures and the confidence to embark on them.”
Being able to learn about the history of Girl Scouts in Savannah will be an added plus to the trip, says Victoria King, a senior at Derry Area Senior High School.
“We all get to vote on our ideas and help make the decision of what to do and where to go,” Victoria King says. “Sometimes there are things you have to do, even though you don’t want to do, but that comes with being part of a group.”
She loves being part of Girl Scouts and working with the younger girls.
“It’s about giving back, and I can share things I have experienced with them,” says Victoria King, who has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten. “I definitely want to stay involved with girl scouts as an adult.”
Elise Sheaffer, a 6th grader from Ligonier, likes visiting places outside of Western Pennsylvania. “We get to travel everywhere and go to events and see places that are different from where we live,” she says.
“I like that we get to plan our own trips,” says Sophia Nixon, a 7th grader from Bolivar. “We have more places we want to go, but we need to see what our budget is and plan accordingly. We get to meet new people on trips. We are excited for Savannah, and we have wanted to go there for a long time. Every time we meet as a group we learn more things about each other and ourselves.”
Staying in a hotel adds to the trip because it is not every day they get to do that, so it’s fun to explore the property, says Alyssa Wolf, a 6th grader from Derry.
“When we went to Niagara Falls and rode on the Maid of the Mist, it was cool because we were so close to the falls,” she says. “When you go on trips they are so much fun you don’t even notice you are learning.”
“When you go on a travel troop trip you know that you have helped raise money to get there and that is satisfying,” says Jessica Way. “You learn you have to work for things you want.”
Girl Scouts from tiny Daisies to teen Ambassadors may earn 23 new badges focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
It’s the largest addition of new badges in a decade for Girl Scouts of the USA. The effort takes a progressive approach to STEM and also nudges girls to become citizen scientists using the great outdoors as their laboratory.
Among the new badges are those that introduce kindergarten and first graders to the world of robots and engineering. Scouts can learn basic programming and build prototypes to solve everyday problems. Older scouts will have the chance to enhance those skills, learning more about artificial intelligence, algorithms and how to formally present their work.
Other new badges focus on race car and aviation design using kits from GoldieBlox, a girl-focused toy company. The “leave no trace” approach to interacting with the environment and the study of meteorology by learning to predict weather patterns and potential hazards are among activities geared to new outdoors badges.
The scouts, which are 1.8 million strong in the U.S., have offered such opportunities in the past but consider the new badges and related programming a major push.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review fashion writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .