By Jennifer Gottesfeld, 13, Horace Mann MS
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When someone thinks about Girl Scouts, they often think about little girls running up to their house and asking if they want to buy any cookies. But that isn’t the only thing that Girl Scouts do, and you don’t need to be little to be in the Girl Scouts. I’ve been a Girl Scout from first to eighth grade. It’s not just a little girl thing, it’s a community service organization and a gathering of friends.

Last meeting, I rang the doorbell to my leader’s house in North Hollywood. I was greeted with a hug. I sat down and my friends started asking me about school, and what I’ve been doing. Even though we only see each other once every two weeks they know all about me. I have known most of the eight girls for at least five years, if not more. We all sat down to eat bagels and cream cheese, and we started talking about school and friends and teachers. After snack, we practiced writing resumes to prepare for getting jobs, now that we are going to high school. We each wrote a mock resume about ourselves. Then our leader, Marcia, interviewed each of us and asked us about different things listed on the resume. Even though Girl Scouts does things for the community, it prepares us for life. I didn’t really realize how hard it was to write things about myself. It’s hard to list my strengths and what I’ve done. I will probably use a lot of the things I wrote on this mock resume for my real one. By the time we were done with the interviews it was the end of the meeting. We all left giving each other big hugs and promising we will keep in touch over the Internet until next time.

We also have done numerous things for the community. We have painted over graffiti in a project called Operation Sparkle. We picked up garbage in and around schools. We have gone to day care centers for underprivileged children on Valentines Day and did lots of activities with them. We decorated cookies with sprinkles, and drew Valentines with them. We hid little candy hearts all around the room and then let them find them. It was a great feeling to have one of the kids run up to me during the candy search and proudly show me that they had found one! After that we went to a homeless shelter and decorated cookies and cakes with them. We also gathered things from our homes and donated it to the shelter. We have gone to food packing plants and packed food that was distributed to the homeless.

There are many different levels of Girl Scouts: Daisies who are the youngest, then Brownies, and Juniors and right now I am a Cadet. When we were younger, our leaders made most of our decisions, like which homeless shelter we would help at. They made most of our arrangements for us. Now that we are older, gradually the responsibility is being placed in our hands.

As we got older, we started to discuss the Silver Award. The Silver Award is recognition we get after completing a long-term community service project. We need to do something to improve the community. The planning of the project usually takes months or even years to plan and put together, and an even longer time to be carried out. At first we thought of building a park near a poor neighborhood that didn’t have one so that kids could have somewhere to play. But because of the financial issue we decided to do something a little less expensive, and where we could interact with people and make a difference in their lives directly. Our decision was to adopt a shelter. We will raise money for the shelter, spend time with them, make donations, entertain them and fix up the place. Now all we need to do is find the place we are going to "adopt."

We do other things besides community service. We also have fun. This year we got Russian pen pals. Each girl in the troop has two or three pen pals. We send them letters and gifts. Last winter we made them snow caps. The first letter I got was from a girl who was my age. Her name is Ksenia, and she’s 14. She didn’t know what Girl Scouts was. I told her about the different things that we do. We all read our letters out loud to each other. One of the girls pen pals told her that her favorite band was the Spice Girls. We were all surprised that the bands popular here are popular all over the world. Their English was very good. They had hardly any mistakes with grammar and spelling. The second time I got a letter from a boy named Maxim. He told me about his family, and it was interesting to find that his whole family, including his grandmother lived together in one house. The letter came with a beautiful drawing of a Christmas tree and people ice skating because it was right around Christmas time. It takes about a month for the letter to get there and another month to get it back. I still haven’t heard back from either of them, but I look forward to getting their letters soon.

Aside from that, we planned a one day adventure called Destination Unknown for a bunch of Brownies. We planned for six months. We sent out flyers to the different troops asking if they wanted to participate. We got a great response, and 100 girls came to the event. The reason it’s called Destination Unknown is because none of the girls know where we are going until we get there. We ordered a bus large enough to fit 120 people, including ourselves and their troop leaders, ordered 120 sandwiches from Subway and decided where we were going to take them. We took them to the I-Max theater and saw a movie about the ocean. The girls had fun trying to grab the 3D fish as they swam by. Then we broke for lunch and ate in a park across the street. After that we broke into groups, 10 girls for each one of us. We went to the Science Museum and walked around for the rest of the day. Some crazy things happened, like Elizabeth, one of the girls in my troop, lost her whole group because they all scattered about, but of course she found them again. Some of the girls in my group wandered off to the bathroom without telling me and I panicked, but everything ended up okay. I never realized what a hard job it was to look after 10 kids for the afternoon, but being a counselor is fun!

If you have done enough community service and gotten enough badges, being in girl scouts is great recognition for college. Girls usually join because their friends are in it, they are very young and think it’s going to be fun, which it is! But they stay, because of what they get to do. I don’t stay because it’s a nice thing to have on a college application, or even because I get to spend extra time with my old friends. I stay because I love getting the satisfaction of making a difference, and that is what girl scouts is all about. Taking the first step to changing the world and doing it with your friends makes it even better.