Ann Gearhart has been a member of GSCM’s Gold Award Advisory Panel for the past 9 years. She shared her reflection of what belonging to Girl Scouts has meant to her with Girl Scouts of Central Maryland.
All of the symbolic terminologies of Girl Scouts resonated in my young wondering mind back in the early ‘50s in the Northwood neighborhood of Baltimore. On the outside, I may have appeared the same as other kids on my row house block. But I wasn’t, and I knew it. By today’s terminology my family, my life, would have been clearly identified as dysfunctional. Not fitting in, doing everything as a loner was isolating. The church I walked alone to each week started a Girl Scout Brownie Troop. I asked if I could join? Yes! It was a milestone. I liked everything about the GS experience ~ the leaders, the scouts, the uniform, but especially the realization that I belonged, and a side of me could shine in a new environment. Three things stood out: the pride in wearing my uniform; camping; and the 6th law in Girl Scouting…a Girl Scout is a friend to animals. I learned a great deal about community service, a wide variety of people, and experienced the challenge of earning a wide variety of badges growing from Brownie to older Girl Scout. I could count my success by merits and worked my way through the requirements to First Class and Curved Bar. The Court of Awards was a tremendous honor. This distinction was significant – memorable – but, unfortunately, short-lived.
When my family moved there was no troop for me to continue my scouting experience. I missed all that it had represented – but I was always open to the opportunity to return – and I did!
In the late ‘60s, I was asked to be an assistant leader – the door was opened to reunite with everything scouting had provided in my past towards a new future. Eventually, I became the leader of a Cadette and Senior troop while teaching full time. After many years of leadership, I branched out into my specialties of camping and teaching canoeing. But remember the 6th law of Girl Scouting – animals? My teaching career itself curved in the direction of working professionally in the field of animal welfare. For the past 25 years, I have shared my expertise with Girl Scouts through programs as Director of Humane Education for the Snyder Foundation for Animals. I also serve on the Girl Scout Gold Award Advisory Panel.
Girl Scouts provided me with a positive foundation – exposed me to the terms that would define my life: service, faith, camping, animals. My achievement in earning what at that time was the highest honor in Girl Scouting was not a closed chapter in my life story, but a secure binding on the book that is my life.