By: Pooja D.

On October 15, 2014 I, along with 16 other girls and two adult chaperones, left for Salt Lake City, Utah to attend the Girl Scout National Convention.  There were seven girl delegates as well as 10 Girl Scouts Leadership Institute (GSLI) girls.  We met at the airport where we were given bright, neon yellow shirts.  These shirts definitely made us stand out in the crowd and made us easy to spot as everyone came into the airport.  We took a lot of pictures before us girls said goodbye to our parents and went through security at the airport.  We did not know each other very well at that point, but we became good friends over the next couple days.

We arrived at Salt Lake City at about 12:00 AM Salt Lake City time which is about 3:00 Atlanta time.  Needless to say, we were pretty tired by the time we got to the hotel.  We still had a meeting in the lobby of the hotel and we decided what time we would wake up and who our roommates would be.

            The next morning was the first day of the convention and I was so excited!  We ate breakfast in our hotel and then walked to the convention center.  While our adult chaperones, Victoria and Kathryn, checked us in, we played games in an activity room.  My favorite game included making a spider web out of yarn.  One person would start off with the ball of yarn and she would say a sentence.  Then, she would throw the yarn to another person who continued the story by adding another sentence.  Pretty soon, we wove an interesting story about one of the girls in our group, Morgan, and her dog.  It was a lot of fun and helped pass the time.

            After we were checked in, we received nametags that we had to wear everywhere in the convention center.  These tags had our meal passes and assigned seat numbers.  We had a couple of hours to explore the city and spent them at the mall getting food to eat and visiting the Mormon temple.  The temple is gorgeous and we visited an exhibit to learn more about the religion. 

After lunch, we returned to the convention center and we listened to Dr. Tererai Trent.  She is such an inspirational speaker and I am so honored to have heard her speak in person.  I would like to share a couple of quotes that Dr. Trent said in her speech.  She said “I stand on the shoulders of giants, I stand on the shoulders of women, and I stand on the shoulders of girls who empowered me….”  When she was talking about getting an education, she said that, “I am a part of the solution, not a victim.”  She has built 11 schools in her village.  One of the most incredible moments of her life was when one of the men who did not want her to get an education when she was growing up asked her to teach his granddaughter at one of her schools.  The last part of her speech that I would like to emphasize is how she approached her goals and her determination.  Her mother told her to write down her goals and to bury them.  It took her 10 years, “10 years of failing, 10 years of not paying for correspondence classes, but 10 years of not giving up.”  Dr. Terari Trent now has a PhD.  She truly is an inspiration for all girls. 

            After Dr. Trent finished speaking, the CEO of Girl Scouts Ms. Anna Maria Chavez led us to the Opening Ceremony of the Hall of Experiences.  The Hall of Experiences had many booths including a cookie booth, an arts and crafts booth, and even a booth where we could make bunnies out of recycled materials!  As if the day had not been exciting enough, we also attended the opening ceremony of the convention in the evening.  There was a grand flag ceremony that represented many nations across the world.  We also heard a speech by Ms. Alison Levine before we left the convention center for the night.  Ms. Levine was also an inspirational speaker and I loved her talk.  She delivered her speech, not just to the girl delegates and GSLI girls, but also to the adult delegates. 

            Ms. Alison Levine has climbed the highest mountain in every continent and led the first women’s Mount Everest expedition team.  We heard a lot about her climb on Mount Everest.  She said that it was critical to break up the mountain into smaller parts.  Because of the huge elevation change, one has to climb up to a checkpoint, and then climb back down to the base of the mountain so one adapts to the reduced oxygen levels.  She talked about the rapid changes that can occur on the mountain.  She emphasized that “plans are outdated as soon as they are finished” and one has to make the best decision they can in that moment.  She went on to say “if the conditions are not right, you turn around, cut your losses and walk away” because “getting to the top is optional but getting down is mandatory.”  This spoke volumes to me because no matter how good you plan, your plans always change.  Therefore, one should not sulk and becomes upset if things do not go your away but instead one should move on as best as possible.  Ms. Levine told us that she did not make it to the top of Mount Everest on her first try because of the conditions on the day that she was supposed to climb to the peak.  She said that one has the “freedom to fail as long as you learn from it.”  She talked about how she was disappointed that she did not get to the top, but she still learned from the experience.  After hearing her speak, all of us made our way back to our hotel and slept.

            The next morning was the first delegate session of the convention.  I was actually very excited for it.  At first we took a census to count the number of voters and to make sure our voting devices worked.  On Friday, there were 1195 eligible voting members in the voting session.  During this session, we discussed both the first and second proposals, but we only voted on the first proposal.  The first proposal helped make membership dues more flexible.  This amendment passed with an overwhelming majority. 

            We also talked about increasing the use of technology in Girl Scouts.  The goal was to make it easier for people to join Girl Scouts.  It would help enhance the ease for volunteers to join and lead Girl Scout troops.  It would also help volunteers access the volunteer tool kit faster.  Next, we talked about 2015-2018 Strategic Priorities of Girl Scouts which included: identifying the core experience of Girl Scouts, how to deliver the core experience effectively, solidifying the Girl Scouts’ network alignment, a financial model, and others.  After this we talked a lot about membership.  There has been a membership decline, which has resulted from a lack of volunteers.  There are many girls who are wait-listed for Girl Scout troops because there are not enough Girl Scout volunteers that are willing to lead a troop.  Therefore, Girl Scouts of the USA has started a national recruitment campaign in the hopes of attracting more adult volunteers. 

In the session, we then transitioned into the economic side of Girl Scouts, which really interested me.  A fun fact that I learned during the financial report is that the two main revenue streams in 2013 were membership due and the sale of Girl Scout merchandise.

            After a delicious lunch, we broke off into our GSLI groups.  There were seven different groups: basic needs, self-image, education, teen violence, healthy relationships, inclusion/diversity, and gender equality.  I was in the teen violence group.  The GSLI girls had discussions in the morning while the delegates were in session.  The afternoon sessions consisted more about team building, financial advisory tips, and an advocacy plan.  Each section had a different speaker, and I really enjoyed it.  We were also allowed a 30-minute break where the people within a certain group could explore the Hall of Experiences. 

However since we, as delegates, had already walked around the hall, we went to the mall.  It was beautiful!  Salt Lake City has an outdoor mall which is absolutely gorgeous.  We just walked around the mall, but soon we had to go back to the convention center and we met with all the other girls in our group.  Exhausted from an eventful day, we made our way back to the hotel.

            On October 17, the delegate session was much more exciting.  First, there was a
problem with our voting devices.  While some people were getting their devices exchanged with the other people, we started singing happy birthday to people and then we transitioned into singing campfire songs.  And eventually, all of the Girl Scouts ended up on stage singing the songs together.  It was so much fun!  After that, though, we got back to voting on Girl Scout policy.  The second amendment to the Girl Scout Constitution changed the reporting relation of the Chief Financial Officer.  This amendment passed with few comments and passed with an overwhelming majority.  The third amendment to the constitution resulted in the most interested debate by far.  The third amendment would no longer allow past presidents to participate in the National Board of Directors meeting.  There were many comments about this amendment and two past Presidents and then current President of Girl Scouts, Ms. Connie Lindsey, got involved in the debate.  Ms. Lindsey and one past President argued in favor of the amendment, while another past President argued against the amendment.  Many more delegates stepped up to the microphone to say why they were voting for or against the amendment as well.  In the end, though, the amendment was passed.  To be honest, I really enjoyed learning about parliamentary procedure and how debating and questioning works during the delegate session.  I also really enjoyed the debates that occurred during the session.

After we had finished voting on all parts of each amendment, we talked about the Outdoor plan.  Each council stated their opinions of the outdoors and what resources they were currently using for Girl Scouts.  Girl delegates also shared their experiences.  Each council was only allowed one representative to speak at the microphone so that every council had a chance to talk.  It was definitely interesting to hear what people across the United States had to say about activities in the outdoors.  For example, in Georgia we have camps like Timber Ridge and Misty Mountain, but many people in the Midwest don’t have camps like we do.  In addition to this, the climate has an effect on the activities that troops can participate in as well.  Again, I thought the outdoor part of the discussion was really intriguing, and I loved hearing from all the different councils. 

            The delegates then met with the GSLI girls for lunch and Ms. Connie Lindsey came and I got a picture with her and I got her patch!  I was so excited that I texted my mom and then texted my friends at home.

We then separated out into our GSLI separate sessions.  This time, we planned our Take Action project.  We talked about where our project would take place and broke our project down into several steps.  We talked about who would benefit from our project and who we need to talk to in order to start our projects.  Lastly, we made sure that our projects would be sustainable.  After we had finished, each group elected one person to share their project with the rest of the GSLI girls.

            After each group presented, we were given tickets to the Clark planetarium.  We quickly went back to our hotel, changed from our Girl Scout uniform into our dresses and walked to the planetarium.  It was amazing!  The food was delicious and we watched an IMAX film about stars.  It was so cool!  We took pictured pretending that we were on Mars and I felt like everyone got to know each other better after dinner.  We were supposed to go to a dance party after the planetarium; but since most of us were tired, Ms. Victoria took some of us to the hotel and Ms. Kathryn took everyone else to the dance party.

            There was a delegate session the next morning, but we did not attend the session.  Instead we went and saw the Tabernacle Choir!  It was so beautiful and I really enjoyed it.  We walked back to the hotel after the performance and made our way to the airport.  We ate at the airport and talked about books we had read, our classes, and funny stories.  Too soon, though, it was time to board the plane.  We got back to Atlanta on Sunday night and said our goodbyes.  I can’t believe that the convention went by so quickly.  I met so many amazing people and have many memories from the experience.  I am so incredibly grateful that I got to be a part of the 2014 Girl Scout National Convention.  I learned a lot, met so many people, and I am excited to begin my Take Action project and to use all the skills I gained from the convention and implement my project.

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