Presented by ConocoPhillips Alaska
When Tani Kron’s daughter enrolled at her local elementary school, there was no active Girl Scout troop for her to join. Kron decided to change that.
“A handful of us contacted the Girl Scout council and asked for information,” said Kron. Girl Scouts of Alaska soon provided resources to get a troop started.
When the time came to select volunteer troop leaders, “two of us raised our hands,” said Kron. She had coached youth sports before and never considered herself particularly great at coaching.
“And I came to understand that unless someone raises their hand, nobody raises their hand,” said Kron.
Kron, a longtime Alaskan who works as a construction engineer at ConocoPhillips Alaska, has been co-leading the O’Malley Girl Scout troop in Anchorage for five years. In this role, she has witnessed girls discover new confidence and experience life-changing realizations, all while expanding her own understanding of the power of youth activities.
Girl Scouts of Alaska has been a community pillar for more than 72 years, serving girls in Alaska’s Southcentral, Southeast and Southwest regions. The organization has 2,000 Girl Scouts and a robust network of 1,300 adult volunteers.
The legacy continues with the recent appointment of CEO Jenni Pollard. Pollard is a Girl Scout alumna with deep roots in the organization; she started as a Brownie in second grade, her mother was a troop leader and now, her daughter is enrolled in the program.
“Our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place,” said Pollard. “I have a huge passion for this mission and the role it plays in developing our future women leaders.”
While many people are familiar with Girl Scouts’ iconic cookie program and badges, it’s less well-known that girls can sign up as individual Girl Scouts, that financial assistance is available to help with memberships, events and camp, or that the cookie sales program supports troop activities, including international travel experiences. Girl Scouts can also earn prestigious Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards for projects that affect community change.
The future of Girl Scouts: ‘Life-changing’ girl-led experiences that develop future leaders
Girl Scouts of the USA has been empowering girls for 110 years. The organization’s long history is due in part to its ability to adapt alongside new generations.
“Girl Scouts has this wonderful tradition of evolving with the times, meeting girls where they’re at and looking towards the future,” said Pollard.
Today, Girl Scouts has four pillars of learning: STEM education, outdoors, life skills and entrepreneurship. Girls can join as early as kindergarten as Daisies and participate through high school. Programs are designed so that girls progressively gain skills and knowledge, growing confidence and leadership year after year.
A defining hallmark of the organization is its girl-led approach, where the Girl Scouts themselves determine the troop’s focus based on their interests, said Pollard.
Last year, Kron’s troop of elementary students embarked on a months-long journey aimed at fostering self-awareness and understanding of their place in the world. The girls, many of whom have strong support systems at home, began to realize that not all children are as fortunate, she said.
“Realizing that other kids live differently than they do was important,” said Kron.
The journey culminated in a donation of books, toys and other goods to Anchorage’s AWAIC domestic violence safe shelter. During this process, some Girl Scouts reflected on their own access to goods, distinguishing between wants and needs.
“Personally, it has made my daughter more aware of just how many toys are in her living room, how many clothes are in her closet,” said Kron.
The project also received unexpected community support. A national publishing company donated eight boxes of books, bags and activities to the project. When the boxes arrived, “I was overwhelmed by their generosity. I couldn’t wait to show the girls,” said Kron.
Since the end of the journey, Kron’s daughter has begun participating in other causes. Kron didn’t expect to watch her daughter’s empathy and understanding grow before her eyes due to the project, and she’s grateful.
Experiences such as these are “life-changing” for young girls, she said.
Cookie sales: Building confidence, buying plane tickets
Cagney Davis is a junior at Thunder Mountain High School in Juneau, where she sings in choir, studies robotics and takes a joint art program with the Savannah College of Art and Design. She has her eyes set on a career in animation.
When Davis applied to be a delegate at the 2023 National Girl Scouts USA Conference held in Orlando, Florida, she didn’t expect to be chosen. When she got the news that she had been selected as an alternate delegate, her small troop decided to travel to the convention together.
To fund the trip, they ramped up cookie sales. Davis sold more than ever by tapping into new contacts.
“It was a lot of time in the cold, going door to door, but it got a lot of sales for us,” she said. Those sales helped fund the trip for all three troop members.
In July, Davis was among roughly 900 delegates who played a pivotal role in updating the bylaws for Girl Scouts of the USA. She also enjoyed a day at Disney World during the trip. The troop is now planning international travel for next year.
“Cookie sales are really a highlight of being a Girl Scout,” said Davis. “Personally, cookie sales taught me to be okay with rejection. You get the courage to ask. When I was younger, I didn’t want to, because it felt weird. It was nerve-wracking. But now, it’s a lot easier for me to do.”
‘A space they can make their own’
Davis joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy, the age range for kindergarten and first graders. Over the years, her relationship to the program has evolved alongside her life. Today, she focuses less on earning badges, and more on travel.
“Badges are a good way for younger Girl Scouts to learn to set goals,” Davis said. Badges help girls discover new interests and skills, which can blossom into careers or lifelong hobbies. Girls choose from a vast range of subjects including automotive design, coding, robotics, money management, exploring the outdoors through art and first aid basics.
The cookie sales program is beneficial for all ages. “It teaches girls to set goals, and that something can come out of that work … there’s a reward at the end,” Davis said.
For older Girl Scouts, “there are incredible opportunities,” said Pollard, ranging from earning scholarships to attending the national Girl Scouts conference to enjoying adventures like whitewater rafting and backpacking trips. Summer camp also offers older girls the opportunity for leadership development and job opportunities as camp staff.
At summer camp girls of all ages not only explore outdoor adventures but are involved with all aspects of camp from preparing meals to leading activities like canoeing. Summer camps are available throughout the Girl Scouts of Alaska council. Camp Togowoods and Camp Singing Hills are the only camps in Alaska accredited by the American Camp Association that are exclusively for girls. Camp Singing Hills is a day camp, while Camp Togowoods is an overnight camp.
Girls need not be involved in Girl Scouts to attend the camps. “Any girl can sign up,” said Kron.
ConocoPhillips Alaska has been supporting Girl Scouts of Alaska since 1988. Much of its support has gone toward Camp Togowoods, including funding for a 40-foot climbing tower, equipping tents, outdoor space and field improvements, as well as a new pavilion. The company has also funded the purchase of a 14-passenger bus, a pavilion and provided a surplus truck at Camp Singing Hills.
ConocoPhillips Alaska has been instrumental in enhancing and maintaining the Girl Scouts camps, said Pollard. Their support over the years has ensured thousands of girls have had the best experience possible.
Girl Scouts offers something for everyone with robust resources for parents and families. Financial assistance is also available. The organization accepts all girls, either as part of a troop or as individual girl members.
“We are welcoming and inclusive of girls of all backgrounds and abilities,” said Pollard.
“Girl Scouts works because of our volunteer troop leaders, our cookie managers, our community leaders. They’re all helping girls to set goals, helping them to achieve them,” she said.
At Tani Kron’s troop, they are trying something new this school year: Exclusively hands-on activities, from horseback riding and rock climbing to painting and pottery class, all chosen, organized and led by the Girl Scouts themselves.
For Kron, Girl Scouts is about honoring kids and their needs.
“When I was coaching soccer, I learned that youth activities are less about the activity and more about youth,” said Kron. “And that sounds simple, but what I learned is that by giving kids a space that they can make their own, they learn and grow in new ways that empower them.”
While Girl Scouts has adapted over the years, some core values won’t be changing anytime soon. These include girl-led adventures and outdoor experiences, making a community impact, fostering new friendships and having fun, according to Pollard.
With its solid foundation, the organization is well-positioned to lead girls into the future.
“Today, girls are more independent but face a more complex world,” said Pollard. “As girls take on the challenges of our time, Girl Scouts of Alaska looks to ensure that girls of all ages, abilities and backgrounds have a safe space to discover who they are and are empowered to shape their own life experiences.”
ConocoPhillips Alaska has been leading the search for energy in Alaska for more than 50 years. The company is committed to responsibly developing Alaska’s resources, providing economic opportunity for Alaska, operating at the highest safety standards and being good stewards of our communities. For more information, visit www.conocophillipsalaska.com.
This article was produced by the sponsored content department of Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with ConocoPhillips Alaska. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.