Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2014 Adult Learning Summit and Camp Singing Hills Grand Opening

November was a busy month for GSAK! 

The week of November 10 started with "In Week," where GSAK staff from across the Council traveled to Anchorage for training, team-building exercises, and fun. 

Our 2014 Adult Learning Summit was held November 14-15, and we ended the week with the Grand Opening of Camp Singing Hills November 16! 

2014 Adult Learning Summit

More than 50 adult volunteers turned out for the fifth annual Adult Learning Summit. Held in Anchorage, attendees participated in sessions such as "How to Choose Your Battles," "The Power of Gratitude," "True Voice," and "State of Possibilities." 


 Volunteers participate in a course on astronomy

An awards dinner was held Friday evening. The dinner kicked off with keynote speakers Bruce Sexauer, all-girl LEGO robotics coach; Anne Kurland, Juneau Service Unit manager; and Judy Weimer, long-time GSAK volunteer and Volunteer of Excellence awardee.


  2014 Adult Learning Summit award recipients

Thank you to all our volunteers and congratulations to the following award recipients: 

Volunteer of Excellence
Megan Carr
Jasmine Dirkes
Tracy Fishbach
Deanna Gudgell
Maryjane Hinman
Melissa Jones
Gail Moorehead
Bright Nygard
Valerie Peace
Judy Weimer

Appreciation Pin
Amy Arsenault
Debra Boland
Stephanie Davenport
Mary Graber
Laura Ison
Barbara Knaak
Amanda Light
Sabrina Partridge

Honor Pin
Kim Ballard
Teresa Bleakley

Camp Singing Hills Grand Opening

More than 130 girls, adult volunteers, and community leaders turned out for the grand opening of Camp Singing Hills, held November 16 in Chugiak. 


Anchorage Troop 65

The event opened with Troop 65 ringing the new camp bell. Troop 647 conducted a flag ceremony and Troop 690 led attendees in the Girl Scout Promise and Pledge. The crowd then moved into the new STEM lodge and heard from the following speakers:   

  • GSAK CEO Sue Perles
  • Jane Angvik, Camp Singing Hills Capital Campaign chair
  • Senator-elect Bill Stoltze
  • Senator Anna Fairclough
  • Jayson Smart, program officer for the Rasmuson Foundation 
  • Michael Fredericks, president of RIM First People
  • U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, honorary Camp Singing Hills Capital Campaign chair

Senator Murkowski served as keynote speaker. Senator Murkowski was a Girl Scout growing up in Ketchikan. In addition to serving as honorary chair of the Singing Hills Capital Campaign, the senator is a member of the honorary Congressional Girl Scout troop called Troop Capitol Hill.


Jane Angvik, left, with U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski

The Camp Singing Hills capital campaign was launched in August 2012. Construction at Singing Hills began in spring 2013 and was completed this fall. The project was made possible thanks to GSAK’s many partners including the State of Alaska, Rasumson Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Mat-Su Health Foundation, ConocoPhillips, BP Alaska, and First National Bank Alaska. 


 The new Singing Hills STEM lodge

Camp Singing Hills has been a very special part of childhood for generations of girls growing up in Alaska. The “new” Camp Singing Hills features include: 

  • A 6,500-square-foot lodge fully wired for STEM activities and interactive distance learning,
  • Yurts for year-round camping, 
  • A waterfront area for environmental lake education and canoeing,
  • A playing field,
  • Outdoor education sites, and 
  • A trail system, including Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible trails.  

Thank you to our 2014 Adult Learning Summit and Camp Singing Hills grand opening attendees for help making these events a success! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

2014 National Convention Wrap-Up

Celebrating and discovering ways to better connect girls to leadership opportunities was the purpose behind the 2014 National Council Session/53rd Convention, held October 16-19 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 

Our adult delegates and girl representatives experienced an array of thought-provoking conversations, inspiring speakers and entertainers, and fun with friends old and new during the three-day event.

"Discover, Connect, Take Action: Girls Change the World" was the theme of this year's convention. GSAK's adult delegates included:
  • Sue Perles, GSAK CEO
  • Allison Mendel, GSAK board secretary
  • Deb Boland, Anchorage
  • Anne Kurland, Juneau 
  • Leila Pyle, Kodiak (currently attending college out of state)  
GSAK CEO Sue Perles flew to Salt Lake City two days before the convention to meet with Anna Maria Chavez, CEO of Girl Scouts USA; GSUSA Board Chair Kathy Hopinkah Hannan; and other council CEOs to discuss and vote on three key administrative decisions. 

Sue left the convention early so she could speak at the Alaska Women's Summit in Anchorage on the topic of redefining "Like a Girl." This gave college student Leila Pyle the opportunity to step in and serve as one of our convention delegates. 

The convention also included a Girl Scout Leadership Institute. Our GSLI representatives included:
  • Kharissa Chasse, Palmer
  • Jordan Cooper, Juneau 
  • Lacey Davis, Juneau 
  • Rebecca Hassler, Juneau 
GSLI representatives were chosen based on an application and follow-up interview.

GSAK historian Cindy Littell and staff members Lisa Mead and Tasha Nichols also attended the convention. Allison Mendel's granddaughter, Zoraleda Mendel, attended as a guest.

GSAK had four girl representatives at the convention.
L to R: Kharissa Chasse, Rebecca Hassler, Jordan Cooper, Lacey Davis

"The convention provided an incredible opportunity for our girls and adult delegates to connect, explore, create, and celebrate," GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. "From theme dinners to Girl Scout University sessions, there was something for everyone."

Jordan, Kharissa, Lacey, and Rebecca took part in the 2014 Girl Scout Leadership Institute, during which the girls learned about seven different global issues, like education and gender equality, along with ways to make changes in those areas. The girls also heard from inspiring keynote speakers such as:
  • Dr. Tererai Trent, president and founder of Tererai Trend International Foundation, which works to provide quality education and improve the livelihoods of communities in rural Zimbabwe;  
  • Candice Kislack, the founder of TOMS' Shoes "One for One" brand; and  
  • Elizabeth Smart, founder of the Elizabeth Smart Foundation, which works to prevent and stop predatory crimes. 
"The GSLI really gave the girls a chance to learn about key issues, identify partners or allies, go beneath the issues to identify root causes, and lead Take Action projects with passion to help change the world," GSAK Program & Travel Specialist Lisa Mead said.


Zoraleda Mendel answers the question 
"What can't you wait to do with Girl Scouts?"

Kharissa, Lacey, and Rebecca chose Take Action projects that focus on body image, while Jordan chose education. During the convention, the girls learned skills that will help them implement their Take Action projects in their communities. As they implement their projects, the girls will receive assistance and mentorship from Lisa and Anne Kurland.

Thank you to the delegates, girls, and staff for representing GSAK at the 2014 National Convention!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Product Sale Gives a ‘Boost’ to Troop Earnings

Each year, troops and individual girls take orders from friends and family for delicious nuts and candies as part of the Fall Product Sale. By participating in this program, troops can get a head start on funding their activities for the year!


Girls can earn fun patches during 
the 2014 Fall Product Sale

The GSAK Fall Product Sale program goes beyond the enjoyment of some great products – it gives girls the experience of:

  • Goal setting 
  • Decision making
  • Money management
  • People skills 
  • Business ethics  

This is a "friends and family" sale (no booth sales) that provides troops with the opportunity to earn startup funds for the new Girl Scout membership year. As products arrive and girls begin delivery the week of November 12, it’s also a great way kick off the holiday season! 

Last year Bethel Troop 17, comprised of Brownies (grades 2-3) and Juniors (grades 4-5), sold 500 Fall Product Sale items - more than any other troop in our Council. 

Troop Leader Crystal Garrison said the sale “gets girls back in the spirit of Girl Scouts and injects money into our troop bank account. As troops earn $1 for every product sold, it really is a great money-earning opportunity.” 


In 2013, Bethel Troop 17 sold 500 items during the 
Fall Product sale - more than any other GSAK troop

Crystal said GSAK’s Goal-Getter Contest inspires her girls to really get out there and sell. For every 30 items a girl sells, her name will be entered into a drawing to win an iPad Mini. 

“Last year my daughter, Bryn, actually won the iPad!” Crystal said. “You hear about these contests and you never think you can actually win, but she did. And she sold 40 products, so her name was only entered once.” 


For every 30 items a girl sells, she will be entered 
to win an iPad Mini! 

After paying the manufacturer, all proceeds from the Fall Product Sale stay within GSAK to benefit local girls. This year’s theme is “Shine with Girl Scouts.”

"The Fall Product Sale really is a great money-earning opportunity for troops," GSAK Product Sales Manager Tricia Matyas said. "Not only do girls develop important financial literacy skills they will be able to use throughout their lives, but it encourages them to work toward a goal. 

"Make sure the girls know what the troop's goal is so they can work as a team toward achieving it, whether it's a troop trip, a Take Action project, a community-service project, or an activity," Tricia added. "Also, encourage each girl to set an individual goal. When your troop works as a team, achieving your goals is easier and more fun!"   

When must I sign up? And what are the dates of the 2014 Fall Product Sale?

Troops and individual girls should sign up for the Fall Product sale by 5 p.m. Friday, October 10.

  • Girls will take orders October 3-19.
  • Troop orders are due to the Council/Service Unit October 22.
  • Deliveries to the Council and Service Units will take place the week of November 12 (tentative).
  • Troops must have all money deposited into the troop bank account on December 3 and the first Automated Clearing House (ACH) takes place December 5 (100% of the total amount due to Council).
  • Additional ACHs will take place the month of December (on an as-needed basis).

What are this year’s sale items? 

Chocolate-mint trefoils with “Shine with Girl Scouts” tin – $10
Chocolate-covered pretzels with penguin tin – $10
Cashews – $8
Chocolate-covered almonds – $8
Pistachios – $8
Chocolate-covered raisins – $7
Cranberry trail mix – $7
Dark chocolate sea-salt caramels – $6
Peanut-butter monkeys – $6
Honey-roasted peanuts – $6
Spicy Cajun mix – $6
Gummy fruit slices – $6
Care to Share product – $6

For a list of Recognition Items and Program Certificates for individual girls, check out our website

Remember, troops and individual girls should sign up for the Fall Product sale by 5 p.m. Friday, October 10. 

If you have questions, contact Product Sales Manager Tricia Matyas, 907-273-0302. 

With our troops' help and participation, we look forward to a fun-filled and successful Fall Product Sale! 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Courage, confidence, and character at 2014 Girl Scout summer camp

Whether girls are new or returning campers, there's something for everyone at Girl Scout camp! 

Girls may canoe or kayak for the first time, gaining paddling skills as they tackle progressively challenging adventures. 


'Wet and Wild' campers at Camp Togowoods, Wasilla

They may learn outdoor survival skills on an overnight hike, taking them out of their comfort zone and putting them in a place where they must stretch to grow – physically, mentally, and emotionally.


There are, of course, the activities we commonly associate with camp - singing songs, playing games, arts and crafts, roasting marshmallows over a campfire, and making new friends.


Arts and crafts in Petersburg

"Camp matters because it gives girls vital engagement," GSAK Statewide Camp Director Amanda Block said. "It not only teaches them skills they can use in the future, but it allows them to practice those skills today."

Whether new and challenging or familiar and comforting, the activities girls partake in at Girl Scout camp help them develop the character traits youth need to develop into successful adults: 
  • A sense of wonder about the world
  • Social intelligence
  • Zest for/love of life
  • Optimism
  • Grit
  • Self-control
  • Gratitude
"We don't just create leaders for the future," Amanda said. "We are creating girls, today, who are practicing in little ways how to change the world so that when they grow up, they can change it in big ways."  


'Free dog wash' community-service project in Angoon

This year, GSAK served more than 2,650 girls ages 5-18 through our resident and day camp programs. Camps were held at 36 urban and rural locations in Anchorage and Mat-Su, Southeast Alaska, Southwest Alaska, Kodiak Island, and the Kenai Peninsula. 

Because we feel the camp experience should be made available to ALL girls regardless of their ability to pay, we offered financial assistance (known as "camperships") for up to 90 percent of the camp fee to any girl who wished to attend camp.


Friendship in Scammon Bay

In several communities in Western Alaska, we offered camp at a significantly reduced cost. Our key sponsors included Alaska Commercial Company, Calista Corporation, ConocoPhillips, and Donlin Gold. 

GSAK wishes to thank the girls, parents, volunteers, camp staff, and donors who helped make the 2014 Girl Scout camp season a success!


Day camp at Singing Hills, Chugiak

Friday, August 8, 2014

Girls grow through Girl Scout troop membership

There are many Pathways to becoming a Girl Scout. Girls can participate in a series, such as an all-girl LEGO robotics team; attend an event, such as ice skating, a volleyball clinic, or an overnight at the planetarium; or attend summer camp. 

When most of us think of Girl Scouts, however, we think of troop membership. Girls in troops have the advantage of participating in a variety of activities, generally over a span of nine to 12 months. Girls in troops share so much as they attend Girl Scout events, go on trips, sell Girl Scout Cookies, earn badges, and volunteer in their communities. 


A Girl Scout Daisy (grades K-1) attends 
Women of Science & Technology Day in Anchorage

Troops are formed by adult volunteers. A Girl Scout troop consists of at least two non-related adult volunteer troop leaders and at least five girls of the same age and grade level. Troops meet together regularly, usually for the duration of the school year. 

Troops provide an opportunity for girls to learn the Girl Scout "Keys to Leadership" of Discover, Connect, and Take Action: 

  • A girl Discovers her special skills and talents, finds the confidence to set challenging goals for herself, and strives to live by her values. This includes being proud of where she came from as well as where she's going.
  • A girl Connects with others, which means she learns how to team up, solve conflicts, and have healthy relationships. These skills help her in school right now and prepare her for any career she chooses in the future.
  • A girl Takes Action and makes the world a better place, learning a lot about her community and the world along the way.

“Any girl in grades K-12 can join a Girl Scout troop,” GSAK Director of Program & Membership Tasha Nichols said. “Girls join for fun and friendship, but they also learn about building character and self-esteem and serving their communities—the core qualities of Girl Scouting. In partnership with committed adult troop leaders, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives, like strong values, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.”


A Girl Scout Junior (grades 4-5) troop makes a poster 
for an American Cancer Society event 

Cat Bras (pronounced “brass") of Soldotna leads a troop of girls in grades K-5. The start of the 2014-2015 academic year will mark Cat’s fourth year as a troop leader. A former Marine, she got involved when her daughter, Gracie, joined a troop as a kindergarten Daisy. 

“I love being a troop leader,” Cat said. “And I get such awesome feedback from parents – their daughters love Girl Scouts!” 

Recent past troop events include an overnight stay at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, a hotel sleepover, and a hike in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. In keeping with her military roots, Cat’s troop participates in the U.S. Marines “Toys for Tots” program and the American Red Cross “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.

A love of travel has been a driving force behind Anita Smyke’s dedication to Girl Scouts. Anita became a troop leader when her now 21-year-old daughter, Jessica, joined Girl Scouts as a kindergartner. 

Anita’s troops have visited three of the four Girl Scout World Centers – Our Cabana, Mexico, in 2006; and Our Chalet, Switzerland, and Pax Lodge, England, in 2010. Her Ambassador troop will visit the fourth World Center, Sangam in India, this winter.

Based in Cordova, Anita currently leads her two younger daughters’ Cadette and Ambassador troops. 

“Girl Scouts teaches girls how to work together and see the good in one another, and travel keeps the girls motivated and focused,” Anita said. “We travel for fun, but there’s always a community-service aspect to our trips. When we went to Mexico, we spent two days helping in an orphanage and worked on a Habitat for Humanity project. When we go to India, we’ll participate in the Gifts for Change program. My hope is to teach the girls not to take things for granted and help them develop a global perspective.”

Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. If your daughter in interested in joining a troop for learning, relationship-building, and fun, contact the Member Services & Program Specialist for your area: 

Anchorage (midtown, Sand Lake, south-side, and west-side): Amanda Morgan, 907-273-0310
Anchorage (north-side, east-side, JBER, Eagle River): Sarah Guthrie, 907-273-0314
Bethel and Southwest Alaska: Tasha Nichols, 907-273-0312
Kenai Peninsula and Copper Center, Cordova, Glennallen, Kenny Lake, Kodiak, Valdez: Roslyn Lack, 907-602-8619
Juneau and the upper Southeast region: Taralee Ellis, 907-586-1710
Ketchikan and the lower Southeast region: Victoria Lord, 907-617-2160
Mat-Su: Tasha Nichols, 907-273-0312

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Girl Scouts broaden their horizons through travel

Every girl dreams of a chance to see the world. Girl Scouts offers many different travel opportunities so girls can broaden their horizons, meet others, learn about other cultures, and have fun while doing it!

The Girl Scouts Travel pathway:

  • Is available to any girl, regardless of previous Girl Scouting involvement or economic resources;
  • Incorporates the Girl Scout Leadership Experience processes of girl led, learning by doing, and cooperative learning;
  • Follows the three leadership keys of Discover, Connect, and Take Action; and 
  • Presents girls with opportunities to prepare, plan, earn money, and engage in travel opportunities and Take Action projects.

Several GSAK troops took advantage of travel opportunities this spring, and with good reason: “Travel offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for girls,” Anchorage troop leader Dione White said. “It’s something they will treasure forever.” 

Dione’s troop traveled in May to California to work at the Incredible Edible Farm, an urban farm in Irvine, Calif., where Second Harvest Food Bank grows fresh produce to feed the hungry. “In Orange County, where Second Harvest is based, approximately 400,000 people are hungry every year. Second Harvest feeds about 200,000 of those. Thinking about those numbers in terms of our state population really put the issue of food insecurity into perspective for the girls,” Dione said. 


Troop 163 at the Incredible Edible Farm in Irvine, Calif.

The girls also spent several days at Disneyland Resort where they attended the Disney Youth Education Series (YES). The YES program consists of guided, in-park educational field studies. Dione’s troop elected courses in leadership, physics, and animation. “It was the coolest ‘field trip’ you can imagine,” Dione said. “I attended the animation course with the girls, and it was incredible. We worked with story boards and flip books, saw a demo of the Toy Story zoetrope [a device that flashes a series of still images to produce the illusion of motion], and even learned how to draw Pluto.” 

Dione’s girls range in age from fifth grade to 12th grade. She values travel because it “extends the girls’ desire to be in Girl Scouts. Particularly for the older girls, it gives them something to look forward to and keeps them engaged. The fundraising and planning are a lot of work, but I don’t even see it as work because the reward is so fabulous.”

Anchorage Troop 198 just returned from Hawaii, but the troop is no stranger to travel. This is the third trip the girls have gone on, having previously visited San Francisco and Europe. The girls spent 10 days in Maui, where they made Memorial Day leis for veterans’ headstones and toured Girl Scout Camp Pi'iholo. “Prior to our arrival at Camp Pi'iholo a sewage pipe burst, so it was a bit of a Murphy's Law moment for us," troop leader Bright Nygard said. "They closed the camp and cancelled all campouts, but we did get to explore the property. It's much smaller than Togowoods – with eight main bunk cabins, a main kitchen cabin, and a bathroom – but they had lots of stuff to do like ziplines and volleyball, so it was still cool to see!”  

Bright’s troop travels bi-yearly so as not to conflict with Encampment. “Travel is what bonds the girls,” Bright said. “They’re already talking about where they want to go in 2016.” 


Troop 198 at Camp Pi'iholo in Maui, Hawaii 

Sitka Troop 4140 recently spent a jam-packed week in Washington and Idaho where the girls volunteered with Special Olympics and Food Lifeline, a not-for-profit organization that supplies food to food banks; attended an etiquette class in Seattle; and went horseback riding and visited Silverwood Theme Park in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. This was the troop’s first trip outside Alaska. 

“It went really well,” troop leader Retha Winger said. “There ended up being five adult chaperones for nine girls, which was great - groups could break off and do different things. We’re already planning our next trip.”  

Planning your Girl Scout travel experience  

Troops can opt for short, extended, or international trips. Short trips are two nights and usually start at the Brownie level (grades 2-3). Extended trips are three nights or longer and can take place anywhere in the U.S. International trips occur outside the U.S., including Canada. 

Troops plan their own trips but are required to submit the appropriate paperwork to GSAK. Paperwork is due anywhere from two months to a year prior to the trip, depending on the time frame and destination. All forms can be found on our website.  

Questions? Contact Program & Travel Specialist Lisa Mead, 907-273-0308

Friday, May 30, 2014

'Weidner Cares' volunteers spruce up GSAK's Camp Togowoods

More than 120 Weidner Apartment Homes employees traveled to Camp Togowoods, a Girl Scouts of Alaska-owned camp property in Wasilla, to rebuild tent platforms, clean camp buildings, rake gardens and grounds, and perform general repairs to buildings and utilities to ready the camp for the 2014 Girl Scout summer camp season. The all-day Weidner Cares event took place May 22. 


Wediner volunteers rebuild tent platforms 

"Weidner is dedicated to giving back to the communities we serve through our Weidner Cares program,” said Greg Cerbana, Weidner’s public relations director. “We chose GSAK to be the recipient of our inaugural outreach due to their commitment to serve Alaska’s girls, and provide them with opportunities for leadership development in a safe and nurturing environment. We are proud to partner with the Girl Scouts to help prepare Camp Togowoods for this summer's attendees.”


A Weidner volunteer sets up a tent

Camp Togowoods is located on 400 beautiful acres along the shores of Three Mile Lake in Wasilla. It encompasses five ecosystems, including a wetlands boardwalk. Campers enjoy nature hikes, environmental education, swimming, canoeing or kayaking, and a 35-foot climbing tower. Campers sleep in platform tents, bringing the outdoors within reach. Along with Camp Singing Hills in Chugiak, Camp Togowoods is accredited by the American Camp Association. GSAK is proud to own Alaska’s only accredited camps just for girls. 


GSAK Camp Director Amanda Block and CEO Sue Perles (bottom row, far left) 
with more than 120 'Weidner Cares' volunteers

“We were amazed at the amount of work these dedicated Weidner volunteers were able to accomplish,” said Sue Perles, CEO of Girl Scouts of Alaska. “This is the first Weidner Cares event in Alaska, and we were thrilled Weidner selected GSAK. At camp, girls experience vital engagement – the type of engagement that allows for deep learning and meaningful relationships. Summer camp is one way GSAK is investing in Alaska’s girls, our future leaders.”   

About Weidner Apartment Homes:
Founded in 1977, Weidner Apartment Homes is a privately held real estate company headquartered in Kirkland, Wash. As of February 2014, Weidner is ranked No. 30 on the National Multifamily Housing Council’s top 50 list of apartment management companies. The company owns more than 215 buildings, comprised of more than 38,000 units, throughout the U.S. and Canada. For information, visit weidner.com.