Girl Scouts learn the art of being brave

March 12, 2013

By Michele Mihalovich

What do Taylor Swift, Venus Williams and Sandra Day O’Connor have in common? All are wildly successful in their various fields and they donned Girl Scouts uniforms when they were young.

Girl Scouts, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, has had a tremendous impact on culture — particularly when it comes to helping girls find their voice, develop the confidence to pursue their goals and challenge themselves in ways that, even just a few decades ago, were still rather revolutionary, Stefanie Ellis, public relations director of Girl Scouts of Western Washington, said.

Photos by Greg Farrar Above, Issaquah attorney Mary Hammerly keeps a banner with her merit badge sash from the late 1960s, when she grew up in Wisconsin and earned the First Class Award. Below This Girl Scout badge belonging to Ava Frisinger from her teen years is for a since-discontinued award in Good Grooming.

Photos by Greg Farrar
Above, Issaquah attorney Mary Hammerly keeps a banner with her merit badge sash from the late 1960s, when she grew up in Wisconsin and earned the First Class Award.

“We want girls to feel better about themselves and their future … to be motivated by the fact that women are truly changing the world,” she said. “We want people to know, especially girls, that more than 80 percent of female senior executives and business owners were Girl Scouts, as well as two-thirds of the women in Congress and virtually every female astronaut.”

Issaquah has a couple of famous former Girls Scouts as well, including Mayor Ava Frisinger.

Frisinger was a Girl Scout in Michigan, where she grew up.

“Scouting, for me, provided confidence and fostered the belief that women could be successful and valuable contributors,” said the 68-year-old woman who has served as mayor since 1998.

But what really amazes her about the Girl Scout organization is how it has evolved with the times.

She said her eldest granddaughter, a Girl Scout, is working on interviewing skills and developing résumés with the rest of her troop.

Frisinger talked about her granddaughter’s silver and bronze projects that included developing Easton’s community emergency plan that focused on childcare services. The girl also helped organize a “creature comforts” drive for injured military veterans.

“She had to go out and get people involved in this,” Frisinger said. “I was just really impressed with the project, and with all the skills she used to get this done.”

Mary Hammerly, 60, a successful family law attorney in Issaquah, also served as a Girl Scout with a troop in Wisconsin, but later in life, after having two daughters, got involved as a Girl Scout leader.

Hammerly said the Girl Scouts reinforced what her family and church were already teaching her — to give back to the community and leave things better than you found them.

She said those are guiding principles that continue for her today, but Girl Scouts also gives girls incredible opportunities for leadership.

Girl Scouts is all about girls challenging themselves, Hammerly said.

“They are learning that it is OK to take risks,” she said. “They don’t worry about taking chances because they know that if they don’t succeed the first time, they’ll learn from the mistakes. We’ll look at what we’ll do better next time.

“They start small and work their way up, and these kids just grow from the experience, become brave and aren’t afraid to do things — like stand up and talk in front of a room full of people.”

Hammerly, who has served as a Girl Scout leader for the past 20 years, said only one or two of the girls she has led did not go on to college.

“What other organization has those kinds of numbers?” she asked.



They are learning to build and program their own LEGO robots, as part of the First Lego League program, which helps girls develop their interest in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math.

One girl went to Tanzania to teach math skills to children as part of her Gold Award — the highest award a Girl Scout can receive.

One girl went to orphanages in China to deliver specially made baby bottles for children with cleft palates. When she found out the babies weren’t getting the nutrition they needed from regular bottles, she immediately set out to change that.

Girls are simulating archaeological digs (with a staffer, who is a trained archaeologist) and making their own slime, learning science skills in fun ways.

The Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program is one of the few of its kind across the country. Through the Girl Scouts Fostering a Future program, girls with no consistent family support feel loved and protected in their Girl Scout troop, and are guaranteed to keep the same troop, no matter where they may end up through the foster care system.

Source: Stefanie Ellis, public relations director for Girl Scouts of Western Washington



Famous former Girl Scouts

  • Country singer and 4Grammy Award-winner Taylor Swift
  • Actress and Emmy Award-winner Susan Lucci
  • Grammy Award-winning singer Mariah Carey
  • Academy Award-winning actress Shirley Temple
  • Award-winning comedienne Lucille Ball
  • Grammy Award-winning singer, Dionne Warwick
  • Political activist Gloria Steinem
  • Olympic gold medalist tennis player Venus Williams
  • Emmy Award-winning journalist Barbara Walters
  • Photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White, the first female war correspondent
  • Astronaut Sally Ride, the first American woman in space
  • Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice
  • Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea
  • Former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor
  • Former member of Congress and the first female vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro



Interested in your daughter becoming a Girl Scout, or think you’d like to serve as a leader? Learn more at


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