Boy and Girl Scouts: More than cookies and camping

Anusha Kothari, Editor-in-Chief

When most people hear “Girl Scouts,” they immediately picture Thin Mints and Samoas, and when “Boy Scouts” is mentioned, they think of survival skills and flag raising ceremonies. However, Boy and Girl Scouts do more than just cookie-selling and building fires.


Photo credits: Patricia Wei

Alex Tai (9):

Rewarding, adventurous and life-changing. That is how freshman Alex Tai would describe his Boy Scouts experience. Tai became a Cub Scout in first grade and later a Boy Scout in middle school. From an early age, Tai was eager to become a scout because he was fascinated by his brother’s experiences as a Boy Scout.

Tai loves meeting new people, and Boy Scouts has helped cultivate that interest. In fact, one of his most memorable activities as a scout was a summer camp that his troop attended a few years ago. Although there were around 10 American scout troops, this summer camp was different because there were also Chinese and Taiwanese troops present.

“It was a really fun and special experience because we could see how scouting varies in other countries and trade patches with the international scouts,“ Tai said.

For Tai so far, the most valuable aspect of being a Boy Scout is the leadership opportunities it has rendered. These include volunteering at local food shelters, teaching Cub Scouts and organizing a booth at the Kids ‘N Fun Festival, a multicultural recreation event hosted by the Taiwanese Cultural and Sports Association every summer in Cupertino.

These leadership experiences often involve collaborating with people that he does not know well. As a result, he has learned to work with a variety of people and has formed many friendships.

“I think that working your way around [a conflict and] compromising with [the other party] is always something you have to go through,” Tai said. “Once you get through that obstacle, you develop a bond with someone new.”

Leadership opportunities have motivated Tai to continue Boy Scouts for the past nine years, and he plans to continue participating throughout high school.

“People view [Boy Scouts] as nature-extremists because of the survival skills that we develop, but they often overlook the leadership aspect, “ Tai said. “There is a lot of leadership involved, which is the most rewarding part of Boy Scouts for me.”

Tai plans to take advantage of future leadership opportunities that are presented. Next year, he is considering running for the Senior Patrol Leader of his troop, Troop 453. This position is equivalent to the role of a club president, and Tai is excited to possibly lead his troop of 50 members.

Photo credits: Dhriti Iyer

Alden Gu (10):  

Sophomore Alden Gu joined Boy Scouts about 10 years ago. Seeing friends at weekly scout meetings and going on monthly campouts have encouraged Gu to continue his participation throughout high school. In elementary school, Gu was a Cub Scout. Cub Scout activities are primarily adult-led, including community service projects and camping trips. When his troop, Troop 400, officially became Boy Scouts in middle school, the boys became more independent and began to plan their own activities.

Each summer, Gu’s troop camps at a Scout Reservation. Throughout their week-long stay, the boys earn merit badges by completing Boy Scout activities, which can range from fishing and boating, to biking and rock climbing.

“One of my most memorable experiences as a Boy Scout was going zip lining because it was one of the more unique activities,” Gu said. “We planned that as one part of a campout in seventh grade.”

The Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico is arguably the most popular camping location, and Boy Scouts from all over the country travel there to complete a two-week backpacking trip. Going there is so sought-after that troops have to go through a lottery process to get a spot.

“[Camping at Philmont Scout Ranch] is like the pinnacle of being a Boy Scout,” Gu said. “I’ve never been there personally, but I would love to go.”

Beside providing Gu with outdoor experiences, Boy Scouts has also given him opportunities to develop as a leader. Last year, as a freshman, Gu was elected as his troop’s Senior Patrol Leader. During his six-month term, Gu’s primary agenda item was to change how his troop raised money for their campouts. Although Boy Scouts typically participate in popcorn fundraisers every fall, the 50 boys in his troop only raised about $1000, which is a relatively low amount compared to that raised by other troops, due to lack of motivation among the boys. Because the popcorn fundraiser was not as fruitful as hoped, most of the troop’s activities were funded by the troop members’ parents. This frustrated Gu because he felt that his troop members should be raising the money themselves and were too dependent on their parents. In order to increase his troop members’ participation in fundraisers, Gu encouraged his troop to try something different: a cookie-dough fundraiser. The boys were excited to sell cookie-dough instead of popcorn and were considerably more active in selling than before.

“Although we were not that successful in raising money and raised only $350 compared to the $1000 we earn by selling popcorn, my main goal was to make my troop more self-reliant,“ Gu said.“I think [the cookie-dough] fundraiser did that.”

Gu’s term as Senior Patrol Leader is over, but he will still plan campouts and service projects in an effort to continue developing his leadership skills. Currently, he and sophomore Joseph Zhang are organizing a seven-day trip to Yosemite during the summer, during which the troop will bike 55 miles. Eventually, Gu plans to lead a service project in an effort to obtain the highest rank achievable by Boy Scouts: an Eagle Scout.

Photo credits: Anusha Kothari

Aneesha Nema (11):

For junior Aneesha Nema, being a Girl Scout has been an empowering journey. Through the activities that she has participated in, Nema has gained a lot of leadership experience.

For example, Nema, along with 50 other girls, organized the Lead the Way conference, which took place from Feb. 1 to 3. The conference was for Girl Scouts around the Bay Area and aimed to inspire and prepare girls for the future. Nema was part of the recreation committee, which organized activities such as guest speakers and job interviewing and budgeting workshops for the 200 attendees. The activities included guest speakers and workshops on skills such as budgeting and job interviewing.

“That weekend was a lot fun because there were so many cool girls to meet, and so many amazing stories to hear,” Nema said.  “It was empowering because you got to learn about the diverse passions that the girls had.”

At this conference, Nema had the chance to attend a lecture by Wendy Okolo, a 25-year-old aerospace engineer who works for NASA. She was amazed that Okolo had achieved so much at such a young age, but still found Okolo to be relatable and funny.

“When you get to meet people like [Okolo] in-person, you believe that you can be like them one day,” Nema said.

Not only has Girl Scouts provided Nema with leadership experiences and given her the chance to meet numerouspeople, but it has also enabled Nema to uniquely pursue her interest in biology. In particular, Nema is basing her Gold Award Project on biology. The Gold Award is the highest honor that a Girl Scout can receive, and is achieved by carrying out an independent community service project. For her project, Nema is developing a biology home-science kit for underprivileged kids with the non-profit organization Explorabox. Specifically, she is helping create a kit with biology experiments that can be performed at home for kids who do not have as much access to STEM education as she does.

“I’m most excited about the fact that my project has a lasting impact [on the students who use the kit],” Nema said. “It makes me feel like I have actually left a mark on the community.”

Nema is thankful to Girl Scouts for giving her the opportunity to meet women in unique careers such as Okolo, as well as explore her own interest in biology. As a result of these experiences, Nema is excited for the future.

“You can’t plan life, you have to go with the flow and see where it takes you,” Nema said. “ [Girl Scouts has made me] excited to see where life takes me.”

Photo credits: Patricia Wei

Katie Patton (12):

Senior Katie Patton joined Girl Scouts 13 years ago, when she became an original member of a troop created by her best friend’s mom. Patton was excited to join because the troop consisted of all of her close friends, and she looked forward to their meetings on Fridays after school. Now, since her troop members are all in high school, they do not have time to meet as often. Nevertheless, Patton’s troop, which consists of about 20 girls, meets every two weeks, and she thoroughly enjoys their time together.

“Girl Scouts is like a sport or a club: you develop a bond with the people that are in your troop,” Patton said. “My troop is like my family. They are my motivation to continue [participating in Girl Scouts].”

For Patton, Girl Scouts has been an especially valuable experience because of the lifelong practical skills that it has taught her. For example, since Patton was eight years old, she has been selling cookies, and through this experience, she has not only learned about finances and marketing, but she has also gotten used to working with adults.

“I think if I didn’t join Girl Scouts and if I didn’t have that exposure of dealing with adults, marketing and setting up times that we could go sell at Safeway, then I’d be a completely different person,” Patton said. “I can confidently say that I am more comfortable communicating with others because of Girl Scouts.”

Being a Girl Scout has also given Patton the opportunity to develop more tangible skills while earning various badges. At the beginning of her Girl Scouts journey, Patton was given a handbook filled with about 50 different badges that she could earn upon developing skills that range from sportsmanship and woodworking to cooking and sewing.

“Badges are an encouragement to try to develop and learn new skills,” Patton said. “For example, if there’s a sewing a badge and you’ve never tried sewing, there are steps given to you to try to learn how to sew, and that’s a new skill that you’ve learned.”

One of the badges Patton has is for woodworking, which she earned through completing her Silver Award project. Patton, along with two girls from her troop, built a bench for a homeless shelter. In order to build the bench, Patton learned how to use a drill and a hammer, but more importantly, the project helped the parents at the homeless shelter because they no longer had to sit on a broken bench while watching their kids on the playground. Patton also made and donated 30 blankets to the shelter.

“[Doing my Silver Award] project was really cool because it was the first one that I had done that had sustainability,” Patton said.

Overall, Girl Scouts has been a super fun and enlightening experience for Patton. It has helped her grow as an individual by enabling her to comfortably approach adults and teaching her basic skills such as using a hammer and drill.