Girl Scouts don’t just go camping and sell cookies. For many, it’s the start of a lifelong adventure. It was for Beth Peterson.
Today, the former scout is a troop organizer and facilitator for the organization’s Heart of Michigan Council, covering Ann Arbor, Saginaw, Jackson, Kalamazoo and Lansing. She also works as an area manager in Hartland, overseeing the activities of over 429 girls and 150 adults involved in scouting at eight area schools.
“It’s a positive program for girls that encourages confidence and courage and character,” said Peterson. “It taught me that the world isn’t just about me.”
Girl Scouts meet together in small groups of “Daisies,” “Brownies,” “Juniors,” Cadettes” and “Seniors,” organized for youngsters from kindergartners to high school ages.
Individual troops take on projects to improve their community and scouts earn badges for their accomplishments, which they display on their uniforms. “One of our main goals is to make them future leaders,” said Peterson. Her Cadette scout troop organized an anti-bullying program they presented to the students at their school. They’ve also done everything from whipping up dishes drawn from novel cuisines to studying animals living in the Howell nature center.
It’s not all hard work. “It exposes girls to fun activities they may not be able to do on their own,” she said. “They get to try adventures and activities. They go camping, do archery, candle making and take nature walks.”
One of her favorite scouting traditions is to collect “whatchamacallits,” crafty keepsake projects girls make and exchange between troops as gifts of friendship.
“We’ve gotten swaps from all over the world, including China, Australia and Singapore,” she said.
Volunteering as a scout leader has some special benefits. “It’s the most rewarding thing I do. I can spend time with my daughter and her friends,” she said. “It’s a nice way to be involved before your kids are older and don’t want mom involved.”
Scouting gives girls activities to look forward to, a sense of purpose and teaches them the importance of being part of something bigger than themselves, Peterson explains.
“I get to watch the girls grow up and become beautiful young women who make a difference in their communities,” said Peterson. “As long as I have girls who want to do it, I’ll be there.”
Who are your favorite authors? “Harlan Coban, Janet Evanovich, Tess Garritsen and Wendy Corsi Staub.
Do you have a parenting motto? “Stay calm and listen to your kids. They have great ideas.”
Where is a great place to have fun with kids in Ann Arbor? “ I love going to the Scrap Box, a recycling center where people donate items used for crafting projects.”
Describe your favorite kid-friendly product. “Pipe cleaners. I was born with a glue gun in my hand.”
What do you do to de-stress? “Read.”
How many children do you have? “ One, Abigail Peterson, age 12.”