Children often lead us to places we'd otherwise not visit. So was the case for Jamie Gleason when her daughter Kaylei was in kindergarten and wanted to join the Girl Scouts. Jamie decided to become a troop leader when no one else was willing.
Jamie's early experience with scouting was fleeting and didn't make a huge impact on her upbringing. When she was younger, she was a scout for about a year. Her family then moved to a very small town and there were no scouting programs there.
After two years as a troop leader she joined the service team and she's been the Auburn service unit manager now for almost three years. Jamie oversees 15 area troops and also runs a cadette troop of about 20 girls in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. "I like working with the girls and I also like ensuring that we have enough troops and volunteers to serve the area," she says.
Many of these girls, at least half of her troop, Jamie has known since they were in kindergarten and first grade. She considers them "her own" as she's seen them grow from young kids to maturing girls.
Jamie reflects on how these girls have grown over the years. She talks about how their respect for themselves and each other continues to grow. The girls have become best of friends even though they come from different schools and varied backgrounds. She says that their paths would probably never have crossed if it wasn't for scouts.
Scouting is something important for girls to learn and experience new things. Without scouting many of the girls would have nothing, says Jamie. Many girls choose not to participate in sports or other school clubs, so scouting offers them unique opportunities to learn, to try new things and go new places.
Last year Jamie led her troop to Washington, D.C. for the 100th birthday of Girl Scouts. Her troop is interested in another big trip for next spring. Jamie says while they have big aspirations, they are learning how expensive and complicated trip planning can be. They're responsible for doing all the research, figuring out the costs, and putting the itinerary together. They're learning about money management, logistics, and the true costs of doing things. "These are important life-long skills," she says.
Volunteers are critical to scouting, states Donna Danylec, community development manager. Throughout Cayuga County there is a need for troop leaders and co-leaders. A couple of long-time volunteers in the Southern Cayuga County are moving. This will leave a huge volunteer gap to be filled. In addition, there are short-term volunteer opportunities available. Individuals can do a four-to-six-week program, a day-long program, or even just a few hours.
Area business leaders can participate by being a guest speaker at a meeting or opening their workplaces for the girls to visit. "For instance, the girls are really interested to learn more about financial literacy and we are hoping to partner with area banks to offer some programming," says Donna.
"Jamie volunteers many hours and is always there when we need a hand," says Donna. "This September Jamie is coordinating a council-wide overnight for girls in grades 2-12 at the chiropractic college."
Jamie says she wouldn't trade her time with the girls for anything. She enjoys spending time with them and helping them develop their potential. Over these past years, she's seen a lot of changes in programming. Now there's more focus on ensuring girls develop their leadership potential and opportunities to explore areas like math and science. Scouting continues to encourage girls to expand their boundaries and not be afraid.
She appreciates the support she gets as a volunteer, as well. There are opportunities for online training and monthly leader meetings. "It's important for the volunteers to receive the training and guidance they need to succeed," Jamie says.
"These girls certainly have a special place in my heart,"says Jamie. "It's hard to put into words the amazing experience it has been for me as well as for the scouts. They can rely on me and I have learned from them. "