They joined Girl Scout Troop 592 10 years ago. Now they're ready to join adulthood together.
Girl Scouts of America was designed in 1912 to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place, according to the Girl Scouts of America website. Eight Ahwatukee Foothills girls are proof that the scouting program is still alive and well in Arizona and can be an amazing opportunity for young girls.
Alexa Bina was a co-leader when the girls first got together in the second grade. When the other leader left, Bina decided to combine with another group that was about to disband to keep both groups going.
Since that decision, the troop has stuck together, adding a few more girls as the years went by. Now all but one of the girls (who is a sophomore in high school this year) has graduated and are ready to take what they've learned into the world.
Bina said it's rare for a group of girls to stay in Girl Scouts so long, let alone stick together. Increasingly girls are deciding in sixth and seventh grade that they no longer want to take part.
While the girls have gone on to join competitive dance teams, compete in ice skating, band and orchestra, they have still given of their time to do service with their troop. One girl even attended First Saturdays (the first Saturday of each month when girls who do not have a troop can come and participate in activities and older scouts can help and prepare to be troop leaders) every month for six years. The girls have a full schedule, but Girl Scouts has meant enough to them to make room.
"I have stuck with Girl Scouts so long because it is one of my true passions," said Mackenzie Bower, 18. "I love helping people and love what the organization stands for."
The girls say they learned a lot from being a part of Girl Scouts for so long, like responsibility, people skills, outdoor skills and they found something they all had in common - a love for volunteering.
"I went through three troops before I found one that stuck," said Katharine Boelter, 18. "I think you have to find the troop that fits you. We used to focus a lot on the badges, but later we switched to community service because we all liked it. Every troop is a little different."
Though the girls all enjoyed community service and the experiences they had, it was the friendships that kept them together.
"The troop dynamic is one of the main reasons why I stuck with Girl Scouts for so long," said Katie Hubbard, 18. "I've known the girls since at least sixth grade, but some of them even longer. For me, Girl Scouts is all about being with friends, learning and experiencing new things, and helping younger girls. I wouldn't be able to do all that with any other group."
It seems simple for a group to get together, but staying together is what's rare. Many troops disband when a leader gets too busy or their daughter decides to quit. In Troop 592, one leader decided to stay with the group even after her daughter left.
"I've always admired her for that," Boelter said. "It proved her dedication and how much she cared for us. She taught me that you can still give back to people and organizations even if you are not directly connected with them."
This year, the seven girls who graduated have all started college. Some are at Northern Arizona University; some at the University of Arizona and one eat Emerson College in Boston.
They each give credit to their leaders for their success both in Girl Scouts and in life.
"I believe we've all learned something from our leaders," said Ariel Whitaker, 18. "How to plan and organize, how to be productive, how to work well with others, and how to expect the unexpected. They showed us how these skills will help us succeed in life. For this, I feel I am more prepared going off to college and living on my own."
The leader who has been with the girls through it all says she doesn't know how it happened.
"I ask my daughter, ‘What did I do,'" Bina said. "She just says, ‘Mom, you were there.'"
Allison Hurtado is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a junior at Arizona State University.