Debra Gutierrez knows first-hand how lasting friendships can be made while being a Girl Scout.

Growing up in Florida, she remembered losing touch with a friend she made at Girl Scout camp only to reconnect with her again in middle school, then high school, and again years later online.

“It was all because of that Girl Scouts experience,” she said.

Now an Ahwatukee resident, troop leader at Kyrene Altadeña Middle School, and mother of one of her own seven Cadettes, Gutierrez said she always tells the younger generation interested in joining that, “you never know when you’re going to find (an old Girl Scout friend) again.”

“We encourage the girls to get to know each other in Ahwatukee,” she said.

Part of the Cactus-Pine Council, there are about 1,000 Girl Scouts in the Ahwatukee community ranging from six age-level categories: Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors.

With Gutierrez’s memories of learning to sew with her troop, and troop leader mother, she said leading her daughter is now even more special.

“It’s fabulous being able to see her grow and experience new things,” she said of her daughter, Alexandra, an eighth-grader at Altadeña.

As the Girl Scout cookie-selling process has radically changed since she was a scout herself, Gutierrez noted that new personalized emails can also be used now to help the girls make their cookie-selling goals.

With the advent of software to organize buyer information and orders to the launch of a new Girl Scout Cookie locator app earlier this year, Gutierrez said the bonding and leadership skills are still central in teaching the girls how to sell the cookies.

With this weekend marking the last day of booth sales for cookies — moved to March 31 — Gutierrez’s silver award-winning troop is preparing for a trip to Alaska in July before their freshmen year.

With her troop moving on and maturing, Gutierrez hopes to see Girl Scouts growing even further in the area.

“They are awesome, and girls can join at any time,” Gutierrez said.

For more information about the Cactus-Pine Council, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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