Each month, we are happy to highlight a volunteer at GSHCC who dedicates their time and talent to Girl Scouts. Thank you volunteers for helping build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.
August 2019: Claudine Niski
Where do you work and what do you do?
For the past 7 years, I’ve worked for ReCreate in Roseville as an Education Specialist. This means I get to visit 2nd-5th-grade classrooms throughout the Sacramento region with our “More Art, Less Waste” program. I get to bring the message of the 3 R’s through an interactive re-use craft project. Additionally, as the former preschool teacher on staff, I visit preschools and run preschool tours at ReCreate with an adapted program I designed for that age group. My third hat at ReCreate allows me to bring my Girl Scout experience to design and offer badge workshops for all levels.
Were you a Girl Scout? If yes, where?
Yes. I was a Girl Scout from 1st – 10th grade in San Diego Imperial Council. Then, in college summers, I was a horse program counselor at that council’s Camp Winacka (where I went camping 4 summers as a girl). Best summers ever! My camp counselor name was Sugar (I was always hyper and had contraband candy in my fanny pack). But as an adult, I go by Songbird.
How long have you volunteered with Girl Scouts? What volunteer role
do you have?
I reconnected with Girl Scouts as a mom who wanted the Girl Scout experience for my daughters. I became a co-leader when my girls were in 1st grade. They are now entering 11th grade. Over the years, I became more involved with our Service Unit and eventually at the Council level too. I fell in love with the Girl Scout experience all over again as an adult.
Why do you volunteer for Girl Scouts?
In the beginning, it was about giving my daughters the opportunity for making the lifelong memories I loved so much and having that shared experience with them as I had with my mom and my sisters. My motives soon grew into wanting to make sure all these girls in my troop had the best Girl Scout experience. I didn’t realize that becoming their leader would make me feel like they were ‘my girls’ not just my troop. When I tapped into my Service Unit resources for troop support, my motives grew to encompass wanting to help other leaders make the best experience for their troops too. I was surprised by how much I get out of my adult Girl Scouts connections and it is through those I truly feel connected to this amazing organization.
What’s your favorite thing about volunteering with Girl Scouts?
So many thoughts crowd my mind to answer this question! As an adult, it has allowed me to reconnect with all those memories of my own Girl Scout years. When I started the troop, I was a stay-at-home mom just coming out from a failed entrepreneurial venture. What surprised me was that by encouraging the girls to be courageous and strong and confident, I found my way back to my own confidence. As GS Leaders, we think we are doing it for the girls, but often we get just as much out of it for ourselves.
But what gives me goosebumps is to think about the connection to all the girls and women around the world who have this shared experience spanning decades and generations. It really speaks to the message that there is a lot of good being offered here for helping girls grow into amazing women. I’m honored to be a small part of that.
What advice would you give to young girls?
Stay in Girl Scouts as long as you can! And, what I always tell my troop; The Girl Scout experience is what you make of it. Some girls want to get all the awards, some want to do lots of field trips and campouts, some are very invested in community service. What I love about Girl Scouts is that you don’t have to do it all to feel like you are an accepted part of it.
Some girls think that as their interests expand and more things are demanding their attention that they have to let GS go. But I have tried to be flexible with my troop and had those conversations often about what they want out of GS and how to make that happen. I believe that sports and theater and music are very important, but that there is something that they can get from GS and they can’t get anywhere else. A lot of retention is about being flexible with the families in your troop and having those open conversations about goals.
Favorite Girl Scout Cookie flavor?
It was Lemonades, but that new S’mores cookie is vying for the title!
Outside of volunteering, what are a few of your hobbies?
I love watching movies and reading; Sci-fi and Fantasy are my genres. I’m a big Star Wars and Marvel fan. I like playing games with family and friends and I like to burst into song to make everyone laugh. When you are an ex-camp counselor, you really do know a song for any topic!
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience with Girl
One thing that I hold in my heart is the generational connection. I had my mom as my leader off and on as a girl (Girl Scouts was structured differently in the ’70s). But my mom was never one to talk about her own life very much. It wasn’t until she was cleaning memorabilia out of closets in her 70’s that she gave me her Girl Scout sash. I was stunned. I thought she had been a Rainbow Girl and in 4H only. Then she shocked me with the news that her mom had been her leader in the ’50s! Wow! My daughters are 4th generation Girl Scouts. That is probably why that Eternal Flame ceremony at the Great Outdoor Campout was so meaningful for me.
Past Volunteer Spotlights
June 2018: Rathish Jayabharath
July 2018: Heide Allen
August 2018: Carly Narlesky
September 2018: Silvia Marwick
October 2018: Anne Otter
November 2018: Tamarin Austin
December 2018: Jenni Payton Moore
January 2019: Gizelly Criswell
February 2019: Sara Egelhoff
March 2019: Edie Hannigan
April 2019: Abby Silva
May 2019: Leah Parkhurst
June 2019: Sarah Cuthill
July 2019: Danielle Sturgeon