Ashlyn and Ailey Nye are learning a lot in their Girl Scout meetings.
"We get to meet new people and we learn being respectful," said Ashlyn, 7, who is a member of Daisy Troop 40480, along with younger sister Ailey, 5.
For the Nyes, Girl Scouts is a true family affair. Mother Angie, a former Scout herself, is the girls' troop leader. Daisies are Girl Scouts who are in kindergarten and first grade.
"[Girl Scouts] has given them an opportunity to find their voice and find confidence," said Angie Nye. "It's teaching them to come out of their shells."
For 100 years, girls like Ashlyn and Ailey have been building "courage, confidence and character," as is prescribed in the Girl Scout mission statement. Founded by Juliette Gordon Low in Savannah, Ga., the first Girl Scout meeting took place on March 12, 1912.
"Our goal is to give every girl the opportunity to have an adult mentor look her in the eye and say 'we believe in you. You have potential, and we think you can change the world,'" said Booth Kammann, chief executive officer at Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians.
A primary goal of Girl Scouts is to give girls the chance to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness.
"[Carson] has made friends with people she wouldn't have been friends with otherwise," said Andee Bock of her daughter, a third-grader at Nolan Elementary School on Signal Mountain. "She's gained courage and confidence to do things she normally would not do."
The Bock family became involved in Girl Scouts four years ago when Carson expressed an interest.
"I was never a Scout," said Andee Bock. "I played sports."
She decided that Girl Scouts could be something for her and Carson to do together, and became a registered adult volunteer with the organization. She is now a troop leader and service manager for the Signal Mountain area. Girl Scouts, Bock said, has opened up her daughter and her family to new opportunities and friends.
"I love it," she said. "The families have become friends. It's created some bonds."
From 18 girls in the original troop to more than 3.7 million girls today, Girl Scouts seeks to provide leadership opportunities said Kammann.
"Girls want to lead because they want to make a difference," she said. "Our world could benefit from girls who not only have the belief and passion, but also the skill and experience to support that."
Mary Eliza Hendricks, 13, said the five years she has spent as a Girl Scout has helped her to take on a leadership role during school activities, as well as resourcefulness and community awareness.
She recently completed a Silver Project, a mid-level honor in Girl Scouts. In high school, she will go for her Gold Award, the highest Girl Scout honor.
Scouting runs in the family. Her father and brother were both Eagle Scouts and her mother was her troop leader. Mary Eliza is a Juliette, a Girl Scout who works to achieve her goals and badges independent of a troop.
She enjoys being able to set her own goals and go at her own pace, she said, but sometimes misses being part of a troop.
"I can't go camping because I don't have a troop to go camping with," she said.
"I decided in fifth grade that I was determined to get my bronze, my silver and my gold," said Mary Eliza, a seventh grader at Signal Mountain Middle/High School, who began as a Brownie in the second grade. "So few Girl Scouts (achieve that goal)."
For her Silver Project, Mary Eliza created birthday kits for disadvantaged children, collecting supplies for birthday parties and sorting the items into themes.
Angie Nye said she hopes her daughters will share Mary Eliza's passion for Girl Scouts and strive to earn their Gold Awards when they are in high school as well. She said she appreciates the opportunity Girl Scouts gives her daughters to see women in leadership positions in the community.
Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...