As Taylor Chandler, 8, embarks on the “Wonders of Water Brownie Journey,” Madison Chandler, 13, is helping her sister and earning the “Leader in Action” award in the process. Both are Girl Scouts, and while one learns about the importance of water and its uses around the world, the other learns to develop and share communication and organization skills.

Friday, Taylor, a third-grade student at Aloe Elementary School, and Madison, an eighth-grade student at Patti Welder Middle School, are making the most of summer at the headquarters of the the Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas. The organization will host a fundraiser, Through Her Eyes from 6 to 8 p.m. June 27 at the Hause Venue in downtown Victoria, and all of the money raised in Victoria stays in Victoria and the surrounding communities, said Michelle Martinez, director of marketing and communications for Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas.

The event, including cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and a silent auction, will support an outreach program for low-income schools that reaches 8,000 girls in greater South Texas and covers the $25 annual membership fees for those who decide to join. While the Chandler sisters joined on their own, half of the 1,100 Girl Scouts in Victoria join through the outreach program.

Girls enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade are the focus of the outreach program, and the organization is run “for girls, by girls.” The girls dictate their educational interests and goals, and the troop advisers provide the supervision, coordination and supplies to support them.

“Girl Scouts builds a lifetime of leadership,” Martinez said. “We feel every girl should have the opportunity to be in Girl Scouts no matter their socioeconomic status.”

Once per month, Frances Cervantes, community program executive for the Girl Scouts of Greater South Texas, visits a school to provide a free program during physical education class. The purpose of the program is to share information about the organization, and many of the girls would never have the opportunity to join the Girl Scouts otherwise, she said. The presentations also are educational, and the curriculum is often STEM-based, including robotics and space science.

“Every one of the girls can recite the promise and the law and can tell you exactly what it means, and I can see a difference between the girls who are Girl Scouts and the ones who are not,” Cervantes said. “They (Girl Scouts) are honest and fair ... they live the Girl Scout promise, they are helpful and they make the world a better place.”

Locally, Girl Scouts volunteer in the community for various causes and organizations based on their interests and passions. One might work at the Food Bank of the Golden Crescent and another might sponsor a hat drive for cancer patients. Others might raise money or clean cages for the Dorothy O’Connor Pet Adoption Center. And still others might develop public service announcements to combat bullying or other problems.

Madison became a Girl Scout in the first grade, and she earned her Bronze Award for a book drive she coordinated for children. She is building cat trees for Adopt-a-Pet of Victoria to earn her Silver Award, and the final Gold Award is her next goal. She and her sister also are enterprising and enthusiastic cookie merchants. Together, they sold 3,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies last year. They set up booths at the Windmill Raisin convenience store and other places throughout town where they sometimes work from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“Selling cookies teaches us about money, finances and people skills,” Madison said. “Girl Scouts teaches me to be more confident and how to work with people better.”

Brianna Sturm, a 16-year-old junior at West High School, joined the Girl Scouts in kindergarten. She agreed that selling cookies builds important skills.

“If you go through cookie sales, that will really break you of your shyness because I used to be so shy,” Brianna said. “I wouldn’t even budge to talk to people in my own family – I was that shy – and now I’m like, ‘Here I am,’ talking to pretty much everyone I meet.”

Girl Scouts also teaches basic life skills, such as how to clean and organize houses and yards, she said. She also has learned about camping and received training in CPR, first aid and babysitting. She enjoys the daytrips her troop takes to San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Austin to visit museums and colleges, among other destinations.

“It really changes your outlook toward society, it empowers girls to step up and speak up for themselves,” she said. “You learn a lot, meet girls from other troops, make a lot of new friends and cookie sales are always fun.”

She is preparing her proposal for the Gold Award, the highest that a Girl Scout can earn. She is developing a CCD program about embracing people’s differences and appreciating everyone.

“Everyone has differences, it’s OK,” she said. “Just because they’re different, you can’t treat them different. Treat them like they are you.”

Jordyn Jenicke, 10, a fifth-grade student at Shields Elementary School, also has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten. She listed selling cookies, learning to cook, especially s’mores, and camping as her favorite activities.

Girl Scouts has helped her with “loving people and helping people and learning.”

“It helps me to be brave and to help people if they are down,” Jordyn said.

Elena Anita Watts covers arts, culture and entertainment for the Victoria Advocate.

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"I'm glad to be reporting on the events that bring people in my hometown together for fun, culture, camaraderie and good causes."

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