Last week I participated in what will surely be remembered as one of the highlights of my summer–camping with the Girl Scouts! In it’s tenth year, Camp CEO is a premier leadership camp for teen girls and high-level professionals held at Camp Butternut Springs in Valparaiso, Indiana. I was invited to attend as one of the 25 female “CEOs” along with 40 high-achieving Girl Scouts selected from the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Council who applied and wrote essays to participate. I had not been camping since my days as a leader with my daughter’s troop 20 years ago, and it was incredible fun to be hiking, swimming, and singing songs around the campfire once again.
In addition to these traditional camp activities, what made Camp CEO so special was the opportunity to mentor the girls one-on-one and share stories, life experiences, advice and inspiration. I was fortunate to be paired with Trinity, an impressively smart and sweet girl from Chicago who aspires to be a doctor. I really enjoyed spending time with my mentee as well as all the girls at camp and I was continually amazed by the thoughtful questions the girls asked. They were truly focused on learning and absorbing as much as possible from their time with the adult mentors. Women were present from a wide variety of professions such as science, technology, law, government, finance, communications, entrepreneurs, and more. I was asked to lead a workshop on networking and social etiquette in politics, which challenged me to step out of my box a bit to design a seminar. But I had a ball doing it, and the girls really seemed to enjoy discussing the role of women in elected office particularly in light of the history being made this year in our U. S. Presidential race.
One activity that seemed to really resonate with adults and girls alike was the “Dreaming Your Future” tradition. A couple of times each day, everyone would gather around the fireplace or campfire, and listen as three or four of the CEOs took center stage and shared their own life story and pathway to leadership. As usual, the girls had intriguing questions to ask. I found it so interesting that every woman’s story showcased the fact that most of us are not doing what we thought our careers would be when we were in high school or college–in most cases our journey has taken twists and turns to lead us to a place we never dreamed possible. I know that I never planned on becoming a Village President when I was majoring in Foods-Nutrition/Dietetics during my college days!
As luck would have it, the day I chose to arrive at camp, August 10th, just happened to be National S’mores Day–score!! Who knew it was a thing? But I cannot imagine a better place on earth to be on National S’mores Day than at Girl Scout Camp! We celebrated with a fabulous bonfire, singalong, marshmallows toasted on sticks, and a few mosquitoes to complete the woodsy atmosphere. I discovered a new taste sensation–using a peanut butter cup sandwiched between the graham crackers and marshmallow, in place of the traditional plain chocolate bar. I am still thinking about how delicious that tasted–maybe the fresh air and female empowerment are enhancing the memory?
Camp CEO was an all-around wonderful experience. I’m grateful that we have organizations such as Girl Scouts to provide opportunities like this, which bond women and girls together to inspire the next generation of leaders. But the inspiration works both ways, because I came home uplifted by Trinity and all the other young women I now know who give me hope for a bright future for us all.