Girl Scouts of West Central Florida

Behind Every Great Cookie is a Resilient Girl Scout

Cookies and badges are sweet, but Girl Scouting encompasses more than Thin Mints and financial literacy badges. Girl Scouting is about the undergirding lessons, ones carried throughout a woman’s life.

Tampa Bay houses the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, which spans eight counties and is one of the country’s fastest growing councils. GSWCF CEO Mary Pat King shares how Girl Scouts supports girls’ personal development and bay area communities.

Lesson: Leadership

King, also a Girl Scout mom, spent years working at national headquarters in Washington D.C. She assumed her role as chief executive officer of GSWCF on March 16, 2020, right when the world shut down.

King’s CEO journey alongside GSWCF’s staff and volunteers has strengthened her leadership skills. A Girl Scout for only two years because of her family’s move to a city with limited troop opportunities, King is ensuring that GSWCF is entrenched in the bay area.

“Girl Scouting builds leaders through unique opportunities,” she says. At sixth grade, girls can serve on GSWCF’s Advisory Board; by 14, they can serve on the Board of Directors. They can bolster leadership skills through communication by serving as spokespersons and content creators.

“Many Girl Scouts are courageous leaders, leading improvements in their schools, communities and individual academic ambitions,” King says.

Girl Scouts of West Central Florida badges

Lesson: Entrepreneurship

Girl Scout Cookie sales teach girls goal setting, budgeting, planning and marketing. Girls also learn to engage adults and make eye contact. “People see Girl Scout Cookies and focus on the product,” King says. “Happenings behind the product prepare girls for the workforce.”

Girl Scouts introduces members to numerous careers while, King says, “preparing the tail end of tomorrow.” Girl Scouting supports girls’ long-term career goals by building a strong sense of self.

Lesson: Relationship

Beyond building resilient women, Girl Scouting builds healthy peer relationships. Girl Scouts learn civil debate—disagreement and disrespect don’t pair well. “Despite opposing viewpoints, girls celebrate each other in noncompetitive environments,” King says. “We’re unified under Girl Scout Law and remain committed to it.”

She believes that Girl Scouts’ loyalty to the law is visible globally and across generations and that character traits cultivated through Girl Scouting are the bedrock of collaborative relationships.

Girl Scouts of West Central Florida STEMapalooza

Lesson: STEMapalooza

An interactive family-friendly experience that is open to the public, GSWCF’s STEMapalooza occurs on April 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Florida Polytechnic University. STEMapalooza offers everything from coding to caring for animals to speaking with astronauts and engineers.

“It’s great seeing girls experience it with their dads and brothers,” King says. Attendees can register for Girl Scout’s extended year membership (begins April 1), which grants access to Girl Scout programming—including summer camps.

Lesson: Summer Camps

GSWCF’s summer camps, Wai Lani (Palm Harbor), Wildwood (Sumter County), Indian Echo (Hudson) and Dorothy Thomas (Riverview) span over 1,000 acres. “Camp is Girl Scouts’ most transformative experience because girls try new things, push past comfort zones and form lifelong friendships,” King says.

Programming immerses girls in traditional activities like archery and swimming; Camp Wildwood focuses on equestrianism. Spending time outdoors boosts girls’ mental and physical well-being. GSWCF’s summer camps help girls grow in their knowledge of conservation and outdoor survival skills. “At our camps, the trees whistle with memories,” King says.

Girl Scouts of West Central Florida Summer Camp

Lesson: Girl Scout Fest

Girl Scout Fest, which occurs Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Florida State Fairgrounds, is open to the public and showcases the Girl Scouts’ four pillars: entrepreneurship, life skills, outdoors and STEM. Complete with an array of interactive activities, Girl Scout Fest is a galvanizing experience.

Girl Scout Law

I will do my best to be
honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong,
and responsible for what I say and do,
and to respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place,
and be a sister to every Girl Scout.

Girl Scouts of West Central Florida Girl Scout Fest

Originally published in the April 2024 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.