"I can't wait for the plethora of leadership opportunities and experiences to come."
Throughout her life Elena Press found herself frequenting the campsites and bike trails around her, but noticed the shortage of young girls having these empowering experiences as well. For her Culminating Leadership Project, Elena decided to organize and lead a three-day camping trip for 20 Girl Scouts. Elena wanted others to enjoy in the curiosity and love for the environment that she first gained from her experiences in the Girl Scouts. The goal of Elena’s CLP, Girls Outdoors, was to foster an appreciation of the environment by exposing young girls to the outdoors. Having a connection the outdoors helps girls gain knowledge, skills, confidence and self-reliance that will help lead to healthy lives. The trip involved, among other things, teaching them Leave No Trace principles, risk management, and adequate camping planning. Although Girl Scouts encourages girls to get outside and camp, many scouts rarely have the opportunity to go camping because their leaders are not certified to take them or feel overwhelmed by the immense planning required. Many kids lack the skills and knowledge required to fully take advantage of the outdoors.
“My self-confidence and zest for life is built upon my experiences in the outdoors. My semester at the Alzar School was extremely empowering—it showed me that I could take action as a leader to pursue what I believe in. I want other young girls to feel the same way. I think it is important that young people feel an appreciation to their land and feel able to pursue their connection with the outdoors facilitated through the great community of Girl Scouts.”
Implementation of Project
In order to reach her audience, Elena presented her plan at the local Girl Scout council meeting. From this meeting, she was able to form a connection with the two leaders of troops 7140, 7730, 708 and 77135. She held a number of action team meetings to adequately plan for the trip and determine logistics. Elena also worked to include the girls in planning for the trip.
“At a meeting with the girls, we came to a consensus to that tacos would be a scrumptious dinner, however, when I asked how many tortillas and what kind we would need, the girls were flummoxed! We went through all options: wheat versus corn, small versus large, how many we thought each one of us would eat, and how many people were coming. When we arrived at the final calculation the girls were thrilled at their work!”
When the camping trip commenced, the campers were greeted by rain! Building off her learnings in flexibility and resourcefulness, she quickly gathered the campers in tents already set up and played games and sang songs. That was just the beginning, as the weekend was filled with night hikes, fire building, outdoor cooking, and Leave No Trace lessons, tree identification with a park ranger, bridging ceremony and owl pellet dissection.
Results of Project
At the end of the three days, the campers regretfully packed up and left, taking their newfound knowledge and happy memories. Twenty girls attended throughout the weekend, in addition to multiple parents, a few siblings, the troop leaders and Elena.
“Dissecting owl pellets was a clear standout for everybody. It exemplified the whole trip in that everybody was hesitant, but ended up loving it. I enjoyed seeing them ask so many questions about nature and life and coming out of their shells. When one little girl, she was five, slept over in a tent for the first time, she was enthralled! Just to see to see the pride, excitement, and independence oozing from her was tremendously rewarding.”
A date for next year’s camping trip is already set! Elena hopes to further her connections with these troops and forge new ones. She will continue to work to equip kids with the skills they need to spend time outside and implement environmentally sustainable practices in her town. This summer, Elena is traveling to Alaska to continue to develop her own skills in the backcountry, and she was recently selected as an alumni representative on the Alzar School’s Advisory Committee.
“The Alzar School gave me the confidence to pursue my passion for the outdoors, but I also learned the value of taking action to make a bigger impact. There were times when the plans for my CLP were jumbled and I was overwhelmed by prior commitments. Yet, I had a tremendous amount of fun and learned many valuable skills and lessons from directing the trip; it was well worth the hard work! The experience made me into a more capable, broader minded, stronger leader and person. I can’t wait for the plethora of leadership opportunities and experiences to come.”