Friday, December 13, 2019

Once a Girl Scout, Always a Girl Scout: Girl Scout Alum Bonnie's Story

Who are Girl Scouts? Girl Scouts are go-getters, innovators, risk-takers and leaders. They’re G.I.R.L.S who design robots, learn life skills, improve our neighborhoods and go on amazing adventures. They’re making a difference.


Girl Scouts is a lifelong adventure full of friendship, connection, service, and fun! Every Girl Scout Alum has a unique story to tell about their experiences and adventures, and we’re sharing those stories.


Girl Scout Alum Bonnie was a Girl Scout for 8 years and continues to volunteer with Girl Scouts of Nassau County in a variety of ways. As a Gold Award Mentor, she guides Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors as they work toward the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, the Girl Scout Gold Award.


Name: Bonnie Parente

Council: Girl Scouts of Nassau County



Tell us about your time as a Girl Scout. Looking back, what were some highlights, important moments, life lessons, and/or favorite memories:



If I had to pick a memory that stands out, it would be difficult, so here are my top three: (1) fishing off the pier at the Port Washington Town Dock, (2) walking through Manhattan using the “buddy system” and (3) getting lost in the corn maze at Camp Tekakwitha in Suffolk County. 



About 45 years ago, I started Girl Scouts as one of the original Tag-Alongs. I was in kindergarten and my mom started a Girl Scout Brownie troop for my older sister Patti. This was even before Girl Scout Daisies existed. I was included in the troop by default. My mom always did a great job of keeping a multi-grade troop so she could do things with both of us.



My mom let us put tents up in the backyard when we were too young to go camping, but she didn’t skimp out on planning. We still had to pack correctly, wear bandanas on our heads to prevent ticks, and we learned how to prepare a bed roll so that everything you needed was rolled into your sleeping bag. Eventually, we camped at Camp Blue Bay and Camp Tekakwitha.



Years later, when looking for the right confirmation name as I was getting ready for confirmation at Corpus Christi Church in Mineola, I was given a book of saints by my Grandmother Mary Santosus (my dad’s mom). The first Native American saint had just recently been canonized and her name was Kateri Tekakwitha! In that moment, I chose Tekakwitha as my confirmation name. It tied in so many important parts of my life, including my life as a Girl Scout. Just recently, a very special person in my life gifted me a statue of St. Tekakwitha. To think it all started for me in a corn maze and now she’s with me everywhere. A great reminder of my time in Girl Scouts.



My mom was the greatest Girl Scout leader!! She took us to Manhattan for shows at a time when most moms would have been nervous to take 25 girls on a train and subway into New York City. To this day, my friends’ moms tell me how much they appreciated how much my mom did to expose their daughters to new adventures, and to show them they could do anything. No trip was too big for our troop. We visited Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and the Statue of Liberty. These trips are daunting to plan for some people today, and my mom did it before cell phones and the internet. When looking back at this, I realize that my mom, just by doing these things, taught me that I could do anything I wanted to do. As a leader, she showed patience, organization, planning, and many other skills.



These memories are what I wanted for my children and so, I became a Girl Scout and a Boy Scout leader for my daughter and son. I only hoped that I could do even a fraction of what my leader/mom did for me.



If I had to pick out a memory that stands out, it would be difficult, so let me do my top three: (1) fishing off the pier at the Port Washington Town Dock, (2) walking through Manhattan using the “buddy system” and (3) getting lost in the corn maze at Camp Tekakwitha in Suffolk County. 





Did Girl Scouts have an impact on your career choice/field of study? If so, how?

I still remember that my leader opened every single meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and the Girl Scout Promise. We ended each meeting with a song, some of which I still hum along to today. This appreciation for meetings and how things get accomplished has stayed with me and I credit my years in Girl Scouts for bringing me to my current position as Mayor of East Williston.



My one regret might have been that I did not go for the Girl Scout Gold Award. I don’t think it was talked about much in my community at the time, but if I had one piece of advice for a younger Girl Scout, go for Gold and don’t do anything small just to check it off a list. Do everything bigger than it needs to be. 



Do you have advice for younger Girl Scouts?

Yes, wear your uniform proudly! This goes for the leader too. As a leader, I always wore a green sweater (later navy) and a Girl Scout scarf. Before I had the scarf, I always had on my pin tab. If we can’t show our colors proudly, how can we expect our children too? I’ve noticed over the years that the kids who tuck in their little league shirts and always wear their full uniform or vest (with all necessary accessories) are prouder and more serious about what they’re doing. It even may lead to proudly wearing a uniform in the future (military, fire, police, doctor scrubs. . .). When you do something, do it full on!



Why do you continue to volunteer with Girl Scouts?

In my volunteer position as Gold Award mentor, I have been given two wonderful opportunities. One is to work with young women from all areas of Nassau County and the other is to work with some incredible adults. As a mentor, I have been able to work with young women who have grown up in different environments, with varying skills and obstacles, and they all have one thing in common—Girl Scouting! The girls all find a way to take the foundation they’ve received in life, the gifts they were given, and the challenges they’ve faced, all to achieve one common goal of the highest award in Girl Scouts. My eyes were opened in many ways by these young women.



The other opportunity that I’ve had is to work with women with diverse gifts, skills, backgrounds, and challenges that are seen throughout the landscape of the Girl Scouts. And despite the diversity, there is always one common ground… wanting to give back by mentoring young women. I’m in awe of the young women I’ve met and in even greater awe of the women I’ve met and worked with. I feel very blessed to be a Gold Award Mentor with the Girl Scouts of Nassau County.

If were a Girl Scout and would like to join Girl Scouts of Nassau County's Girl Scout Alum Network, email us at gsnetwork@gsnc.org.

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