Lead the Way
On the eve of Girl Scouting’s 100th year in San Diego, we spoke with Co-Service Unit Manager Cynthia Collins from the Scripps Ranch Service Unit (SRSU) about the learning and leadership opportunities available for local girls. As the largest single-zip code service unit in the county, SRSU fosters both independence and teamwork for over 750 local girls. It’s a girl-led movement, where Ambassadors and Seniors teach and inspire Daisies and Brownies. From camping and crafting to cookie sales and community service, read along to see how this worldwide organization is making a difference right here in 92131.
Q&A with Co-Service Unit Manager Cynthia Collins
Can you give us an overview of the history of Girl Scouts?
Juliette Gordon Low envisioned an organization that would prepare girls to meet their world with courage, confidence, and character. In 1912, in the midst of the Progressive Era – and at a time when women in the United States couldn’t yet vote – this nearly deaf 51-year-old sparked a worldwide movement inspiring girls to embrace, together, their individuality, strength, and intellect.
Juliette, affectionately known as “Daisy” by her family and close friends, gathered 18 girls in her hometown of Savannah, GA, to share what she had learned abroad about a new outdoor and educational program for youth, and with this, the Girl Scout Movement was born.
Along with Juliette, these first Girl Scouts blazed trails and redefined what was possible for themselves and for girls everywhere. That small gathering of girls Juliette Gordon Low hosted over a century ago has grown into a global movement in which all girls can see themselves reflected – and that today includes nearly three million Girl Scouts in 92 countries and more than 59 million alumnae, united across distance and decades by lifelong friendships, shared adventures, and the desire to do big things to make the world a better place.
San Diego’s first Girl Scout troop was founded in Coronado in 1917. Today, nearly 35,000 girls and adults are proud to be part of Girl Scouts San Diego! San Diego Girl Scouts offers girl activities and events as well as volunteer training at locations in Balboa Park, Escondido, and Carlsbad. In addition, they hold camp programs at Winacka and Whispering Oaks, and mountain properties near Julian. As you can see by the date, San Diego’s council will be celebrating their 100th anniversary next year!
What is your role within the service unit? How long have you been in this role?
I have been service unit co-manager for seven and a half years. I came in at a point when our existing co-manager had to step down due to the reappearance of her breast cancer. Sadly, she passed away the following fall.
“I love learning to do new things. One time I went to a sewing place and made my own purse with a sewing machine. It’s also a lot of fun to go to encampments and see my friends outside of school and meet new people.”
– Emma Collins, Senior
What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
I love watching the progression of involvement of both the girls and the adults. Both start out not very sure of what to expect, and inevitably develop into confident and evolved individuals.
What was your motivation for becoming involved with Girl Scouts?
Originally, it was probably because I always wanted to be a Brownie, but never had the chance to be one! Now Girl Scouts begins with Daisies, which can include any TK student, Kindergartner, or first grader. I remain involved because I feel it is one of the best fraternities you can be part of. I used to say sorority, but now we have fathers that are leaders!
What are some of the exciting plans this year for the Girl Scouts involved with the Scripps Ranch Service Unit?
Our schedule of opportunities is packed! We have encampments for Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes and older girls, and Daisy Day for the little ones. We have Journey in a Weekend and Journey in a Day for all levels, from Daisies to older girls (high school aged). The Journey program is required to earn Bronze, Silver, or Gold Awards – these awards look great on college applications!
If you could have one wish for the service unit this year, what would it be?
To continue to enjoy the camaraderie that our service unit enjoys. We are such a socioeconomically diverse service unit, and yet we feel like one big, happy family. And like any happy family, it’s all about the memories we create with life experiences!
What is the motivation for a girl to become part of a troop?
There are many styles of troops. Some like to do outdoor adventure. Some like to earn lots of badges and patches. Some are very focused on philanthropy and community service. Some like doing a little bit of all that!
Scripps Ranch Girl Scouts is all about involving parents and girls so they feel they are part of a community. We have girls from public, home, and private school sectors. It’s just a phenomenal way to transcend those differences and bring girls together.
How does one go about joining a troop?
We are always looking for ways to place girls in troops. Sometimes it takes time. It’s all about volunteers.
If your girl wants to be part of a troop, I always ask if you, as the adult, can be the leader. I started off by leading my 20-year-old’s troop, and look where I am today! If troops are full, you can always create a new troop by getting a co-leader, asking four other girls besides your daughter, and voila! You are off to creating Girl Scout memories for your girl. Training opportunities are available so you can learn more as you go along. You just need to be willing to share your time to develop yourself. If you can’t, then we can always ask if anyone has room in their troop for one more.
Tell us about the various types of Girl Scout badges.
Badges have evolved over the years. The Girl Scout handbook has also evolved. There are still skill-oriented badges, and there are others that are based on interests. Girl Scouts USA is constantly trying to keep up with changing times. You’ll see cyber and media-oriented topics that you would never have seen 10 years ago. The community and environmental issues are always changing, so the service-oriented opportunities are also always changing. The Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards are advanced service project opportunities geared towards the Juniors, Cadettes, and Senior/Ambassadors, respectively.
Can you tell us a bit about the troops in 92131?
We have the largest single-zip code service unit in San Diego-Imperial County. There are approximately 46 service units. Some have combined zip codes. We have over 750 girls in our service unit and over 65 troops. That’s a lot of girls! We have amazing leaders and volunteers. There are many troops that have girls from various schools. Some have girls from just their elementary school. We have a Discovery Nite every fall and spring – usually the Tuesday after the October and May Leader meetings. These are great one-hour meet-and-greets for the girls, involving prospective and current Girl Scouts. Leader meetings tend to be the second Monday of every month, at Dingeman Elementary’s multi-purpose room, starting at 7 p.m. Look for the meeting schedule on our Scripps Ranch Girl Scout website!
Tell us about some of the recent achievements of your service unit’s members.
There are so many, I can’t tell you all of them. They are as diverse as our membership! But I can tell you one thing, we probably have more Bronze, Silver, and Gold Award recipients than any other San Diego-Imperial service unit. On a larger scale, we have over 30 positions on our team (that’s unheard of in any other service unit!) and rarely do we have a vacancy. We have proven to our council that being big is not a bad thing – at one point they wanted to split up our service unit to make it more manageable. Luckily, we did not. We just had to work smarter, and the reward is that we enjoy diverse friendships with girls and adults from different schools.
“Girl Scouts has taught me to appreciate what I have and the importance of giving back and getting involved in the community. I feel everyone has the opportunity to make an impact, great or small, by working together. I love the friendships I’ve built and all the fun we have had along the way.”
– Alexis Bautista, Senior
Are there any annual or upcoming events in which the Scripps Ranch Service Unit takes part?
We have our nut sales coming up in the fall. Some people don’t know about this, but it is more low-key than cookies and gives a troop the opportunity to build seed money for their troop, and also teaches the girls about responsibility. Cookies are always huge in 92131 and we sold over 70,000 boxes last year! We have an amazing cookie chairperson that just rocks. We thank the community for purchasing cookies from the girls – this is their biggest fundraiser and helps pay for camping and other troop activities.
Does the Scripps Ranch Service Unit need volunteers? What is the process for getting involved?
We love our volunteers, and we have something for everybody! Our management team is amazing. This large of a service unit depends on good people working together to bring the girls a quality program. You can always email firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel your heart strings tugging to help!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
My advice to any other service units, and there are some that are struggling, is to run your service unit like a business. You have income, expenses, and marketing challenges… not much different than any other business. The bottom line is to be a healthy service unit with great human resources, be financially solvent and, hopefully, maintain a nice reserve account.
At the end of the year we thank our leaders with a free dinner at Yanni’s restaurant. Everyone loves Yanni’s, and it’s always good to support a local business owner in Scripps Ranch. We budget this event in so that we can not only thank the hardworking volunteers, but also enjoy each other’s company after a successful year of working with our girls. It’s so gratifying to see these amazing women relax for one night.
At-A-Glance | Co-Service Unit Manager
Name: Cynthia Collins
Community: Scripps Ranch
Education: Loyola Marymount and SDSU, with a B.A. in Journalism/Advertising
Family: Married to Bill for over 34 years; five daughters – Briana, Chelsea, Annalisa, Delaney, and Emma; two granddaughters – Cheyanne and Harper
Hobbies & Interests: Taught 7 a.m. faith formation at St. Gregory the Great for the past 12 years. Involved in Scripps Ranch Girl Scouts for the past 14 years. I focus on our family business, Collins Family Jewelers, and building family memories on a daily basis!
Favorite Girl Scouting Memory: At one point, I was leading all three of my daughters in what you call a multi-level troop/group. When they bridged (when girls celebrate moving up to the next level), it was a thrill to have all three of them bridge the same day!
Service Unit Name: Scripps Ranch Service Unit, Service Unit #695
2015-2016 Co-Managers: Cynthia Collins and Lynn Bautista-Barroso
Number of Girl Scouts: 750+
Number of Troop Leaders: 65+
Zip Codes Served: Primarily 92131, with some from 92126 and various other zip codes
Girl Scout Grade Levels
These levels have evolved over the past 99 years, so it may seem different to various readers. These are the current levels offered.
Daisies: Pre-K to 1st Grade
Brownies: 2nd-3rd Grade
Juniors: 4th-5th Grade
Cadettes: 6th-8th Grade
Seniors: 9th-10th Grade
Ambassadors: 11th-12th Grade