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Mel Johnston shares her lifelong Girl Scouting experience


Mel Johnston is a past Board President for Girl Scouts Mile Hi Council, JGL Society Member, GSCO Alum and ’12 Woman of Distinction.  She recently shared her Girl Scouting experiences with us:

Girl Scouting for me began in a World War II barracks constructed by the German POWs held in a camp outside our small Kansas town.  As Brownies we did all the usual things, made sit-upons out of red check oil cloth and yarn, went on hikes through the farm fields and creeks around town.  When I moved to another small Kansas town, my best friend’s mom was the troop leader and guided us to our first class rank.  There was no Girl Scout camp in our area so maybe that is why I never developed the camping ‘gene’ that most scouts have.

Most of my Girl Scout experience came as an adult starting with troop leader for Brownies, then some brief stints as a helper for Junior badge work and Cadette projects – hardly ever camping, though.  My older daughter made up for me in the camp department, going to Flying G’s horse program every summer and eventually completing Top Hand Roundup – riding from Evergreen over the continental divide to Breckenridge.  It took a week and you could tell they had been in the saddle that long when we picked them up.

In Mile Hi Council at that time the volunteer management structure was quite different than it is today.  Following troop leadership I became a neighborhood services director managing troops in our ‘neighborhood’.  Then came District Services Director and from there a board position as vice-president of membership services – overseeing all the district service directors. When Liz Hayden, our executive director at the time, asked me to be board president I was overwhelmed.  It was such an honor and the beginning of such an important part of my life.

I’ve often said that Girl Scouts gave me an MBA and I truly mean it.  The training we received at the board level, the opportunities to interact with our counterparts across the country were priceless. We were able to take advantage of some of the highest level instruction with mentors from leading businesses and universities. Being involved in two major capital campaigns brought more experience in how a community works together.  A special experience was being present at the White House when the Gold Award was inaugurated during the Carter administration.  The people I’ve been privileged to meet and work with would not have come about if not for the Girl Scout connection.

All of these skills were quite valuable when I did begin a career ‘outside the home.’  I have been a private piano teacher and performer for 4 decades but I didn’t consider that a ‘real job.’ I worked as an admissions officer for the college from which I graduated, establishing our presence here in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region.  Working with kids ready to take off on their first big life adventure, and with their parents, was both challenging and immensely rewarding. For many years after that I had fun playing in the clothing business, both wholesale and retail. It’s my grandmother’s fault that I’m such a clothes nut.

Girl Scouting continues to be a very important part of who I am and what keeps me going.  I love the involvement with the Alums, the Women of Distinction and our group of former presidents.  It indeed helps me “Be Prepared” as my first class badge says.



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