Seventeen-year-old Holly Eliason has been a Girl Scout since she was 5 years old. The senior at Sherman Central School admits it wasn't always the coolest thing to do, but it was one of the most important.
"Especially when I was in ninth and 10th grade, a lot of girls were wondering why I was still going to Girl Scouts," Holly said. "Now that I'm a senior, I don't really care what others think."
It's also created lifelong friendships for this National Honor Society student and cross country phenom.
Holly and Chris Eliason
"I know being in Girl Scouts has made me a better runner by teaching me about competition," Holly said. "Whether trying to sell the most cookies, or trying to earn the most petals as a Daisy Scout, Girl Scouts has been pivotal in my success both in and out of the classroom."
Holly's mom Chris, a former Girl Scout herself, now is a troop leader for girls in Findley Lake, Sherman, and Panama.
"You see some girls who really need this," Chris Eliason said. "A lot of these kids come from broken homes and scouting gives them stability that they otherwise wouldn't get. By taking part in a program that teaches self-respect, hard work and teamwork, these kids are getting a leg up on life."
Name: Kristofor Sellstrom
Employer: Jamestown Board of Public Utilities
I'm an allocations volunteer because ... "It's a great opportunity for me to see what programs are out there for underprivileged people in the area. It's also a great way to meet a lot of wonderful people."
Building confidence and leadership skills is a primary focus of Girl Scouts. Cindy Odom is CEO of the Girl Scouts of Western New York. She said it's important that young girls are exposed to the scouting experience.
"In Girl Scouts, we expose girls to leadership-development programs and activities that boost their confidence," Odom said. "We're creating young leaders who will help shape our future."
And that future looks bright for Holly Eliason, who credits her accomplishments to her experiences in Girl Scouts.
"The programming really has made a difference in my life and has helped shape it. Probably more important, though, are the relationships I've developed in Girl Scouts," Holly said. "When you get older, the troops get smaller, but the relationships get deeper."
Fundraising projects are also an important part of the Girl Scout experience. Chris Eliason said the projects teach life lessons, but also offer opportunities to kids who might not otherwise have them.
"Through the fundraising we were able to do, our troop went to Washington, D.C. last year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts," Chris said. "Some of the girls who went would have never been able to go, had it not been for the money we generated through our flare and cookie sales."
Girl Scouts is one of 18 partner agencies of United Way of Southern Chautauqua County. When you give to the campaign, you too are providing life-changing experiences, and helping to shape the leaders of tomorrow.