WaBak Friends Will Always Last: A Guest Post from McKenna Luzynski

At this time last year, the world was my oyster. I was getting ready to graduate magna cum laude from Furman University with degrees in public health and Spanish. I had been accepted to the #3 school of public health in the world to pursue my MSc in public health starting in September. I had a great paid summer internship lined up. The end of my senior year of college was everything that it was supposed to be.

Fast forward to April 19, 2018. I was rear-ended while sitting at a stoplight by someone who using a cell-phone while driving. My car was totaled, I was left with a pretty nasty concussion, and suddenly, I was on complete brain rest. With graduation just two and a half weeks away, I needed to pass my exams to graduate, and I needed to graduate to be able to get my student visa to go to graduate school in London in the fall. To top it off, two days before the accident, I received a text message from my summer internship boss saying that due to some restructuring, the internship program had been cut. So there I was, at risk of not graduating on time and not being able to go to graduate school in the fall, with no summer job, no car, and a concussion—plus all of the psychological effects from the car accident.


McKenna and her fellow counselors at Camp WaBak

At that point, there wasn’t much I could control, but I knew I needed to find a new job for the summer. I was terrified of driving so my options were pretty limited. I put out a few applications to places that were within walking distance of my house or were near where my mom worked so that she could drop me off on her way to work, but none of them were jobs that really excited me. I started to dig a little bit deeper and get a little bit creative. I Googled things like “best summer jobs,” “meaningful summer jobs,” and “jobs for graduate students,” and camp counselor was on almost every list. I thought about it for a bit, and I knew I had hit the jackpot. At a residential camp, I wouldn’t need to drive, I wouldn’t be working in retail or the food industry (been there, done that), and I would have the chance to make a difference in the lives of young people. Plus, it sounded like fun! There was only one problem. With it being the end of April, the employment application periods for nearly all of the residential camps, both in my hometown of Roanoke, VA as well as in the area surrounding Furman, where I was currently living, had closed.

Finally, I found one: Camp WaBak, a residential Girl Scout camp in Marietta, SC. It was perfect. I was a Girl Scout from kindergarten until my high school graduation, before becoming a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council. I had grown up going to Camp Dark Hollow in Catawba, Virginia, and even today, I remember not just the camp names of my counselors, but also the huge impact they had on my life. Flag ceremonies, creek hikes, and arts and crafts were the highlight of my summers. To be honest, with my concussion, I don’t remember much of my interview, but I do remember how relieved I was to have at least that aspect of my life sorted. By the grace of my university, the kindness of my professors, the patience of my mother, and my own perseverance, I passed my exams and graduated from Furman.

camp-wabak-girl-scout-camp-couselorsAt the end of May, I began my job as a Unit Leader at Camp WaBak. We faced a lot of hardships last summer, from weather to staffing to sickness. But through those challenges, our staff became a family. We came from different states, different universities, and different backgrounds and circumstances, but we all had the same goal: to make sure the campers had a fun, safe, and enriching experience at Camp WaBak. Being a residential camp, we were together all the time, so we developed a deep commitment to each other as well. We knew about each other’s goals, dreams, and fears. We celebrated each other’s successes and commiserated each other’s disappointments. We laughed and cried together. We made each other food and kept each other company when sick. There is nothing I wouldn’t have done for my fellow staff members, and there’s nothing they wouldn’t have done for me.

In fact, one weekend during June, one of our WaBak staff even drove me to my best friend’s wedding. She was getting married in my hometown, and I had no way to get there. I was devastated at the thought of missing her wedding, but my WaBak family made it possible. We left Friday night after the campers went home, went to the wedding on Saturday morning, and drove back Saturday night to be back in time for WaBak on Wheels Sunday morning. That’s what being part of the WaBak family means.

At the end of the summer, when one of our staff members had to leave to go back to school, we celebrated by going out to dinner over the weekend. I was still afraid of driving, but I knew I couldn’t miss her going away dinner. The strength of our bond helped me to overcome my fear of driving and make it to that dinner. When I got to the restaurant, I was shaking like a leaf. We were all in tears that night—both tears of sadness because one of our WaBak family was leaving to go back to college and tears of joy for my being able to drive there. Since the accident, I have still only driven maybe a dozen times, but being able to get behind the wheel again that time was a huge step in the process of my healing.

The deep bonds that we formed last summer did not break when we left Big Boy and Baby Boats. We have group chats on nearly every form of social media, and we talk to each other almost daily. Living in London now, I’ve even had the opportunity to host two of my WaBak family while they were studying abroad. But what I think speaks most strongly to the longevity of WaBak friendships, is that when I came home for Christmas, I didn’t see any of my friends from college, but I did see five of my WaBak family, including our fearless Camp Director, who guided us and loved us throughout all of last summer.

I guess the “Song of WaBak” was right, “Friends are made along life’s path; some will stay and some will pass, but WaBak friends will always last.”

written by McKenna

Does working with girls in the outdoors all summer sound like your dream job? We are hiring for a number of different camp positions right NOW for the 2019 summer camp season for both our residential and day camp. By joining our staff for the summer, you can positively influence the lives of girls across South Carolina and create bonds that last a lifetime.

Click here to view all open positions and apply today!

The Leadership Center from a Girl’s Perspective: Guest Blog from Layla Beattie

The Girl Scout Leadership Experience is unique in nature in that it is girl-led. Everything we do as an organization is specifically designed to give girls the opportunities to step up and take the lead. Our G.I.R.L. Media Team is in its first term, and the members are eager to have their voices heard on why Girl Scouts is important for girls. The following article was written by a member of the team, Layla Beattie, a Girl Scout from right here in our council:

Layla and Kim

Layla and President and CEO Kim Hutzell at the Leadership Center Press Conference 

On October tenth I went to a press conference to see and hear about the new Cathy Novinger Leadership Center in Columbia, South Carolina. It will be opening in the summer of 2019. They are building the Leadership Center as a place for girls to grow, learn, and become amazing women.

It is for girls like myself to learn to have confidence and courage to be anything they could ever dream of. During my time there I met, for the third time in my life, the president and CEO of our council,Kim Hutzell. We talked and she introduced me to some other Girl Scouts, one of which gave the opening speech and presented the friendship knot tying ceremony. I took several pictures with these girls and I hope that I can be in their position in my future.

During the conference they had the three Honorary Chairs, Charlotte Berry, Susu Johnson, and Minor Shaw, along with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. They talked about how much the Leadership Center would improve girls’ knowledge and how much of an impact it will have on the lives of anyone who goes to this amazing place. They discussed how much they have fundraised and how much more they still need to reach their goal. I think that Girl Scouts is an amazing opportunity for so many girls and I can already tell you that I will be talking to my troop, and my Girl Scout friends, about going to this Leadership Center. I know it will make a huge impact on their lives and mine.

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Written by Layla Beattie


Want to learn more about the Leadership Center? Visit our website and find out how YOU can get involved!


Designed by and for Girl Scouts: About BOUDREAUX

If you read our last article on the project management group for the Cathy Novinger Girl Scout Leadership Center, you already know how important each aspect of this project is to us and the leadership development of the girls of South Carolina. We wanted every space, element, and partner to not only benefit girls, but align with our Girl Scout values.

GSSC Updated Rendering _ 09.24.18That’s where BOUDREAUX comes in. When in the architect selection process we saw proposals from several highly qualified, highly skilled architecture groups, but the one that clearly stood out from the rest was BOUDREAUX. They became an obvious front runner due to their caliber of work, extensive experience, but also because the women who would be designing the Leadership Center were, in fact, once Girl Scouts themselves. In their proposal, they spoke of their passion and firm belief in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, and even included photos of them in uniform.

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Vision session with our membership and BOUDREAUX

Once we made our decision to go with BOUDREAUX, this group of talented women immediately got to work. However, they didn’t just draft a design behind the walls of their office. They were true Go-getters and came TO US for ideas, inspiration, and “must haves”. They attended our staff meetings, town halls, and met with real girls in our council to have vision sessions so that this facility would be a reflection of who we are as Girl Scouts right here in South Carolina. Each detail, from the colors and themes, to the layouts and programmatic spaces were designed by and for Girl Scouts.


The architects of BOUDREAUX

When we sat down with the women taking point on designing the Leadership Center, this is what they had to say:

“Girl Scouts means so much to all of us. We each have different backgrounds and stories, but Girl Scouts brings us all together. We each have different skills and abilities, but we are all leaders. We are thrilled to work on this project and deliver something incredible for girls everywhere.”

Visit our website to learn more about the Cathy Novinger Girl Scout Leadership Center, or donate here.

written by michelle

Strong Female Leadership Supporting the Leadership Center: About LCK Project Management

When our council purchased the building formerly known as the Department of Agriculture in Columbia’s Vista, we knew that effective project management would be key to making our vision a reality. The Leadership Center is a big project. Not only is the building itself 32,000 square feet, but the entire building would have to be completely transformed, inside and out, to fit the needs of our girls for years to come. That’s why we chose LCK as our project management group.

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Pictured left to right: Mickey Layden, Lou Kennedy, Mary Winter Teaster at a Women of Distinction event

Not only does LCK have an outstanding history of effectively managing large-scale projects, but as a woman-owned business, they also believe in the power of strong female leadership. Mickey Layden is the President and majority owner of LCK and firm believer in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. Since the very founding of the company in 1994, Mickey has been instrumental to the development and growth of LCK, and the organization has steadily grown under her leadership. Mickey’s background in commercial construction, facilities management and real estate development is extensive, and serves as the foundation for the professional design and construction staff that she has assembled to create a comprehensive project management service offering for LCK’s clients.


Mickey has also been very outspoken about her support of Girl Scouts. From attending events and mentoring, to advocating for female leadership, Mickey is the perfect example of why the Cathy Novinger Girl Scout Leadership Center is so needed for our girls. For every girl, from any circumstance, the Leadership Center will give her a place to take risks in a safe, all-girl environment, and build her leadership skills through hands-on activities and learning. This center will be an incubator for leadership here in South Carolina, and will prepare girls to empower themselves for generations to come.
lck and clc

We are thrilled to have been able to, and to continue to work with Mickey Layden and Joe Roddey of LCK to bring this incredible project to completion.  Watch our social media for more progress updates on the Leadership Center, and how you can get involved.

Donate here.



Meet Camp WaBak

What do you remember about your own childhood? Kayaking on a lake for the first time with your best friends? Maybe it was gathering the courage to climb up in the saddle and take a ride on that tall horse? What about hiking out to a waterfall in the mountains and feeling wonderstruck by nature? Maybe those aren’t your memories, but they could be your daughter’s.

maritza1Today, I would like to introduce you to our residential camp property, Camp WaBak. This camp is located in Marietta, South Carolina and is set in the lush green country side, with its’ own mountains, lakes, streams, and waterfalls. Driving down the small road that leads into the camp, you’ll pass the Administration Office, where you’ll check your daughter in and pick her up. That’s where our trained camp staff will greet you, and make sure your daughter is set for the best week of her life. Follow that small, camp-only road and you’ll see the stables to your left. In that large barn is where your girl will learn to care for the horses, and out in the riding ring is where she’ll have the opportunity to saddle up and ride.

IMG_4182 (3)As we keep driving (slowly of course because there are future leaders at play!) down this small path, we will pass the Arts and Crafts Hut where girls will create and explore. And just a little further past that, we will see the hub of camp- the Dining Hall. This is where girls gather to sit together as they eat a hot, fresh meal and talk about the incredible day they’ve just had.

Just a little ways past the Dining Hall, we have the large, in-ground pool where girls will cool off together on those hot summer days. Our camp counselors, who stay with the girls throughout the week are also trained life guards. They instruct the girls on safety, and are posted on-duty while girls are in the water.

tatiana-outreachAs we wind around the big corner that leads closer to the cabins, you’ll see a large lake with kayaks and canoes floating out on it’s glassy surface. This is where girls are taught how to use these water crafts, and take the lead as they go out on the lake with their friends (in life jackets of course!).



And as we continue around that big corner, we’ll be led to the lodging areas. This is where your girl will bond with her new camp friends, tell stories of the day, and rest up for another adventure.

Camp WaBakWhile we are certainly proud of all the amenities Camp WaBak has to offer, we know that the natural glory of the camp is one of its’ best features. With hiking trails that lead to breathtaking views, and river walks that bring girls to a waterfall, Camp WaBak’s natural splendor is unrivaled in the Upstate area.

Our new Camp Director, Michelle Pugh, is excited to greet each and every girl this summer! As a lifetime Girl Scout, and Gold Award Girl Scout, Michelle is passionate about connecting girls with powerful leadership experiences and the outdoors!

“This summer I’m looking forward to learning the traditions that make WaBak it’s own special place, while joining in universal camp traditions and celebrations that are comfortable and close-at-heart to anyone with a camping background.” – Michelle Pugh, Director of Camp WaBak

We hope you will join us at our ACA accredited Camp WaBak this summer! It’s not too late to register, and our camps are open to Girl Scouts AND non- Girl Scouts! See you there!

Click here for our full Camp Book.

written by michelle

My Week at the State House: A Guest Post by Elizabeth Stevenson


Girl Scout at State House

Elizabeth on the Senate Floor during Page Week

Hello fellow Girl Scouts! My name is Elizabeth Stevenson and I was a participant at this year’s Girl Scout Honorary Legislative Page Program. During my time at the South Carolina State House, I learned and experienced so many new things. From making copies for a senator, to meeting Governor McMaster, to going out for a late night ice cream treat, this past week will be an experience I will never forget.

In my government class at school, I learned about the legislative and the election processes. Being a Page allowed me to apply what I learned at school in a real world setting. I was able to see bills being passed in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate about issues that affect all South Carolinians. Before coming to Columbia to work as a Page, I did some research about my representative and senator. Once I finally arrived at the State House, I was amazed that my state legislatures, along with the other representatives and senators, actually care about my community. Additionally, I was able to meet and interact with the representative from York County. Some of the errands I had to run included handing out papers from lobbyists, passing along messages from legislative aides, and picking up coffee and a bag of chips so representatives could work through lunch.

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Elizabeth with her Representatives

As a senior in high school, I know that the foundation for a fun time is great people. The girls that were first strangers to me, left being really good friends; I met wonderful girls from all across the state. At the end of our work day, we would talk, attend a painting class, go shopping, and watch movies. These supportive and lively girls made this adventure a top highlight in my high school career.


I encourage any high schooler to apply for this program in the future. The South Carolina Girl Scout Page Program allows girls to have real-world experience in government, network, and learn while having a good time with lifelong friends.

A Guest Post from a Traveling Girl Scout: Written by Lily Hendrickson

In August of 2017, our council held our first ever Destination- and it was a once in a lifetime experience. With our council right in the path of totality, girls from across our nation traveled to Camp WaBak to learn from NASA scientists, discover at the Challenger Learning Center, take part in experiments, and experience the solar eclipse.

The following article was written by a Girl Scout who attended the Destination, Lily Hendrickson:

Lily Eyes to the Skies

“The Eyes to the Skies Destination at Camp WaBak in Marietta, South Carolina has inspired me to do things differently in many ways. One of those ways is to always look up, because you never know what you might see. Another one is to try new things, even if you think you won’t like them at first. Finally, don’t be afraid to mess up or fail, everyone makes mistakes.

IMG_4537During the solar eclipse, we all thought that the sky was going to remain cloudy during totality. However, when it reached totality we all looked up and the clouds had parted.

Even when it was cloudy we all kept looking for changes in the environment. On the brink of totality an owl flew from the woods surrounding us to a secluded pine tree.

At this destination, at least for me being from Illinois, there were tons of new opportunities. We all went for barbecue, I tried hush puppies for the first time. There was a flight simulator at the Challenger Learning Center, I was a little scared at first, but it turned out to be tons of fun. Trying new things will never be a disappointing opportunity to experience.

There were a lot of things that I messed up on. We made bottle rockets out of two two-liter bottles, mine wasn’t the best but I wouldn’t necessarily say that it failed. We also did creek walking and I have to say, that’s the one thing that I messed up. Once we had gotten to the waterfall I slipped and fell into the knee deep water and skinned my knee on a stone. After that I had tons of fun wading in the ankle deep water with some of my new friends.

This destination has really taught me to always look up, try new things, and not to be afraid of messing up.”


Why YOUR Daughter Should be a Girl Scout

Sometimes it seems like nothing can really go too wrong in a small town. The businesses are usually family owned, the streets quiet, and the entire community comes together to cheer on the high school football team. But for Buford, South Carolina, tragedy shook the town when a 14 year-old football player was fatally struck by a car just before a JV football game.



Nicole Hudson, Girl Scout Alumni, remembers this day so clearly. She was in her Junior year of high school and had a volleyball game on the same night. Because of both games, the parking lot was packed with cars. Tragically, the small town didn’t have a helipad, and the crowded parking lot made it impossible for a helicopter to lift the young football player to a hospital.

As a Girl Scout, even through her grief, Nicole saw a clear need in her community and set her mind to making it a better place. Nicole had considered pursuing her Gold Award before, but just hadn’t found something she felt so passionate about. Now her goal was unshakable. She would build the first helipad in Buford, South Carolina. If all the work it would take only saved one life, it would be more than worthwhile.

Nicole started with research. No matter how many ways she cut it, the bottom line was this: She would have to raise at least $8,000 to make her vision a reality. For a sixteen year old who had never even held $8,000 in cash, the goal seemed insurmountable.



But Call after call, Nicole poured her heart out for anyone that would listen. The donations were sometime small, but it seemed that everyone she spoke to connected with her dream. They connected in such a way that Nicole’s dream became their own dream. The momentum exploded. This small town teen raised the $8,000 and even more, she rallied the community around her vision. Through her own manual labor, combined with the help of numerous volunteers, they cleared the land for the concrete to be poured.

“Even as a young female, I was able to make a real difference. Girl Scouts has given me the opportunity to literally save lives. It changes the way I live my life now.” -Nicole Hudson”

When it came time for Nicole to attend her Gold Award Ceremony, this award was so much more than an accolade in a frame. The Gold Award represented the heart of Nicole’s accomplishments; leading with courage, confidence, and character. Making the world a better place.

Nicole is now away at college, but each time she comes home to Buford, she is reminded of the power of community, and the difference one person can make.

“My dad is a volunteer firefighter in Buford. Every time I come home and hear his radio go off, I have no doubt that all the hours and hard work were worth it.” -Nicole Hudson


Do you want to teach your girl what it means to be a true leader? Do you want her to feel empowered, courageous, and strong? Consider joining Girl Scouts. We are the world’s largest leadership development organization for girls- we don’t empower girls, we prepare girls to empower themselves. Join the Girl Scout community and gain full access to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience including our programs, curriculum, sisterhood, and more. Give the gift of Girl Scouts.


A Message From NASA’s First Female Launch Director and South Carolina Native, Charlie Blackwell Thompson

She grew up in Cherokee County. She attended Gaffney High School, right here in South Carolina. And in her days in those high school halls, Charlie never dreamed that she would join the ranks of famous female “firsts” like Amelia Earhart and Sally Ride. In those days, she was still just a small town girl with a passion for science- with a thirst for knowledge, and a drive to succeed. Charlie is now the first female launch director for NASA.

Let that sink in.

It was in high school where she felt her passion spark inside her heart and mind. A teacher began encouraging her, and pushing her towards her dreams, even though women were a true rarity in the STEM fields. She could see that her future in STEM would have difficulties, but she was determined to break the obstacles down piece by piece and make it work. She innovate new solutions, and be a true Go-getter.

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Charlie in action at NASA

“I didn’t know all the challenges that I would face at that time, but I owe a debt of gratitude to that teacher. I always will.” Charlie Blackwell Thompson, NASA

In 1988, Charlie had the opportunity to interview with NASA as they were preparing to return to flight after the Challenger accident. When Charlie walked into the room as they were testing the space shuttle, she saw the fully staffed control room. And something just clicked inside her. Even though the team each sat separately in front of their own little monitors, they were all critical to the mission. She wanted to be part of that. She had to.

Charlie has been with NASA now for 28 years and she says it still feels the same as her very first day. She still gets excited when she gets in the elevator each morning, and prepares her mind for the day. She still feels that the missions she undertakes help make our world a better place. She is still inspired.

Charlie Blackwell Thompson speaking

Charlie speaking on behalf of NASA

“I would tell a young woman to pursue her passions. STEM is open to everyone. Especially if you are passionate about it. The opportunities are endless when you combine passion and hard work.” Charlie Blackwell Thompson, NASA


written by michelle


3 Tips to Help You Prepare for Your Upcoming Girl Scout Year


1. Set Clear Expectations Ahead of Time

Talk-With-PeopleHow can you get the most out of a trip if you don’t know where you are going? Sure, you might have some fun along the way, but you will miss so many opportunities (plus be more stressed) if you don’t have a clear destination in mind. The same applies to planning your Girl Scout year.

Try these few tips to chart a smart course ahead, and to decrease potential friction between parents and volunteers:

  • Try sending an email, or text to all your parents and volunteers asking them what they want their daughter to get out of this Girl Scout year. Miscommunication is one of the leading causes of conflict, and an easy way to avoid future tension is to lay everything out in the open.
    • Do they want their daughter to focus on the outdoors? STEM? Career exploration? You will never know unless you ask, and once you have a feel for what the troop as a whole is expecting, you will be planning as a community rather than a lone wolf.
  • If you are the troop leader, let the parents and volunteers know what is expected of them. How often do they need to provide snack? Who needs to be available transportation? If the adults are going to be put on a schedule, perhaps make a chart letting each parent know what dates they are responsible for the next semester.
  • If you are a parent, engage in open communication with your troop leader. Trying to make the girls and adults happy is no easy task, and they need you to voice your opinion. That being said, try to be flexible, and supportive of your leader as he or she plans for the group as a whole.

2. Get the Girls Involved

four cute girls with their arms around each other smilingIn the tip before, we talked about getting the other parents and volunteers involved, and you may be thinking, “That’s great, but there is no way that I can make everyone happy!” And you don’t have to, because ultimately, Girl Scouts is about letting the girls lead and choose their own paths.

  • Once you have spoken to the parents and volunteers about what they are hoping their daughter gets out of this Girl Scout year, compile their suggestions, along with your own, and match the suggestions up with programs and badges.
  • Whether you just write the programs and badges down on a piece of paper or print out photos that represent them, have the girls vote on which programs or badges are most appealing to them.

3. Use Your Resources

Whether you are new to Girl Scouting, or bleed green because you’ve been with us so long, getting help and learning more is never a bad thing. So check out our resources coming up that will help you plan the best Girl Scout year yet:

Volunteer Kickoff– This event takes place right as the Girl Scout year kicks off in early August. Council staff facilitate key learning sessions that will help you plan, lead, and grow. Bonus: Attending the Volunteer Kickoff gives you first dibs on the new FOCALPoint!

The Volunteer Resource Fairs– Ever wonder what there is to do in your area that is Girl Scout friendly? Look no further! The resource fairs offer local vendors who either offer programming for Girl Scouts or offer discounts for the girls in green.

The FOCALPoint– Our programming for the entire year offered in print and digital. The FOCALPoint will makes its’ debut at the Volunteer Kickoff and will be available after.

G.I.R.L. Talk– Our weekly eNewsletter that comes out every Wednesday will catch you up on everything important going on in the council. If you aren’t subscribed already, click here to subscribe.

What planning tips do you have that we don’t have here? We would love to know so we can share them with your fellow volunteers! If you have a suggestion, send it to mtaylor@gssc-mm.org!