Having grown up and lived in Albion and Wolf Lake, IN, Shannon Johnson has had a long and illustrious career with Girl Scouts, from starting at age 5 to becoming a board member and volunteer as an adult. We wanted to know more about her experiences and how her time as a Girl Scout shaped who she is today!
Q: How old were you when you started Girl Scouts, and what council
were you a part of?
A: I started in first grade at Wolf Lake Elementary, troop 212. It was part of Indiana Lakeland Council out of Goshen. My grandmother signed me up shortly before she passed. I like to think she'd be pleased that her doing so had such a major impact on my life.
Q: What is your favorite memory from your time as a Girl Scout?
A: I met my best friend when troop 212 dissolved as we got older. I was in middle school and the nearest older girl troop was 20 minutes away in Columbia City (Troop 152), so my poor dad agreed to drive me there for meetings. Ironically, I did not get along with my best friend at first! But she got very sick our freshman year of high school and that’s when you really figure out who’s a true friend. Here our troop was, changing up events and meetings to make sure she could be there, sending her cards and notes, calling her when she was at John Hopkins – we refused to let her be isolated or alone. It brought the entire troop together. Even when we didn’t get along individually, we got along when we had a purpose and goal and that was to get our sister through.
Years later she told me if it hadn’t been for our troop she didn’t think she’d have had the strength to keep going – that we’d always seem to pop up just when she needed someone the most. As high school progressed, more girls dropped out until there were just six of us. Three of us liked outdoors, three of us liked makeup but we made it work, joked about the three and three divide, and we all stayed in through graduation, propping each other up. Four of us got our Gold Awards, including my best friend and I. We ended up in the same college, somewhat by accident, and started a Campus Scout troop there. Whenever someone on campus would ask us how we managed to juggle everything we’d laugh – we got through our Gold Awards! Nothing could stop us now!
I’m the godmother to her two girls, and it’s been a lifelong friendship that even living on two sides of the country doesn’t stop. To this day, I still think to myself, I can do this – I did my Gold! - and so does my best friend. Whenever one of us is down, we’ll call the other one and remind each other what we’ve come through and that’s our mantra – we can handle anything, we handled that Gold.
Q: Why and when did you decide to become a volunteer for Girl Scouts?
A: I started volunteering the day I aged out of girl into adult. I had started the Campus Scout troop, and was having trouble getting council and national help – Campus Girl Scouts was not a well known program at the time. I made some suggestions, about a month or two into my time at University on a national survey and checked the box that they could contact me with questions. The next day, my old CEO from Lakeland called me and asked if I wanted to be on their Board; not as a youth member, but as an actual adult member. I was only 18. It was intimidating, but it taught me so much! After that, I was on several taskforces for the council realignment, and then the first board for the new GSNI-M. I was a national delegate, and then I started doing adult learning facilitation trainings specializing in outdoor and older girl experiences. When the Journeys came out, I went with council staff to be trained on them and help introduce them to all the rest of the “old timers”. Most recently I started working on the GSNI-M archive.
Q: What was your experience like being involved in Girl Scouts,
both local and/or national level?
A: Girl Scouts took a girl and made her a competent and high achieving woman. I learned so much as girl and an adult but those early days on the Board, when I was still young and figuring myself out, I learned so much that I use today in my career. I had my first taste of parliamentary procedures, learned to read a budget sheet, got over being intimated by older more experienced people, and also learned how to listen and how to get them to listen to you. You can’t find a more open and encouraging group than Girl Scouts. I’ve been involved in a lot of organizations now, twenty plus years at that, and not once have I ever seen another group that would take an 18 year old with passion and not much else and teach her, guide her, and help her grow. Girl Scouts is a leadership organization for young girls, and, yes, I learned all the skills I needed as a girl, but I didn’t know what to do with them or how to put them into practice in real life until I sat on that board. The learning didn’t stop, the mentorship didn’t stop. People don’t really think about it, but your experiences as an adult volunteer can be so personally enriching and meaningful, on a skill level, that it’s unbelievable.
Q: How has Girl Scouts impacted your life?
A: I’ve been in it my entire life so I have no idea what life without Girl Scouts is like. I can say there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t use a skill or tactic I learned in Girl Scouts. As a supervisor and a tenured faculty member, I tap into those lessons for just about everything when it comes to dealing with people, motivating your team, and building a group that can work towards goals as a unit.
Q: Do you have anything to tell people who may be considering Girl
Scouts for their girl?
A: I grew up an only child with a single father in the 80’s. That wasn’t common. Girl Scouts provided a great structure to make friends, and connections, but it also made me feel at home. That’s what Girl Scouts can be with a good troop – a second home, full of people that want to lift you up, not drag you down. I didn’t leave my troop behind with just friends, I left it with sisters.